UK Liberal Democrats Overwhelmingly Back Overhaul of Drug Laws

A passionate debate put forward by campaigner Ewan Hoyle saw delegates decide to establish a panel to carry out an impact assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The panel would consider the economic, legal and medical repercussions of the Act and the alternative.

It would also look at replacing fines and jail sentences with educational and medical "Interventions".

Mr Hoyle said: "I want Nick Clegg to walk into David Cameron's office and say: 'This is part of what is needed to get the country out of a hole.'"

The vote gives the Liberal Democrats arguably the most radical drug policy of any of the three main parties since the Act was passed but it does not automatically translate into coalition policy.

Instead Lib Dem ministers will be expected to push for the policy in government.

While Nick Clegg and David Cameron are both privately sympathetic to reforming drug laws, the issue is considered politically toxic. Backbench Conservatives would be livid at any attempt to water down drug legislation.

In a sign of continued nerves over the issue, senior Liberal Democrats mostly stayed away from the debate yesterday.

The motion also expressed support for the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which recently suffered from a bout of resignations following conflict with the Home Office.

The party supported it as a symbol of fact-based drug policy and stressed that no drug should be outlawed without its approval.

– Article originally from Politics.Co.UK.

Experts Back Liberal Democrat Calls For Drugs Decriminalisation

Drugs Policy Commission says proposal to scrap criminal penalties for personal possession would not increase use
Alan Travis, The Guardian

Experts have backed calls to be made at the Liberal Democrats conference this weekend for the decriminalisation of all drugs, saying it would not lead to a surge in drug use.

The UK Drugs Policy Commission, which includes Professor Colin Blakemore, former chief executive of the Medical Research Council, and Dame Ruth Runciman, former chair of the Mental Health Act Commission, among its membership, says it backs the broad thrust of the Lib Dem motion to be debated on Sunday.

The motion calls for all criminal penalties for personal possession to be scrapped, the introduction of a regulated market in cannabis, and the expansion of heroin maintenance clinics for the most fervent users.

Ewan Hoyle, of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, who is to move the motion on Sunday, said it was likely to be passed, and welcomed the commission’s endorsement.

Roger Howard, the commission’s chief executive, said there was an understandable worry that removing criminal penalties for simple possession could lead to a rise in drug use, but insisted the move could do some good.

“The evidence from other countries suggests there would be no great surge in drug use,” he said. “It is not so much the law that changes behaviour but rather social and cultural factors. This is why in the UK we have seen a decline in cannabis use over the past 10 years, despite various changes in the law and policing practice.”

Howard said giving drug users a police record made it harder for them to get a job and put some off seeking help. “More challenging is what to do with people whose drug dependency results in them committing crimes to feed their habit,” he said.

Existing drug laws had not put off 10 million people from using cannabis, Howard said. But the commission voiced caution about introducing a regulated market in cannabis. “Even in a tightly regulated market there is a risk of smuggling and counterfeiting,” he said.

The Liberal Democrats last debated drugs policy in 2002, when the party voted to legalise cannabis and end prison sentences for the possession of cocaine, heroin and other drugs.

Hoyle said he hoped the party would take pride that its internal democracy allowed the membership to select the motion for debate without being vetoed by concerns about “reactionary tabloid hysteria”.

“I do not see this motion as proposing radical reforms or as liberalisation of the drug laws,” he said.

“I believe we have to fight a war on drugs as the harms they cause to families and society are so grave. This motion merely calls for consideration of whether the weapons that have been effectively deployed in other countries should be incorporated into the UK arsenal, and for the UK to lead the way in considering further restricting the harms drugs can cause through strictly controlling them.”

– Article originally from The Guardian.