Possessing small amount of drugs 'should not be crime'

 
A heroin user prepares a fix There are an estimated 380,000 "problem drug users" in the UK

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The penalties for drug misuse should be relaxed so that possession of small amounts would no longer be a criminal offence, the government has been urged.

The recommendation comes in a report from the UK Drug Policy Commission, which undertook six years of research.

Its detailed report concludes the UK is wasting much of the £3bn it spends each year on tackling illicit drugs.

The Home Office says drug use is falling and it does not plan to alter its approach.

The report, called A Fresh Approach to Drugs, says the annual estimated cost to England and Wales of class A drug use is £15bn.

It says that while drug use and drug problems have declined in the UK in recent years, there are still about 2,000 drug-related deaths each year and 380,000 problem drug users.

Classification credibility

Some 42,000 people in England and Wales are sentenced annually for drug possession offences and about 160,000 given cannabis warnings, it says, which "amounts to a lot of time and money for police, prosecution and courts".

The commission says giving people cautions and criminal records for having small quantities is not "proportionate" and suggests imposing civil penalties, such as fines, or drug treatment orders instead.

It also recommends individuals who grow a small number of cannabis plants should be treated leniently, to undermine organised crime networks that produce stronger types of cannabis.

However, it does not call for the decriminalisation or legalisation of most drugs.

"We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence at the moment to support the case for removing criminal penalties for the major production or supply offences of most drugs," it said.

It calls for a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act and drugs classification, which it says has "lost credibility" for many people.

It suggests technical decisions about the classification of individual drugs should be taken by an independent body, with parliamentary oversight.

The report says some key planks of government policy - including major drug seizures - have little or no impact, and some programmes in schools could even have increased the use of drugs.

It says there is "little evidence" that a recent increase in prison sentence lengths for drug production and supply has deterred dealers or affected availability.

It recommends that the main political parties should establish a cross-party forum to agree on how drug problems can be addressed "in a cost-effective and evidence-based way".

114 new drugs

Dame Ruth Runciman, the charity's chairman, said: "Over the last three decades, UK governments have done much to reduce the damage caused by drug problems.

"Needle exchanges have reduced HIV among injecting drug users to one of the lowest rates in the world. The investment in treatment for people addicted to drugs has also helped many to rebuild their lives.

"Those programmes are supported by evidence, but much of the rest of drug policy does not have an adequate evidence base.

"We spend billions of pounds every year without being sure of what difference much of it makes."

The commission also said a new approach was needed because the rapid creation of new drugs was changing the market too quickly for the traditional methods used to control it.

It says that, between 2009 and 2011, 114 new psychoactive drugs were identified in the European Union.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "While the government welcomes the UKDPC's contribution to the drugs debate, we remain confident that our ambitious approach to tackling drugs - outlined in our drugs strategy - is the right one.

"Drug usage is at it lowest level since records began. Drug treatment completions are increasing and individuals are now significantly better placed to achieve recovery and live their lives free from drugs.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank the UKDPC for its work in this area over the past six years."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 326.

    322 bangers64 - you're like Saddam Hussein still making laws for Kuwait..the war has been lost. Convincingly.

    Can't the kid still die of an overdose now? In fact is he not more at risk as criminal gangs could cut it with any poison they want?

    Couldn't the bloke next door still run you over after overdoing his trip on illegal drugs?

    You're failing to make a case against legalisation!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 325.

    Probably off-topic, but... do you ever get the feeling the BBC is trying to wind you up? Just look at the HSY topics for today

    Scottish referendum deal struck
    BBC chief to meet MPs over Savile
    Call to relax drug use penalties
    Debate mixes Big Bang and faith
    The truth behind UK migration figures
    Call to relax drug use penalties

    They must have a good laugh at the many extremist views submitted.

  • Comment number 324.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 323.

    318. Wonko-the-sane

    I would grass them up on principle. I dont like tax avoiding, crime inducing plebs who think they own the place.


    But think of your local drug gangs. Do you really think they would stop because you can buy heavily taxed weed from Tesco? They will just undercut official prices and probably end up with a bigger market as drugs are legal. Great idea.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 322.

    319. Mr Max
    And who will you blame when your kid dies from an overdose bought for them legally by a "bigger boy"?

    Or you are put in a wheel chair after being run over by the bloke next door who overdid his trip last night and is late to work?

    We need to stop pandering to the politicly correct and loony liberals

  • Comment number 321.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 320.

    Young kids find it easier to get "weed" from some dealer in the street, than alcohol or tobacco. It's called weed, but can be leaves (cannabis?) covered in hair spray, cut with heroin or mixed with whatever!. There is no control or conscience involved. The kids know who the dealers are, but luckily most refuse to become involved. If you have kids, try asking them what they really know about drugs.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 319.

    How many times do we have to see reports that say we need to decriminalise?

    Funny how there's never been an official report that suggests getting tougher.

    How many times do reports have to be ignored because they are inconvenient?

    We're wilfully ignoring the facts in order to sound "tough" on election day, and we're all paying the price.

    £3Bn, to be precise.

    Just decriminalise it already...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 318.

    @315
    1) Grassing them up only takes a low level dealer off the street who is quickly replaced by the next one. The serious dealers are nowhere near around to be able to be grassed up. Naive suggestion.
    2) Yes, the illegal cartels will be hugely reduced. Look at alchohol - how much power do criminal gangs have with booze compared to prohibition?

  • Comment number 317.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 316.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 315.

    312. DTM
    I know of a few drug dealers. They go on holiday regularly, eat out practically every night, and are probably better off than you (100k/year, no tax of course...). Don't like it? Legalising is the only option that results in these people losing their business.


    1) grass them up.
    2) does anyone really think the drug cartels would disappear because of legalization?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 314.

    @294. roleypoley

    Do not spout such utter rubbish to say that drug addicts do no harm to anyone.

    What about to themselves, their children or the people they rob to satisfy their filthy habit?

  • Comment number 313.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 312.

    I know of a few drug dealers. They go on holiday regularly, eat out practically every night, and are probably better off than you (100k/year, no tax of course...). Don't like it? Legalising is the only option that results in these people losing their business.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 311.

    No No No

    Hear we go again, giving in to a difficult problem.

    Get caught with drugs spend three days in goal cold turkey. Get caught driving under the influence of drugs, get your car crushed.
    How long will coke be fashionable when you turn up after three days yet again and instead of the BMW you are driving a knackered Micra?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 310.

    Marijuana, opium of the people. The ancient Greeks would burn cannabis in a tent filled with soldiers, they were told that the effect the cannabis had upon them was a taste of the afterlife, and that therefore they need not fear death, they then went out and fought without fear and died unafraid, We know now that this is not the case, nonetheless, weren't the ancient Greeks bloody amazing people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 309.

    Just amazing in this country how anti social behaviour is allowed to slowly find an acceptable face in society because of the politicians' failure to control it. Instead of financing the fight against difficulties let's find either a liberal or a right wing reason for allowing it to normailise itself.Hence the success of the sex industry,the tobacco and alcohol industries,the violence industry.

  • Comment number 308.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 307.

    Now is the perfect time to legalise cannabis that should pull the country out of recession, fingers crossed.

    Look at the amount of jobs it would create including the tax it will generate. There are far worse things out there available from your gp.

 

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