UK Drugs Laws in Need of Radical Shake-Up

UK Drugs Laws in Need of Radical Shake-Up
Posted by FoM on August 29, 2001 at 09:04:03 PT
By Lorna Martin
Source: Herald 
Drugs laws in the UK should be radically overhauled and brought into line with those in Holland and Italy, according to a report published today by the country's leading drugs charity.DrugScope claims that thefrequently-used argument that UK laws could not be relaxed without breaching international treaties is flawed. The report compares penalties for minor drug offences in Britain with those in six other European countries, and concludes that the government could fundamentally alter legislation without breaking United Nations conventions. 
In the report, European Drugs Laws: The Room for Manoeuvre, the charity urges ministers to punish all minor drug offences with civil penalties, such as fines, rather than imprisonment.It compares policies in the UK with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, and Sweden, and says the government could, and should, abolish the use of jail sentences for drug possession and small-scale supply.In Italy, possession is prohibited but is not a criminal offence. Instead, it is dealt with using civil punishments such as suspension of a person's driving licence.In Spain, the same offence is punished only if it occurs in public, when it is usually penalised with a fine. In the Netherlands, while cannabis possession is still a criminal offence which carries a one-month prison sentence and a fine of 1500, the authorities have chosen not to enforce the law since 1976.Although David Blunkett, home secretary, already has called for an "adult, intelligent debate" about drugs laws, yesterday's report received a largely lukewarm response from experts and other charities.Neil McKeganey, professor of drug misuse research at Glasgow University, said the British government would be better advised to wait to see the effects of the liberalisation in other countries."Unless we can say categorically that liberalisation leads to a reduction in drug use, and breaks the link between trafficking and serious hard crime, then I cannot see a strong argument for it."That is not to say we should not have a full, public debate and be prepared to adopt radical alternatives."Maxie Richards, an anti-drugs campaigner, said it would be a disastrous move. "If we relax our attitude towards drugs, especially cannabis, we give the wrong messages to children. Cannabis is harmful. People smoking it run the risk of becoming schizophrenic, and there are many young people in psychiatric hospitals because of cannabis."However, Roger Howard, the chief executive of DrugScope, said the government had to decide whether allowing otherwise law-abiding citizens to get caught up in the criminal justice system for possessing drugs such as cannabis was a proportionate response in the twenty-first century."For many years, a major impediment to drug reform has been the belief that UN conventions restrict any change."This study dispels the view that we are tied rigidly by the UN conventions and shows we have considerable flexibility to radically modernise our drugs laws."We believe that civil penalties could run alongside the current UK system and probably in due course displace the criminal responses to certain drug offences."The Commons home affairs select committee has announced that in the autumn it will,aunch a major inquiry into the possible effects of the decriminalisation of hard and soft drugs.Meanwhile, health boards in Scotland will receive an extra 3m over the next three years to tackle drug misuse, as part of the executive's 28m package for drugs announced in the budget in June.Complete Title: UK Drugs Laws in Need of Radical Shake-Up, Says ReportSource: Herald, The (UK)Author: Lorna MartinPublished: August 28, 2001Copyright: 2001 The HeraldContact: letters Articles & Web Site:Drugscope Treaty 'No Bar' To Easing Drug Laws To Consider Relaxing The Law on Cannabis
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Comment #3 posted by E. Johnson on August 29, 2001 at 19:06:26 PT
The burden goes on which side?
"Unless we can say categorically that liberalisation leads to a reduction in drug use, and breaks the link between trafficking and serious hard crime, then I cannot see a strong argument for it.No, my friend, you have it all bass-ackwards.The response that is supposed to bear the burden of proof is locking people up.Unless we can say categorically that locking people up leads to any positive change whatsoever, we should not lock them up at all.
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Comment #2 posted by TroutMask on August 29, 2001 at 09:30:39 PT
No Choice
The river isn't going to stop flowing, so there is obviously no choice: The barrel must fall. Sooner or later is the question.Poor poor DEA. Not.-TM
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on August 29, 2001 at 09:19:10 PT:
Global Drug Trends
The barrel is at the edge of Niagara Falls now. Do you think that it will actually fall?
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