The recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman from a drug overdose has sparked another debate about drug laws, most recently through Russell Brand’s comment piece for The Guardian, which at the time of writing has generated over two thousand comments just on The Guardian’s website.
Russell hits the nail on the head here:
People are going to use drugs; no self-respecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition. What prohibition achieves is an unregulated, criminal-controlled, sprawling, global mob-economy, where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.
As many people in Bury will remember, we were highlighted on a BBC documentary 10 years ago about drug use in the Dicky Bird estate. The documentary was poorly received by those who lived on the estate who believed the problems raised were blown out of proportion. However, only two years before that, drug dealer Rupert Satchell was murdered in the area.
10 years on, what has changed? Regularly I find myself walking around the town centre or streets near by with my two year old daughter and being overcome by the smell of cannabis. This isn’t something I want my daughter to be exposed to at such a young age, but our current laws completely and utterly fail to keep it off the streets.
Cannabis had it’s classification lowered to a Class C drug in 2004 and an opinion poll was conducted in 2001 after the policy had been initially proposed showing that 48% supported decriminalisation of cannabis. In 2009, cannabis was re-classified as a Class B drug based on “new scientific evidence” which even Wikipedia contributors can’t find a citation for. Then in 2012, the Home Affairs Committee chaired by Labour MP Keith Vaz voted to recommend cannabis be re-classified back to Class C.
In recent months we have seen Uruguay legalise cannabis along with several US states, including Washington. As Russell Brand mentioned, “Portugal and Switzerland that have introduced progressive and tolerant drug laws have seen crime plummet and drug-related deaths significantly reduced”.
The aptly named “New Way Cafe” is opened in Manchester in January by Colin Davies, described as a “cannabis social club” in the Manchester Evening News. Also with the Manchester Evening News, Pirate Party UK leader Loz Kaye supported the move to open the cafe and called for us to “take the issue of drug use out of the sphere of policing and into the realm of public health”.
Nick Clegg recently visited Colombia and declared that the UK should abandon it’s current drug laws as the war on drugs was not being won. Clegg did however stop at supporting full legalisation.
Whilst there are obviously varying opinions on drug laws, what is clear is that the current laws are not fit for purpose. I therefore join Russell Brand in encouraging you to sign Green Party MP Caroline Lucas’ e-petition calling for an independent review of the Misuse of Drugs Act – http://submissions.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/45969.