Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as
amended by the Police and Criminal Justice Act 2001
This submission has been written by the Inclusion
Project at Release, which works with non-drug specific service
providers and seeks to enable such organisations to work effectively
and inclusively with people who use drugs. This has included work
with schools, NHS Trusts, Social Service teams, advice services
and housing and homeless services.
Over the past three years, a key area of our
work has been to help housing organisations work within the legal
boundaries of the Misuse of Drugs Act. We have offered information,
training, consultancy and policy development to over 1,000 organisations.
A significant concern expressed by these agencies has been Section
8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, and the obligations that this Section
imposes on a range of service providers.
Evidence submitted below is based on our work
with numerous provider organisations, policy makers and Drug Action
1. Section 8 acts to discourage some
service providers offering services to drug users. Drug users
are consequently routinely excluded from provision, evicted from
accommodation and many organisations are reluctant to work with
ongoing drug users.
2. Most organisations are able to work
effectively within Clauses 8a and 8b of the Section; Clause 8c
is largely obsolete.
3. Clause 8d however creates the most
significant obstacles to organisations working with ongoing drug
4. Clause 8d is currently being amended.
Prior to May 2001 the clause obligated agencies to prevent cannabis
being smoked on premises. This has resulted in numerous people,
primarily young people, being barred from housing and similar
provision, exacerbating social exclusion.
5. While the reclassifying or rescheduling
of cannabis would bring other merits this would still leave organisations
obliged to prevent the use of cannabis on premises; hence there
is still a need to review Section 8 of the MDA.
6. Section 8d was recently amended under
the Police and Criminal Justice Act 2001, although the implementation
of the amendment is awaiting Home Office guidance on its application,
which will be followed by Commencement Order.
7. The amendment would create even more
substantial obstacles for agencies. It makes the aim of achieving
an inclusive society more difficult. Strategies such as the Rough
Sleepers Strategy and Supporting People will find effective work
with on-going drug users greatly hampered by this amendment.
8. There is a recognition that drug
users are more likely to enter treatment, and achieve a successful
outcome, when in secure and safe accommodation. Following the
implementation of the amendment, organisations willing to work
with homeless drug users, the most vulnerable drug using population,
are likely to be working illegally if they continue to house ongoing
9. The obligation to prevent use taking
place on premises will increase levels of drug use in public places;
housing providers currently tolerating use on premises and addressing
the needs of these drug users will not be able to provide such
10. Potentially beneficial provision developing
evidence-based practice, such as Safer injecting rooms as piloted
in Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Australia would be impossible
under the amendment.
11. The amendment will discourage the provision
of sharps disposal bins in housing and other provision; this undermines
the public health strategy of facilitating the safe disposal of
12. The amendment to Section 8 has never
been discussed in the Lower House, by the Home Affairs Select
Committee or by the ACMD. We would respectfully suggest that these
bodies review this section of the MDA, and would in the least
support the revision of this in line with the recommendations
of the Police Foundation Report.