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Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalising drugs


3:27 pm - June 13th 2011

by Newswire    


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An urgent new evidence-based approach is needed to tackle the UK’s drug crisis and make our communities safer, Caroline Lucas MP will say today.

The Green party leader will make a speech to NHS healthcare professionals in Brighton this evening. She will echo the findings of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which earlier this month called for a major review of drugs policy.

The Brighton MP will say:

There is growing agreement across the scientific and political communities, in the police and the legal professions, that we need to move away from prohibition of use towards an evidence-based, public health approach to drug addiction.

One of my top priorities as a local MP is to tackle Brighton and Hove’s very sad reputation as the drugs death capital of the UK. In order to do that, we need to recognise the reality that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has failed – and start dealing with drugs differently.

Lucas is an active member of Parliament’s All Party Group for Drug Policy Reform.

She says she is planning a high level roundtable in the city later this year, bringing together medical experts, and key local stakeholders, including the police and council representatives, to help develop an alternative approach.

She will praise local initiatives such as the RIOTT trial, which has helped addicts achieve major reductions in their use of street heroin.

Though she will stop short of calling for decriminalisation, her office says it will be a call for “potential decriminalisation of personal drug use

I don’t think it will be easy. A new approach, based on treating drug addiction as a health issue not a criminal one, will represent a significant shift in thinking – and any changes should be brought in slowly and carefully.

But in the long term, a more evidence-based drugs policy will help us to prevent crime, and protect our communities from the worst effects of drug abuse.

From a press release

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Reader comments


My goodness, a sensible response to the war on drugs from an MP?! What is the world coming to??

2. Luis Enrique

see also a recent column by the FT’s influential Martin Wolf We should end our disastrous war on drugs

OP, there is an error in the last section about what Superintendent Graham Bartlett said – I don’t think you intended this bit to be present: “Though she will stop short of calling for decriminalisation, her office says it will be a call for “potential decriminalisation of personal drug use”.

4. Chaise Guevara

Hear hear! In fact, she doesn’t go far enough. I’m not sure about the really addictive ones (smack, crack, crystal meth), but as far as stuff like cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy go we should legalise, regulate and tax. Thus saving police time, preventing pointless criminalisation, improving public health, increasing state income, and improving civil liberties in one fell swoop.

Cameron agreed with this as a backbench opposition MP. It seems to be a lot harder to maintain in office.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 5

Cos it’s sensible but not all that popular, basically.

7. Mr S. Pill

@4

Re: the really addictive drugs. I see your point, but they (smack, crack, meth) are the ones that (mostly) fuel the crime that we want to reduce…and IMO they are the ones that need proper legislation surrounding. Not so you can simply walk into your pharmacy and say “5g of heroin, please” but not continuing to criminalise people for using. Somewhere in between.

8. Mr S. Pill

(to make my point a bit clearer: I don’t think people go robbing houses to score a few tabs / a joint)

9. Barrington Womble

The article says that she “will stop short of calling for decriminalisation”, so it sounds like more waffle without anybody putting their neck on the line and coming up with a practical alternative.

As someone who would like to see drug liberalisation, I would be much happier if Caroline “let’s have homeopathy on the NHS” Lucas was not the face of evidence-based policy on this subject.

This is very welcome. I’m pleased that we’re hearing more of this sensible tone in debates about drug policy at last.

How long until Theresa May vetoes the whole thing?

Nice to see the Greens copying another Lib Dem policy 🙂

12. Hodge Podge

@11 The Lib Dem really invented the idea of drug decriminalisation?

13. Hodge Podge

*Dems

14. Mr S. Pill

@11

Pretty sure the Greens have been in favour of not penalising drug users since their inception, GWP. So it’s more of a case of LDs pinching Green policies.

Cos it’s sensible but not all that popular, basically.

It needs to be coupled to something else totemic.

I suggest that all drugs be legalised, but that they can only be sold in Post Offices. Not only will it rescue a failing institution, but the sheer unrivalled awfulness of Post Offices as places of commerce will also mean that drug use is more effectively discouraged than at present.

I look forward to a new chain of Lions Kaffeehuis on street corners.

