UK government ignored advice from its own experts to decriminalize drugs
Amer Ghazzal / Alamy Stock Photo
The UK government has ignored potentially life-saving advice from its own drug advisers, VICE can reveal.
In December 2015, confidential proposals from the Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (ACMD) explicitly recommended decriminalizing drug use for the first time, repealing possession and use laws. It is understood that these recommendations were rejected by the Home Office, despite the consensus of experts that decriminalization of drugs could reduce drug-related harm.
The Conservative government has come under fire for its regressive drug policies and drastic cuts in drug treatment funding over the past decade, both of which have contributed to record-high drug-related deaths in Canada. UK. Many experts argue that the government is more concerned with appearing harsh than saving the lives of people who use drugs, and the situation within ACMD is of growing concern.
The council had previously recommended plans to turn away people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system, but the 2016 report proposed the repeal of the section of the Drug Abuse Act (MDA) that criminalizes possession of drugs without intention of supplying them.
“The Home Office is nervous about it being released because it goes so against their line on decriminalization: that they are not going to do it, and there is has no reason to do so, ”said a researcher who viewed the report, who spoke to VICE on condition of anonymity over reputation concerns.
A request for a copy of the report under transparency laws was made 18 months ago. It was dismissed on questionable grounds amid long delays, and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has now ruled that the Home Office was justified in preventing publication under a provision that protects political discussions pending public disclosure. A judicial appeal has been filed with the judicial authorities.
The researcher said: “The Home Office has frequently stated that ‘the government does not intend to decriminalize drug possession’. As usual, they want to have it both ways. It’s a live political issue when they want to hide disturbing reports, but a dead political issue when they want to close the debate.
According to the ICO’s decision notice, the Home Office said: “Policy issues regarding the relationship between the 1971 law and the 2016 law and drug control are by no means resolved and remain the subject of active review, formulation and development. They certainly were at the time of the request.
He added: “The ACMD regularly publishes its advice to the government. However, this report is a rare occasion of an ACMD advice to ministers which has been explicitly described by ACMD as confidential and was not intended to be made public at any time.
“This was not an opinion commissioned by the department and the president of ACMD at the time intended to share views in private on a very controversial subject.”
He came like ACMD warned that the January 2016 law on psychoactive substances (PSA) would probably not reduce the supply of drugs such as spices and black mamba, and instead would have dangerous consequences if it were not applied as part of a series of public health measures.
Several years later, as the use of spices seemed to explode, ACMD Noted that at least two ambulance services had reported an increase in calls related to spices and black mamba. He added that spice deaths in Scotland had “dramatically increased” after the law was introduced, while prison use also appeared to increase.
He concluded: “It is not possible to identify whether the act led to an overall reduction in drug-related harm. The growing number of deaths from synthetic drugs banned by PSA, the most notorious spice of which, has been describe as “a deadly epidemic fueled by austerity”.
ACMD’s recommendations were intended to harmonize an apparent contradiction between MDA, which criminalizes drug possession and use, and PSA, which does not. The rationale was that if there was no reason to have a possession offense under the PSA, then there was no reason to have such an offense in the MDA, that’s understood.
The revelations come after the Scottish government decided last month to decriminalize drug use and possession in a bid to reduce the record number of overdose deaths and quell an HIV crisis caused by injection drug use.
Scottish National Party MP Alison Thewliss, spokesperson for the party at the Westminster Treasury, said the government had “systematically and apparently deliberately ignored” evidence of saving drug policy. Lives. “In doing so, they continue to let down those who die in our communities due to problematic drug use,” she added.
Liberal Democrat MK Christine Jardine, spokesperson for the Treasury party, said the government should not continue to ignore ACMD. “The UK’s outdated drug laws are not what we need in the 21st century to protect our young people – they allow criminals to prey on our young people and draw them into their networks,” he said. -she adds.
Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said, “The government will only follow expert evidence on drug harm reduction if it fits its short-term policy agenda. It is a shocking way of making policy and it is obviously costing lives. “
Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director of Release, the UK’s national center of expertise on drug laws, said: “With drug-related deaths at an all-time high, this is an act of damning accusation for the Interior Ministry. Ignoring the evidence costs lives. “
The government has released its usual drug policy statement. “The government does not intend to decriminalize drug possession. It would not eliminate the crime associated with the illicit trade, nor solve the harms and misery that drug addiction inflicts on users, families and communities, ”a spokesperson said.
“Our approach to drugs remains clear – we need to prevent drug use in our communities, support people through treatment and recovery, and tackle the supply of illegal drugs.”
Basically, they added that the Interior Ministry was not bound by the ACMD opinion. “There are rare instances where ACMD asks to provide the ministry with private advice, which it does not intend to publish. In the above cases, as decided by the ICO, it would not be appropriate to publish.