New UK Drugpolicy is a hollow shell.

Discussion in 'General' started by cannabinol, May 22, 2002.

  1. From: http://www.ccguide.org.uk/newspage.html
    Source: The Guardian (UK)
    Pub Date: Wednesday, 22 May 2002
    Subj: UK: Why we said no to legalisation ...and yes to a rational drugs
    policy based on harm reduction
    Author: Chris Mullen, MP
    URL: http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/Story/0,2763,719895,00.html
    Comment: Chris Mullen is chairman of the UK Home Affairs Committee
    Contact: letters@guardian.co.uk

    Drugs policy is an area where most British politicians fear to tread. For
    although it is widely recognised that existing efforts to combat illegal
    drugs have failed, there is an absolute difference of opinion among experts
    of every relevant profession - doctors, police and social workers - as to
    what should be done. Opinions, all advanced with equal passion, range from
    the argument that prohibition has failed and should therefore be abandoned,
    to the argument that all drugs are harmful and existing bans should be
    tightened.
    The same division of opinion is reflected internationally. Countries such
    as Sweden maintain a hard line against all forms of drug abuse, while
    Switzerland and the Netherlands are moving cautiously away from law
    enforcement towards harm reduction. All three countries maintain that their
    policies are successful.
    Witnesses to the select committee I chaired who argued that all or most
    illegal drugs should be legalised included a former chief constable, a
    former ambassador to Colombia and a parent who had lost his son to heroin.
    Legalisation, it was suggested, would enable supply to be taken out of the
    hands of criminals and regulated, thereby reducing deaths from overdose and
    adulteration. It would also reduce the level of crime committed by addicts
    seeking to fund their habit.
    We acknowledge that these are attractive arguments. The criminal market may
    well be diminished (though not eliminated); likewise drug-related crime.
    Harm may well be reduced, though this might be offset by an increase in the
    number of abusers. It is inevitable, too, that however tightly the sale of
    drugs was regulated, there would be a significant leakage to underage abusers.
    We agreed, too, with those who say that legalisation would send the wrong
    message to the majority of young people who do not take drugs of any sort,
    partly because they are illegal.
    Finally, we noted that - however forceful the arguments - no other country
    has yet been persuaded to legalise. Nor can we foresee a day when it would
    be possible to legalise a drug like crack cocaine, which often results in
    violent behaviour. So we came down unanimously against legalisation.
    That said, however, attempts to combat illegal drugs by means of law
    enforcement have proved so manifestly unsuccessful that it is difficult to
    argue for the status quo.
    So far as heroin users are concerned, law enforcement simply marginalises
    further people who need help. Nor does it make any sense to pretend that
    all illegal drugs are equally harmful. They are not.
    Once these simple truths are grasped, certain conclusions follow. First,
    harm reduction rather than retribution needs to be the primary focus of
    policy towards users. Second, law enforcement should concentrate
    overwhelmingly on the criminal network responsible for manufacturing and
    importing the most harmful drugs - notably heroin and cocaine.
    Third, treatment should focus on reducing the harm caused by the 250,000 or
    so problematic users (mainly of heroin) who are damaging not only their own
    lives, but those of their families and their communities. Fourth, to stand
    any chance of being effective, education must be honest, targeted and
    preferably delivered by someone with street-cred - recovered addicts for
    example.
    In line with these principles, the committee has proposed that the Misuse
    of Drugs Act be amended to downgrade both cannabis and ecstasy. We have
    also recommended the creation of a new offence of "supply for gain" which
    would enable the courts to distinguish between dealers and groups of
    friends who share drugs on a not-for-profit basis.
    To reduce the harm caused by heroin use we have recommended a network of
    safe injecting rooms where chaotic users can inject safely, where needles
    can be disposed of and where those interested can get access to help.
    We have also recommended a series of controlled experiments, along the
    lines of those in the Netherlands and Switzerland, in which heroin can be
    made available on prescription to chaotic users in order to stabilise their
    lives and, where possible, steer them towards recovery.
    Finally, we have urged the government to expand investment in residential
    and non-residential treatment.
    I believe - and so do 10 of the 11 members of my committee - that a harm
    reduction approach is both rational and defensible. What's more, I suspect
    that this view will not be all that controversial. It only remains to be
    seen whether the government will rise to the occasion.
    · Chris Mullin is chairman of the home affairs select committee. The report
    of the committee's inquiry is published today and available from HMSO and
    on the committee's website www.parliament.uk



    Some questions remain…

    It’s O.K. to get high, but where do I get my supply ?

    The headline of today’s drugrelated article in the Guardian is an overstatement, and far from a rational solution. Chris Mullen, the Chairman of the UK Home Affairs Committee, tries to deliver a broken present in a fancy wrapper. His description of the proposed changes in the UK’s Druglaws may look good, but it does not show he understands what is really going on in the real world.

    “Why we said NO to legalisation….and yes to a rational drugs policy based on harm reduction.”, is MP Mullen’s opener, before he starts ranting about what other countries do to handle their Drug problems, without any figures, to compare the results of their respective policies.

    “Harm reduction should be focussed on the 250.000 or ‘so’ problematic users (mainly of heroin) who are not only damaging their own lives, but those of their families and communities.”

    How about ‘Harm Prevention”, just helping those already in trouble is a noble goal, but trying to prevent this group from growing in numbers and decending in average age, is at least as important, and completely forgotten in this policy.

    I can only see ‘Harm Maintenance’, keeping the much discussed gateway theory alive on the street, where all drugs will still have to be purchased, no matter what Drug, A,B, or C Class…
    By not allowing regulated outlets for the intended Class C cannabis products, like weed and hash, they will still have to be obtained from polydrug dealers, who sell the whole alfabet in drugs, with the same hand…
    In practice, this means that the cannabis user is still forced to get in touch with gangs and other forms of organised crime, exposing them to more harm than just bad drugs…
    These dealers do run out of cannabis once and a while, but that is not their problem, they have so much more to offer, like heroin, crack, XTC, speed and coke, so they just open the Gateway, and the harm can be done !

    The gateway can only effectively be closed and controlled by separating the substances in practice, not only in legal treatment and in hollow plans. By keeping all drugs available in the criminal circuit, it seems like the UK government prefers organised crime over a system with regulated cannabisoutlets.

    The proposed declassification of cannabis is not helping, nor protecting the cannabis users of the UK, they will still have to buy bad hash from bad people, nothing has been done to protect their health and safety, the ‘new’ policy is as fake as soapbar hash.

    Nol van Schaik,
    www.williewortel.org www.dutchexperience.org
     

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