British MPs Call for Drug Decriminalization

The use of drugs should be decriminalized, with the least harmful substances regulated and sold in shops, a group of British parliamentarians said in a report released over the weekend. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform made its findings in the report Toward a Safer Drug Policy: Challenges and Opportunities Arising from 'Legal Highs'.

The report said that the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act needs fundamental reform because it criminalizes young people for drug use, leaving them with reduced life prospects, while creating profits for illegal drug dealers. Instead, "low risk" drugs should be handled like cigarettes, with legal sales and warning labels, while higher risk drugs should be decriminalized, the peers found.

"The Misuse of Drugs Act is counterproductive in attempting to reduce drug addiction and other drug harms to young people," said group chair Baroness Meacher.

The group took submissions from 31 experts and organizations, including the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the Association of Chief Police Officers. It called for the classification of drugs to be removed from the realm of politics and instead be based on scientific evidence.

This is the third report in recent months to call for fundamental changes in British drug policy and a move away from a prohibitionist approach to a public health one. The UK Drug Policy Commission released its Final Report in October 2012. The Home Affairs Select Committee published the findings of its Inquiry into Drugs in December 2012. All three reports make a strong case for changing British drug policy to better reduce harms posed by drugs to our population, and to take a greater consideration of evidence in doing so.

There is little sign Prime Minister Cameron is listening. Still, Cameron's ally in the governing coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been paying heed, saying he could support drug decriminalization, and that is causing tensions over drug policy at Whitehall.

– Article originally from Stop the Drug War, used with permission.



  1. Mrs. Ratsrectum on

    I love Brits, but I am disappointed with Big Pharma and prohibitionist governments, including U.S. Big Pharma and the feds. Digo, they really fuckin’ suck. The plant has to come of the drug schedule, and only the pharmaceuticals, the synthetics or unnatural concoctions they come up with belong in the schedule. The Congress needs to move on that immediately. American prohibitionists sometimes concede cannabis will be legalized outright in 10 years or so. Whatever the time frame the give, simply translates into millions of dollars and euros and pounds that they fully understand will be wasted until then: no savings, no revenues, only expenditures. In Mexico, it’s estimated that 60,000 people have died in the past 5 years or so, so that also indicates that the intelligent prohibitionist understand that until that time another 120,000 Mexicans will die. They’re appalled understandably by shootings in schools, theaters, transportation stations, yet the Mexicans (and others) who will die in the name of prohibition somehow do not matter. People, often of color, in the barrios, ghettos and run-down inner city neighborhoods also put up with danger of violence, have a lot of shootings.

    Profits rule the day, and they’re out to prolong cannabis prohibition as long as possible. They’re hellbent on it. The Netherlands is a cannabis friendly neighbor of the U.K. and Germany. Their governments need to legalize, or at least do Dutch style coffeeshops, and then Opstelten can come out of his dumbass weedpass fog, and just drop it altogether. D.C. needs to tell the U.N. and other international agencies to change the language. Professor Angela Hawkins suggested in the forum for the Brookings Institute recently that the U.S. might be able to accomplish this by simply amending the current treaty to remove that language and re-ratify the amended treaty.

    Sociopaths would not care about all the deaths and shattered lives that could be avoided. Kids who get to keep their parents, and parents who don’t have to be informed of their children’s deaths.

  2. Anonymous UK on

    This article alludes to the “misuse of drugs” act (of parliament). The wording of this act actually says that the Home Office (responsible for law enforcement) must actually listen to “the Advisory Council” (which is made up of experts) and that the policy must not be based on “cultural or historical bias”. The categorisation and legal penalties associated with each substance must be be proportionate to the accepted medical harms determined by the advisory council – the government are not allowed to ignore the advisory council under the terms of the act. Governments over the last 40 years have ignored these parts of the act with regard to alcohol and cannabis in particular. For example they have changed cannabis’s categorisation twice in the last 10 years (downgrading the category from ‘B’ to ‘C’ then reversing the change within 5 years) without any supporting evidence. The minister involved recently admitted that she did not even meet the chairman of the advisory council when making her decision. No one is bringing the government to task on these matters because if the act were followed to the letter alcohol would be a class A controlled drug (the category for the most severe substances) and that would not be a vote winner.

    One other very important point about cannabis in the UK :- It is much more closely linked with tobacco smoking since most UK users mix cannabis with tobacco to make a ‘joint’ or ‘spliff’. Cannabis is seen by users, advocates, opponents and the general public as a substance that you add to tobacco and consequently all the negative connotations of tobacco smoking are valid for cannabis use. Additionally the mixture of cannabis and tobacco is actually very addictive so cannabis is seen (quite rightly) as a very addictive substance. So remember when anyone in the UK talks about smoking ‘cannabis’ they are almost always referring to this mixture not the cannabis substance itself. This means there is an inherent confusion over what harms are actually associated with cannabis and the idea of medical cannabis has very little acceptance since people don’t think it is appropriate for sick people to smoke tobacco.

    Uk cannabis is actually very poor quality – 20 years ago it was mostly imported hashish but nowadays it is most often domestically grown and the tobacco mix means cannabis that is completely unfit to be smoked is actually considered acceptable by most users (the tobacco high and taste mask the poor quality of the cannabis). If you were to offer some one a joint of reasonable quality cannabis with no tobacco (as smoked on Pot TV) most UK users would actually reject it and accuse you of mixing it with heroin or something. Growers I know cannot sell higher quality product so they go solely for yield and smell and what they sell is mostly sold wet as well. We are a very long way behind the US and Canada in many ways.

    Over the last ten years I have seen the light and I have given up tobacco and smoking. Now I grow my own weed, cure it for 4 months and vaporise – but I am in a very small minority. Maybe I should emigrate to Canada 8-(