Psychoactive Substances Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mr Joseph Woollen (PSB 18)

1. I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the Government’s refusal to employ an evidence based approach to drug legislation and instead are relying on their uneducated and emotion based pre-conceived ideas on drugs. It all started when David Nutt, the Chief Drug Advisor, was sacked.

2. So, the Government hires an expert to conduct research and provide a scientific and evidence based proposals to drug legislation. The expert is then sacked because his findings do not line up with how non-experts ‘feel’ about drugs. I feel the situation has been getting progressively worse since, and it is making criminals out of scores of youths and adults alike who are causing very little, if any, harm. Especially when compared to the burden alcohol abuse puts on the NHS in cities across the country.

3. Now, the Psychoactive Substances Bill aims to make illegal anything that can promote a psychoactive response in the user – unless specifically excluded. This is a worrying approach; "everything is illegal unless we say so." Not only that, it is entirely unpractical (No2 is used in whipped cream, and is now likely going to become illegal) and cou ld hinder scientific research.

4. I was pleasantly surprised when the bill was discussed in the House of Lords, who made some incredibly progressive amendments. These included: medicinal marijuana, drug testing services for users to check if their product is contaminated/impure, fact based drug education, allowing substances that have little room for abuse to stay legal etc. This would be a great step forward. It is abundantly clea r that just by simply making something illegal, you are not going to stop people doing it. This is evidenced by the countless numbers of drug users in the country. So if you can’t STOP them from taking/using drugs, isn’t the next best thing to at least make sure they’re educated on the risks and provide testing centres to ensure their products are clean? Many drugs, including heroin, are not overly damaging to the body. The danger lies in impurities that they have been cut with and not knowing the strength of the product which leads to overdose. And what about addicts? Shouldn’t they be given treatment and cared or rather than locked in a prison cell?

5. But of course, all these proposals by the experts where dismissed by the politicians who clearly have very little to zero knowledge about drugs and this ridiculous, draconian bill seems like it will soon become the law. Around the world, drug laws are becoming increasingly more progressive. Even America, the country that started the War on Drugs, has decriminalised and even legalised marijuana for medical and personal use in many states. And of course, Portugal decriminalised ALL drugs and what were the results? Usage, addiction, deaths, HIV infection etc all decreased!!

6. Meanwhile, our government is sticking their fingers in their ears, ignoring all the experts advice, ignoring the progressive and harm-reducing laws introduced elsewhere in the world and are instead, campaigning to make it illegal to own the required ingredients to make whipped cream in your own home. It’s utterly absurd and I’m absolutely sick of it. I haven’t even gotten into the fact that drug education in schools is severely lacking and is based on scare tactics and misinformation. That’s a discussion for another day.

SUMMARY: Look at the facts and what is working around the world when shaping drug laws. Do not act on your pre-conceived notions of drugs and drug users and how you "feel". Be open to change.

October 2015

Prepared 27th October 2015