17. Luis Enrique

the

18. Luis Enrique

the quantity of money raise by a state monopoly on the production and sale of drugs would sort out the public finances for good.

strange to think that such a solution exists, yet it is completely politically out of reach

19. Planeshift

“Cos it’s sensible but not all that popular, basically”

Any polling done on this?

20. Richard W

Someone once said that the solution to road congestion was to get the private sector to provide roads and the government sector build cars. The private sector would not produce many roads and the government sector would not produce many cars. In that spirit, to reduce drugs consumption give the state a monopoly in the production of drugs and the drug dealers a monopoly in drug treatment to reduce demand. Supply and demand immediately falls.

@4

I’m not sure about the really addictive ones (smack, crack, crystal meth)

As far as smack or heroin goes Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News states:

Heroin is not a poison. Contrary to popular belief, pure heroin, properly handled, is a benign drug. In the words of a 1965 New York study by Dr Richard Brotman: ‘Medical knowledge has long since laid to rest the myth that opiates observably harm the body.’ Contrary to popular belief, it is rather difficult to kill yourself with heroin: the gap between a therapeutic and a fatal dose is far wider than it is, for example, with paracetamol. It is addictive – and that is a very good reason not to use it – but its most notable side effect on the physical, mental and moral condition of its users is constipation. The truth is that all of the illness and misery and death which are associated with heroin are, in fact, the effect not of the drug itself but of the black market on which it is sold as a result of this war against drugs.

It is this reason why the “shooting gallerys” are so successful in combating heroin usage. They take the ‘dangerous ultimate addictive high’ and turn it into ‘that safe injection down the clinic that those boring old men get once a week or so’.

22. This machine kills fascists

Anyone who’s ever taken a half decent drug would probably not be up for legalising them.

If speed, LSD, smack, crack and coke were knocking about and easy to get with no chance of getting into trouble, half the town I grew up in would be dead. It was mental enough when they WERE hard to get hold of with very real penalties attached and we were very scared of getting caught with them. Fear of getting nicked certainly restricted me and several mates to occasional recreational use but a few of my braver mates went the whole hog and several are now dead. I can’t possibly see how legalisation wouldn’ty hasve made it worse – at least for our situation. It’s an appealing policy to nice middle class folks who think of drug use as a post meal spliff around Davina’s, dahling… Crazy idea.

Basically, this idea is bong-addled nonsense.

24. So Much For Subtlety

7. Mr S. Pill – “they (smack, crack, meth) are the ones that (mostly) fuel the crime that we want to reduce”

Sorry but where’s the evidence these drugs fuel any crime at all?

“Not so you can simply walk into your pharmacy and say “5g of heroin, please” but not continuing to criminalise people for using. Somewhere in between.”

But what? You want to replace law enforcement with lectures from nanny? We have in fact given up prohibition. You may not have noticed, but the police simply don’t bother any more. Certainly not for marijuana. Rarely for anything harder either. How is that working out?

8. Mr S. Pill – “(to make my point a bit clearer: I don’t think people go robbing houses to score a few tabs / a joint)”

Nor do I. People who rob houses do so because they like robbing houses. Even if we give them free heroin, they don’t stop robbing houses.

25. So Much For Subtlety

21. Cylux – “It is this reason why the “shooting gallerys” are so successful in combating heroin usage. They take the ‘dangerous ultimate addictive high’ and turn it into ‘that safe injection down the clinic that those boring old men get once a week or so’.”

Could you please point out to me one single study that shows one single shooting gallery has ever worked to reduce heroin use?

26. Mr S. Pill

@24 SMFS

“Sorry but where’s the evidence these drugs fuel any crime at all?”

Ask any policeman why most people commit robbery. I guarantee it will be because aforementioned criminal wants money so they can get their fix of heroin/crack/whatever. There has been research into this as well, if I have time I’ll try and find a few papers for your perusal.

“But what? You want to replace law enforcement with lectures from nanny? We have in fact given up prohibition. You may not have noticed, but the police simply don’t bother any more. Certainly not for marijuana. Rarely for anything harder either. How is that working out?”

Straw man. We have not given up prohibition, and in the past month alone, three seperate marijuana growers/dealers have been either charged or convicted in my locality (Lancashire). Not to mention people being arrested for possession of harder drugs on a weekly basis and at least fortnightly a dealer or two being put behind bars. I’m sure other posters in similarly aflicted areas can tell similar stories.

