Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Anonymous (DP 138)

Executive Summary

1. I am writing to provide evidence of my own experience of the adverse effects of drug policy currently in place, for consideration when the commission assesses the impact of the current drug policy.


2. I was stopped by a police officer and a sniffer dog at a music festival in early July last year. I was carrying very small amounts of two class A substances (one dose of each) at the time (which I find it very hard to believe were detectable by the dog) and was advised that I should expect a letter from the procurator fiscal over the next few months, which would probably result in a fiscal fine.

3. Last weekend on 14 January 2012 I received the letter I expected, seven months after the event. I have been issued a citation to appear in court on a possession charge.

4. I am an engineer with a first class Masters degree. I was awarded Dux of School at my High School, and have worked throughout my educational and professional (four+ years) career to get to a position where I am well respected in my professional capacity. I am high performing in the workplace recognised through performance feedback and have been working towards gaining enough experience to travel abroad through my work, in order to broaden my cultural and general life experience. Travelling is the important part and has been a driver for my accomplishments so far, and my work is the vehicle I have adopted through which to achieve real travel opportunities. I have no prior offences, not even a speeding ticket.

5. With this incident my prospects have taken a sharp turn for the worse. With present drug policy I am now facing up to the fact that I cannot gain a working visa for most countries, and cannot even enter many countries that I otherwise would hope to. Also, my criminal record will also prevent me from progressing much further in my workplace even within this country and will certainly affect and potentially prevent me completely from gaining similar work with another company. For many other professions the immediate implications would be even more severe.

6. These impacts are in my mind and the minds of many others far out of proportion with the act I have been charged with. I carried out no moral offense—I did not steal from anyone, lie to anyone (at any time throughout the incident), hurt anyone (including myself). I did not profit from possessing these substances. I did not disturb anyone’s peace or well-being and was not in an inebriated and offensive state. In short, I do not believe I committed an act that in any way merits the police or court system taking any interest in what I was doing, expect from the fact that I committed an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, a legacy of a prohibitionist stance on drugs which has widely been accepted to have failed in its aims (reduction of harm to individuals and society, of financial cost to society).

7. The current drug policy mission as I understand it is primarily to prevent harm to individuals and society. I have used drugs before and know many others who have also, and would say that almost universally this use has not caused any major health issues in anyone I know. There are people who become dependent on drugs, but I have not heard of anyone becoming addicted to MDMA or LSD, the two drugs I was found to be in possession of. I also have not heard of anyone becoming violent through their use of either drug, and although incidences undoubtedly occur through sheer number of users I do not expect the correlation between use of these drugs and violent or antisocial behaviour coming anywhere close to the same rate as that of those who consume alcohol. A review of actual statistics will I believe confirm this.

8. My point is that I do not see physical or mental harm through the use of these drugs. What I do see is extreme physical and emotional stress from the impact of current drug policy impacts. By the police simply recording the fact I was in possession of these drugs, never mind the procurator following through and criminally charging me, I have been forced to make drastic changes to my life plans and expectations. Already this has impacted on me through preventing me travelling to the USA with my brother for a trip, and will repeatedly affect the decisions I make on travel and work as long as the current policy is in place. Depression is in danger of taking hold however I am determined to avoid this and causing myself further distress by allowing this, since I do not believe the punishments are merited, a view shared by almost all who have actually experienced drugs and their effects and have sought information on the societal impact of drug use.

9. My experience is that the current drug policy in no way addresses the actual harms of drug use and particularly addiction. Sustained drug use of legal or illegal kind clearly carries some risk to the health of an individual and their ability to function within society, however the current policies do not concentrate on educating and avoiding problem use, they only seek to penalise it with the effect of destroying the physical and social mobility prospects of those prosecuted. Sustained and problematic drug use is not the norm; most people who use recreational drugs do so on an infrequent basis with no discernible health effects prior to becoming a product of the criminal system if they have the misfortune to find themselves in that situation.

10. Current drug policy does not impact the availability of drugs to any real degree, it only pushes the supply in to the hands of petty dealers who ultimately fund organised crime networks. If there is a desire in an individual to obtain a controlled substance, he will not encounter too much of a problem finding that substance. What he will be unsure of is the true content which in many cases will be more harmful than the desired ingredients.

11. There are many publications supporting my points above, available through the Transform Drug Policy Foundation website and others that you will no doubt be aware of. Hopefully a fair assessment of the negative impacts of the current policies can be made which may lead to the realisation that at the very least a situation where people are not dealt with by criminal system is a better place, but ideally that a regulated system is set up similar to alcohol or regulated over-the-counter medicine where not only the criminalisation impacts of current policy are avoided but also the issues of uncertainty around purity, dosage, quality etc. are overcome and the channelling of vast sums of money to organised crime is stopped.

January 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012