Submitted by Turning Point
The following submission addresses:
whether the existing drug policy
the possible effect of decriminalisation
on the availability of and demand for drugs;
drug-related deaths and crime;
the effectiveness of the current
Turning Point notes that, in general, current
laws have not stifled supply or significantly impacted upon drug
use. Our experience suggests that the way forward is to concentrate
on the problems caused by drugs rather than the drugs themselves.
It would appear that the current
"B" grade classification for cannabis is too high and
consideration should be given to changing this to the lower "C"
category. Cannabis is widely used and the degree of danger that
is assigned to the drug within the legal framework is questionable.
Whilst it is likely that many problem heroin and crack/cocaine
users would report past and present cannabis use, recent research
undertaken by Howard Parker indicates that early tobacco smoking
and alcohol use is more predictive of later hard drug use.
The reduced classification would
help prevent criminalisation of significant numbers of people
whose recreational use has no link to the commonly associated
acquisitive crime and would free up police time from prosecuting
A similar argument should be made
for reduction of the classification of ecstasy and LSD.
The public health arguments against
cannabis raised in recent research into the carcinogenic effects
of smoking the drug are clearly best tackled through information
and education campaigns rather than the legal system. Certainly,
this approach has been used to good effect in reducing cigarette
smoking and drink-driving.
A key recommendation would be a review
of all drug classifications based on a realistic assessment of
harm caused, in order to establish a credible and comprehensive
and/or imprisonment does not impact positively on drug use. Currently
there are not enough places available for treatment, despite our
awareness that those who are drug dependent need speedy access
to services. More investment in treatment services is clearly
Although the current drugs strategy
is probably the most comprehensive seen so far, the targets are
highly ambitious, therefore targets should be realistically reviewed
against a backdrop of improved statistical information.
Alcohol should be part of the National
Treatment Agency remit and it must ensure that funding for any
future alcohol strategy does not divert resources from those intended
for drugs services.
It has to be recognised that however
successful drugs strategies are, illicit drug use will never be
completely eradicated. Therefore any future drug strategy must
cater for the fact that treatment services will always be needed
and that early intervention will be a main policy focus, alongside
a menu of interventions for those with problematic use. These
need to include a refocusing on harm minimisation approaches in
addition to the more costly structured treatments.
Harm reduction programmes have had
a positive influence on reducing HIV and other infections. However,
among injecting drug users there are still high levels of blood-borne
infections and a further drive to re-emphasise the benefits of
minimising harm, not criminalisation, needs to be undertaken.
There also needs to be increased
investment and nationally coordinated, substance misuse services,
particularly for culturally sensitive services which are significantly
under-developed. This creates great difficulties for commissioners
and funders in providing the right spread of services in their
Provision of back-up support services
for drug misusers leaving treatment programmes as part of community
sentences or prison, must be strengthened. Accommodation, training
and employment underpin the success of treatment programmes and
are crucial pathways for successful re-entry into community life.
Investment must be made in these areas.
The growth in the numbers of people
identified as suitable for treatment through the criminal justice
system is not matched by an increase in available provision. This
needs to be addressed urgently.