“Nor do I. People who rob houses do so because they like robbing houses. Even if we give them free heroin, they don’t stop robbing houses.”

Is that so? And you have evidence of this, I assume? I’m sure there are still some career criminals out there who do, as you put it, “like robbing houses”. But it is widely accepted – and frankly I don’t know why you’re bothering arguing against it – that (as mentioned above) the vast majority of house burglaries are committed by drug addicts wanting a fix. Legalise, and tax, drugs – on a prescription basis if needs be, I’m not a policy expert so I don’t want to go into detail here – and a lot of problems we see at the moment (especially with regards to turf wars between gangs of dealers, which generally only afflict areas like my own, rather than the leafy suburbs where MPs live) will become fewer in number.
Do I have a expert solution? No. But I think any form of decriminalisation is better than the current situation we find ourselves in. The war on drugs is over, and drugs won. We need to accept and accomodate that.

27. Mr S. Pill
28. Mr S. Pill

Also this, regarding decriminalisation in Portugal, although to be read with a more critical eye as the research was funded & carried out by the Cato Institue…. the results are still interesting, though.

29. So Much For Subtlety

26. Mr S. Pill – “Ask any policeman why most people commit robbery. I guarantee it will be because aforementioned criminal wants money so they can get their fix of heroin/crack/whatever. There has been research into this as well, if I have time I’ll try and find a few papers for your perusal.”

In other words, ask someone why they have failed at their job and they will blame someone else. I am not sure that is all that illuminating. Not to mention that most policemen I speak to tend to have another answer along the lines of “it is because they are all toe rags”. Which is essentially my view.

“Straw man. We have not given up prohibition, and in the past month alone, three seperate marijuana growers/dealers have been either charged or convicted in my locality (Lancashire). Not to mention people being arrested for possession of harder drugs on a weekly basis and at least fortnightly a dealer or two being put behind bars. I’m sure other posters in similarly aflicted areas can tell similar stories.”

What sentences did they get? Let’s consider William Marsh. Just convicted in Liverpool for possession of one pound two ounces of marijuana. I think we can agree that is quite a lot for personal use. Five prior convictions. Yet again he got community service. In other words, as Peter Hitchens from whom I got this, pointed out, no punishment at all. In effect marijuana is decriminalised as it is.

On a weekly basis? Really? Some 6 million people in Britain have reported Class A drug use. We sentence a dealer or two per fortnight? That is really making a dent in the trade isn’t it? We arrest about 150,000 people every year for drug offenses. About 110,000 of those are dismissed with a warning. About 40,000 actually get some sort of punishment. But we only have some 10,000 people in prison for drug-related crimes. We have long since stopped punishing drug offenses.

“Is that so? And you have evidence of this, I assume? I’m sure there are still some career criminals out there who do, as you put it, “like robbing houses”. But it is widely accepted – and frankly I don’t know why you’re bothering arguing against it – that (as mentioned above) the vast majority of house burglaries are committed by drug addicts wanting a fix.”

The fact it is widely accepted does not make it true. Here on LC everyone must accept that. Yes, I have evidence. We have experimented with giving criminals their drugs for free. They do reduce their offending a little, but they do not stop. Because this is just excuse-mongering for criminals. Of course they are going to say the drugs make them do it. But it is not true. They choose to use drugs. They choose to be criminals. No one forces them. The vast majority of house breakings are not committed by drug addicts looking for their next fix. The majority of house breakings are caused by criminals who happen to also have contempt for the drug laws.

“Legalise, and tax, drugs – on a prescription basis if needs be, I’m not a policy expert so I don’t want to go into detail here – and a lot of problems we see at the moment (especially with regards to turf wars between gangs of dealers, which generally only afflict areas like my own, rather than the leafy suburbs where MPs live) will become fewer in number.”

Why do you think that is true? Why do you think that criminals who are now fighting over drugs won’t fight over something else instead? Try a simple thought experiment – American Inner Cities often have drug gangs that are run by Black males. They also tend to have alcohol shops that are run by Korean immigrants or some other minority. If drugs were legalised, who do you think would be selling them – the Korean-Americans or the African-Americans? And what do you think those unemployed African-Americans would be doing? Interpretative Dance classes?

