If you’re in the car and miss a turning or take the wrong one, the SatNav puts you right: it says
“PERFORM A LEGAL U-TURN.” This is what the Government must do with its drug policy. It is full
of so many wrong turnings that it has completely lost its way. It was always a mistake to
criminalise anything that people choose to ingest but, as time goes on, this fundamental error has
compounded into an unmitigated disaster.
There should have been a “NO ENTRY” sign on the turning to the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. But
if there was, the UK Government ignored it, and without a SatNav, headed down the one-way street of
Until 1971, doctors in the UK were allowed to prescribe heroin to people who were unable to
carry on without it. They were given clean measured doses that made them able to function. It
was called the ‘British System’ and was admired worldwide. People did not have to steal to get
their drugs from criminals, and, because heroin, in the correct dose, does no harm to vital organs
(unlike alcohol) they could carry on with their lives. The main advantage was, they didn’t die. But
since then, the law has taken its toll and, annually, accidental heroin overdose deaths have escalated.
These deaths are sadly, only part of the tragedy because fatalities from all prohibited drugs break
records every, single, year now. In 2017 there were 3,756 accidental deaths in England and Wales
while Scotland has the highest percentage of deaths in Europe, with 934 in 2017. This may just
sound like a list of numbers, but they are all precious lives, lost. The 1971 Act was a catastrophic
wrong turning and tragically was a dead end for thousands and thousands of people. Delay in
performing a legal U-turn is set to kill even more in 2018.
The route taken by UK drug policy seems trapped on a roundabout with no exits leading in the
right direction. It has led down the narrow road to criminalising over 70,000 people a year for
minor drug offences. It has turned into the cul-de-sac of prison for thousands of non-violent,
otherwise law abiding, drug “offenders.” It speeds past young people who don’t always do what
they are told. They are left by the roadside, often dying of disobedience, because they have no
way of knowing what is in the drugs they choose to take. All this happens now and everyone
should be making as much noise as possible to end it. Lean on your horns and don’t let up until
the Government listens!
Drugs do not belong in the Criminal Justice System. If they are a problem, they must be treated
as the health and social issue they are. The Government needs to take the supply of ALL drugs away from
criminals and bring it under reasonable legal control. The police must be allowed to concentrate
on the dangerous, the violent, those who are a real menace to society. Drugs like alcohol and
tobacco are already taxed. The same can be done for all drugs and the money saved on policing,
and made on taxation, can be used to educate about the dangers and help those who have a
problem. These measures would save money, but even better, they would save lives.
The Government needs to draw up a completely new drug policy map: a map that puts science and
humanity first. All roads would lead to the same place: the repeal of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs
You would know you at the right place because the SatNav would say those precious words, so
longed for after a difficult journey:
“YOU HAVE REACHED YOUR DESTINATION!”
Author: Hope Humphreys.
Read Hope’s story