Pubdate: Mon, 14 Jan 2013
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: 2013 The Scotsman Publications Ltd
Author: Jamie Grierson


THE possession and use of all illegal drugs should be decriminalised,
and the least harmful substances should be regulated and sold in
licensed shops, an inquiry by a group of cross-party peers has found.

A system for testing the safety of new drugs should be introduced with
low-risk substances sold with labels detailing their risks, like
cigarette packaging, members of the all-party parliamentary group for
drug policy reform said today.

While the supply of the most dangerous substances should remain
banned, users caught with a small quantity of any drug should not be
penalised, the inquiry found.

The controversial proposals are likely to annoy the Prime Minister who
recently rejected calls by MPs to set up a royal commission to
consider the decriminalisation of illegal drugs.

A panel of nine Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and crossbench
peers from the all-party group conducted a parliamentary inquiry into
new psychoactive substances.

Presenting the findings, chair Baroness Meacher said: "The Misuse of
Drugs Act is counter-productive in attempting to reduce drug addiction
and other drug harms to young people."

The Act, which has been in force for 40 years, is in desperate need of
reform, the group said.

The remaining sections of the act in use are causing "serious risks to
the many young people who are determined to experiment with drugs",
the group said.

The Act has forced thousands of young people into unemployment,
homelessness and broken relationships, it added.

In support of decriminalising the use of all drugs, the report alluded
to the model in Portugal, where the numbers of young addicts has
fallen under decriminalisation.

The proposals for regulating low-risk drugs echo those planned for New

The group said: "Some young people will always want to experiment and
they are at real risk if they can only buy the less harmful drugs from
the same dealers who are trying to push the most harmful ones.

"The illegal dealers also have a clear incentive to adulterate their
product to increase their profits."

The group said strict regulatory controls could be introduced with an
enhanced role for Trading Standards Services in the UK.

"Under these controls suppliers would, as is planned in New Zealand,
be limited to certain outlets and required to label their product with
a clear description of its contents, its risks and the maximum
advisable dose," the group said.

The licensed supplier would also be responsible for assuring that the
product causes an "agreed level of limited harm".

Prevention programmes should also be promoted much more widely within
schools and the community, the group said.

It also recommended that a minimum of UKP1.5 million be made available
for a targeted pilot of Club Drug Clinics in ten major hot spots
across the UK with a duty to train front line accident and emergency
and general practitioner staff.

The panel also said politics should be taken out of the classification
of drugs, as the issues involve scientific judgments and are too
sensitive for politicians.

The group took evidence from 31 experts and organisations including
the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Advisory
Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

As well as Baroness Meacher, the inquiry was undertaken by Baroness
Stern, Lord Cobbold, Baroness Hamwee, Lord Howarth of Newport, Lord
Low, Lord Mancroft, Lord Norton and Lord Rea.

David Cameron ruled out a royal commission to consider the
decriminalisation and legalisation of illegal drugs on the grounds
that the government's approach is working.

The influential home affairs select committee said there was a case
for a fundamental review of all UK drug policy "now, more than ever".

But Mr Cameron said drug use was coming down and added: "I don't
support decriminalisation. We have a policy which actually is working
in Britain." 
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