“The war on drugs is over, and drugs won. We need to accept and accomodate that.”

And how does that not apply to, say, rape? We have yet to abolish that either.

27. Mr S. Pill – “You might find this article illuminating: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/8120452.Calls_to_prescribe_heroin_on_NHS_follow_successful_Brighton_shooting_gallery_trial/

Then again I might not. Notice that even with free drugs, they don’t stop robbing people. Their offending is cut more than I would have expected – by two thirds – but it is self reported so it is dubious.

Apart from that it is the usual refusal to face reality from the usual suspects.

28. Mr S. Pill – “Also this, regarding decriminalisation in Portugal, although to be read with a more critical eye as the research was funded & carried out by the Cato Institue…. the results are still interesting, though.”

Drug use in Portugal is up. That is interesting. But I quite like the Portuguese approach. Let’s, by all means, take drug offending out of the legal system and give massive powers to harass users to an unelected and unaccountable administrative body with no legal safeguards or protections such as the right to a lawyer or a trial. That will, no doubt, speed things up no end.

Criminals will continue to claim that their crimes were caused by a need for drug money, as long as this is treated as some kind of mitigation by the indulgent judiciary. They may need some kind of treatment, but mainly they need punishment for their crimes, by which I mean proper crimes – burglary, robbery etc, rather than the non-crime of drug-taking.

about damn time we decriminialise drugs and release the thousands of innocent people jailed over the stupid war on drugs policy, it was always from the very begining an epic fail for the people of Earth! (but not for the profit making goverments) They should be given some sort of conpensation for the lose of life-time that has been taken from them! We have wronged these people and we should be ashamed of that.

i’m a cannabis smoker for over 13 years i have always been an active good (common) law abiding human.

Its time to rise up and say NO to the war on drugs and start looking out for eachother.

Peace, legalise it 😀

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 S. Pill

“I see your point, but they (smack, crack, meth) are the ones that (mostly) fuel the crime that we want to reduce…and IMO they are the ones that need proper legislation surrounding. Not so you can simply walk into your pharmacy and say “5g of heroin, please” but not continuing to criminalise people for using. Somewhere in between.”

Oh, I don’t think they should remain fully criminalised. I’m just stuck between my liberal instincts (“legalise them”) and my pragmatic instincts (which lean more towards them being made available on prescription or in controlled environments).

33. Mr S. Pill

@SMFS

I’ll address your points when I have more time, but quick (genuine) question first: what would your prefered strategy against drugs be?

34. recoveredaddictexoffender

legalize them all ,available in outlets on all high streets with health warnings and appropriate instructions for use and a record kept of historical purchases so that intervention can be implemented if a potential problem arises. The quality would be regulated and the cost (even if heavily taxed) would be alot cheaper than street drugs are now. The real truth is that the vast majority of drugs are fairly harmless unless abused by people with no education on their use.(the only reason cannabis was ever illegal was because of the banning of industrial hemp in america in 1937) it would create an economy that would pay our national debt in no time at all , free up prison space ,reduce crime( although not eliminate it as it will still cost money, but frequent purchasers of drugs with no known income could easily be targeted as obviously committing crime to fund there drug use) . This is not the perfect solution for the problem but the so called war on drugs has failed miserably and costs billions of pounds annually, in our current economic climate globally it is common sense that the legalisation of drugs will eliminate that spenditure and create a whole economy. Lets stop telling people what they can an cant do with themselves its alledgedly a free world, and im not saying “lets profit from peoples misery” because the main reason that drug use causes misery is because it is illegal, creating a social stigma that leads to rejection from society and the need to frequent unsavoury places and characters for the getting and using of drugs. if it were to be made a legal activity then no stigma attached. people with potential problems side affects would be flagged and the appropriate education and help given.
legalisation is not a popular idea because for the last 50 years weve been bombarded with anti drug campaigns, misinformation and propaganda. if the real statistics and facts were common knowledge it would gain more public approval.
But what do i know? do i really think it will happen? its possible , didnt someone once say “religion is opium for the masses” and then it was money , we may just have gone full circle??????

