Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


Submitted by Turning Point

  The following submission addresses:

    —  whether the existing drug policy works;

    —   the possible effect of decriminalisation on the availability of and demand for drugs;

    —  drug-related deaths and crime;

    —  the effectiveness of the current drug strategy.

  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.


The Law

    —  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 small-scale possession.

    —  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 drugs policy.

    —  Treatment works—punishment 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 required.


    —  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 catchment areas.


    —  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.

September 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 December 2001