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The Misuse
of Drugs Act 1971

The Misuse of Drugs Act turned 50 years old in 2021.

The Misuse of Drugs Act is the law that established our modern form of drug prohibition. After over 50 years, it remains the basis for UK drug policy.

In 2021, on its 50th anniversary, we drew attention to its failure, calling on MPs, Peers, organisations, and the public to support reform.

Every year it remains, billions of pounds will be wasted, thousands of lives lost, and countless people needlessly criminalised. This has to stop.

Let’s create a better world for the future. Our families, friends and communities deserve drug policies that promote public health, human rights and social justice.

politicians supporting change

We asked MPs and Peers to use the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act as an opportunity to speak out on drug policy failures by signing up to the following statement:

The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) is not fit for purpose. For 50 years, it has failed to reduce drug consumption. Instead it has increased harm, damaged public health and exacerbated social inequalities.

Change cannot be delayed any longer. We need reform and new legislation to ensure that future drug policy protects human rights, promotes public health and ensures social justice.

More than 50 MPs support a review of the MDA, is your MP on the list?

On 17th June 2021, Parliament debated the 50th anniversary of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. MPs from across the House spoke passionately on the need for reform - here are some highlights.

50 voices

People across the country have called for reform of our drugs laws. This is not only a matter of political debate, but an issue that affects real people from all backgrounds.

Listen to the voices of those directly affected by drug policy, and why they want change now, on our 50 Voices page.

History of UK
Drug policy

The Misuse of Drugs Act established a comprehensive, inflexible system of prohibition that has shaped our response to drug issues ever since.

Over the fifty years since it passed, we have seen huge changes in culture, drug availability, science and knowledge around harms. Throughout this period, harms have continued to increase, while the Government has repeatedly ignored calls for reform.

Our drug policy timeline sets out the history of UK drug policy since 1971 in detail.

Things were different in 1971

Our drugs laws were created when the world was very different. Society, politics, technology and the economy are unrecognisable in many respects. Patterns of drug consumption, availability and production have also changed dramatically.

Our drug laws will not be the same in another 50 years time, so it is a matter of when they change, not if. While the world changes around us, we need drug policies that are no longer shackled to the past.