35. So Much For Subtlety

31. Wishborn – “about damn time we decriminialise drugs and release the thousands of innocent people jailed over the stupid war on drugs policy”

We have long since stopped jailing people for drug offenses. There are no innocent people in prison because of drugs.

“They should be given some sort of conpensation for the lose of life-time that has been taken from them! We have wronged these people and we should be ashamed of that.”

They broke the law. They largely got away with it. They are more likely to deserve a hangman’s noose than compensation.

“i’m a cannabis smoker for over 13 years i have always been an active good (common) law abiding human.”

So you say. Your comments here don’t exactly fill me with confidence.

34. recoveredaddictexoffender – “The quality would be regulated and the cost (even if heavily taxed) would be alot cheaper than street drugs are now.”

And hence would be used a lot more. Not sensible.

“The real truth is that the vast majority of drugs are fairly harmless unless abused by people with no education on their use.”

In a physical sense that may be true of heroin – although of course it does turn people into amoral scumbags. That is a psychological side effect of some real importance. Cocaine has clear medical side-effects. Crystal Meth is even worse. You want these to be legal?

“it would create an economy that would pay our national debt in no time at all , free up prison space ,reduce crime( although not eliminate it as it will still cost money, but frequent purchasers of drugs with no known income could easily be targeted as obviously committing crime to fund there drug use) .”

How would it pay our national debt? Drug users don’t often have jobs. They do nothing productive. That is unlikely to change if they drugs are a little bit cheaper. They pay for their drugs by stealing from the rest of us. At a massive cost to the entire community. If the government takes a slice of their theft from the rest of us, how will that do anything other than continue to impoverish the community as a whole? I have a counter-suggestion – shoot all the drug users. That means the money that we now waste on higher insurance, bars on windows, car alarms, private security guards, prisons, policemen and so on could go to pay off the national debt. That would be a real saving. Obviously I am not really going to recommend this here but could you please explain to me the down side if any?

“because the main reason that drug use causes misery is because it is illegal, creating a social stigma that leads to rejection from society and the need to frequent unsavoury places and characters for the getting and using of drugs.”

Sorry but that is rubbish. Drugs don’t have much social stigma any more. They have glamour. Which is why idiots use them. Idiots who choose to reject society and choose to frequent unsavoury places. No one makes them. They want to do it. So they do. Like they steal. It is a life style choice. Making drugs legal is not going to make those people want another life style.

“legalisation is not a popular idea because for the last 50 years weve been bombarded with anti drug campaigns, misinformation and propaganda.”

To mention because most of us have some experience with drug users.

@35 Would you agree with the statement “there are some laws that it is okay to break”?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  2. Nadja von Massow

    RT @libcon: Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6 #green #decriminalisedrugs

  3. Panda

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  4. sunny hundal

    Green party leader @CarolineLucas looks to "potentially decriminalising" drugs. Significant? http://t.co/Mc0anUK

  5. Andrew Ducker

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalising drugs http://bit.ly/iZhNpj

  6. Sam Bowman

    Wld make me vote Green… RT @sunny_hundal: Green Party leader @CarolineLucas looks to "potentially decriminalise" drugs http://t.co/JKYw0dL

  7. Adam

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalising drugs http://bit.ly/iZhNpj

  8. Gods & Monsters

    Green party leader @CarolineLucas looks to "potentially decriminalising" drugs. Significant? http://t.co/Mc0anUK

  9. The Green Party

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  10. PaulWilks

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  11. David Weir

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  12. James Mark Hetterley

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  13. coshgirl

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  14. Matty Mitford

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  15. A Libertarian Rebel

    Yes decriminalise drugs, but don’t vote Green zealotry of @carolinelucas just for that http://bit.ly/mMJRzA Even bust clock right 2 x a day

  16. Ronald Pogue

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalisation of drugs http://bit.ly/l4jxP6

  17. Lee Chalmers

    Caroline Lucas looks to decriminalising drugs http://zite.to/kbciCl via @Ziteapp

  18. sms_nurse

    Interesting evening last night listening to @CarolineLucas on #decriminalisation – http://t.co/NDDcj4V & http://t.co/ieOAQFt

  19. James Hellyer

    Yes decriminalise drugs, but don’t vote Green zealotry of @carolinelucas just for that http://bit.ly/mMJRzA Even bust clock right 2 x a day





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