Today’s (12/12/19) election result has changed the political landscape. It may seem to be all about Brexit, but once the dust has settled, the new government is going to have to get back to the business of addressing the deep, underlying social problems this country faces. Like it or not, one of those issues must be drug policy.
Towards the end of the last Parliament, a real consensus on the urgency of this issue emerged. In October. The cross-party Health and Social Care Committee concluded that ‘UK drugs policy is failing’ and called for the Government to declare drug-related deaths in the UK a ‘public health emergency’. A second cross-party group, the Scottish Affairs Committee, made the same call shortly afterwards. You can read the evidence we submitted to the Scottish inquiry here, and to the Health and Social Care Committee here.
Both committees demanded that drug policy to be reframed as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice one, and called for drug possession to be decriminalised immediately to save lives. Both also accepted that we need root and branch review of how we regulate drug markets if we are to address the failures of the past.
When parliament was dissolved in November, the Government had not yet responded to these recommendations. It is vital that the Government now does so, and grasps the opportunity to change things for the better. As we move into this new political moment, we can’t let the urgent need for drug policy reform to fall by the wayside.
Some uncomfortable truths for our new government:
- The proportion of 16-24 year olds using cocaine in the past year has more than doubled since 2013
- In England alone in 2018 there were 2,670 deaths directly attributed to drug misuse, an increase of 16% since 2017
- Scotland has the highest rate of drug deaths in Europe
- The rate of deaths by drug misuse in the UK is 50.9 per million people, compared to 33.9 per million people in 2010
- The United Kingdom has the largest online drug market in Europe by sales revenue
The Conservative manifesto was ambiguous on drug issues, containing few concrete proposals. We hope that, rather than pointing towards inaction and reliance on the failures of the past, this opens a space for genuinely new thinking on improvements for the future. This parliament desperately needs to bring new ideas on drug policy.
If you want to make sure that drug policy reform is a focus of this parliament, now is the time to write to your MP. Each MP is elected to represent their constituents. For those who have been elected on mandates to change for new drug policy, it is important that they are held to account. For those who have not, it is important that we provide them with the evidence that will change their minds. Make them know drug policy matters, and help them make the urgent case for change.