Memorandum submitted by Mrs Hope Humphreys
1. BAD LAWS
Until the Government recognises that the current
Drug Laws are both harmful and out-dated, there is no hope of
their policies working. The law is a barrier to honesty and proper
debate. All drugs can be used dangerously and, it's illogical
that some drugs that cause most harm to people (eg alcohol, tobacco,
prozac and seroxat) are controlled and legal, and others (eg cannabis
and ecstasy) are illegal and supplied by criminals.
The current policy puts great emphasis on education.
But, the Drug Laws remain an obstacle. What teacher is going to
say that smoking the odd joint is probably less dangerous that
smoking 20 cigarettes, or that binge drinking can be just as life
threatening as taking an ecstasy tablet at a club? Our well-informed
young stop listening knowing that we are not being straight with
3. ILLEGAL DRUGS
The use of drugs is demand led. Few are forced
to use drugs. People use them because they enjoy them and sometimes
because they are addicted. This is exactly the same whether the
drug is legal or illegal. With legal drugs, the quality and strength
is controlled. With illegal drugs, it's always a lottery. The
drugs may be contaminated or of a purity that could lead to an
overdose. Clean needles are often provided to addicts to protect
them from aids and hepatitis but then they have to go out and
get dirty unregulated drugs which cause infection, or even death.
This is irrational.
4. MONEY BADLY
So much money is spent on enforcing the drug
laws that too little is left to help people afflicted by drugs.
Sometimes an addict may be offered rehabilitation rather than
prison but, unlike the alcoholic, the law is breathing down his
neck. If he tests positive for drugs he could be locked up. Addiction
is an illness. More punishment cannot be the cure?
After the unnecessary deaths from uncontrolled
illegal drugs, the worst result of the Government's drug policy
is that it still makes criminals of decent, otherwise law abiding
people. Official statistics show that most young people will have
experimented with illegal drugs by the time they are 25 and have
shared them with friends. Thus, most young people have tried drugs,
have possessed drugs and have supplied drugs. This means that
the majority are behaving criminally, deserve a criminal record
and many should be in prison. This is unacceptable.
5.1.1 The policy makers know this, and yet
they are still unwilling to take the courageous step of changing
the law. Terrified of the electorate, they have chosen to operate
some kind of "turning a blind eye" policy and then bringing
the full force of the law down on an unfortunate few. A criminal
record is a terrible thing because it is permanent. Thousands
are barred from certain jobs and travelling to certain countries
forever, simply for being hedonistic risk takers, which is the
very stuff of youth. Some are sent to prison to be brutalised
by inappropriate, inhumane treatment. Prohibition is not working:
will never work. Parents worry about their children experimenting
with drugs, but the better informed, are even more worried by
the damage caused by a criminal record or a prison sentence. Young
people's futures are more at risk from the law than they are from
6. HARM REDUCTION
In spite of better education, the demand for
drugs continues to escalate and prices continue to fall. An unprecedented
number of people are dying from drugs, or are in prison because
of them. It is not acceptable to keep hiding behind the law, pretending
that it is working. Drugs should not be put in a separate category
from other dangers or isolated for special blame. Decriminalisation
would begin to take some of the hypocrisy, fear and ignorance
away from the subject of drugs, and bring us closer to harm reduction.
Decriminalisation may lead to more drug use. But, in countries
such as Holland, where there is a more pragmatic approach to these
substances, the average age of a heroin user is about 40 and rising,
in the UK it is about 20 and still dropping. There have been no
deaths from ecstasy in Holland since they allowed people to test
their drugs at clubs and other safety issues were emphasised.
It seems unlikely that, even if heroin was decriminalised, more
people would choose to use it. But users would not have the stigma
of being criminals and would be more willing to seek help earlier.
Illegal drugs are too dangerous to leave unregulated and uncontrolled.
Safety should have a much higher priority than enforcement in
the Government's drug policies.
7. THE POLICE
The Police Foundation Report did not deal with
the control or supply of illegal drugs but showed practical ways
of improving the law. It recommended that certain drugs should
be reclassified so that their dangers are reflected accurately.
It recognised that the social sharing of drugs, without profit,
was not the same as drug dealing. Because it was an independent
report by experts it deserves to be listened to and taken seriously.
When the Government has done this, it must move on to the trickier
subject of the regulation and supply of drugs. Until then, the
pyramid selling of drugs by criminals, the turf war murders, and
deaths from drug overdoses and contamination will continue to
Nothing is more important in any drug policy
than health and safety, especially for the young. Reducing the
demand for all drugs and the safety of users must be paramount.
The existing drug policies do not do this. We should stop shouting
about "killer drugs" and put right our "killer