UK drug advisers recommended decriminalising possession in 2016, leak reveals | Drugs policy

The UK authorities’s official drug advisers privately advocated for a proper repeal of the criminalisation of personal-use drug possession in 2016, a leaked doc has revealed.

The Guardian has seen a duplicate of the 27-page pro-decriminalisation report, which the Dwelling Workplace ignored on the time however then fought a three-year battle to maintain confidential after a freedom of data request.

The report despatched to the then dwelling secretary by the previous chair of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Medication highlighted a lot of critical issues round criminalising drug use. It’s the solely ACMD report to not have been printed.

It stated there was “little consistent international evidence that the criminalisation for possession of drugs for personal use is effective in reducing drug use”, that the UK was not required to criminalise drug use beneath its treaty obligations, and that criminalisation harmed individuals’s instructional and employment prospects.

The ACMD beneficial that “the Home Office reviews the personal possession offence (MDA). The review could result in the offence of possession for personal use being repealed.”

Pages 2 and 3 of the report’s covering letter.
Pages 2 and three of the report’s overlaying letter.

The revelation comes amid rising criticism of the federal government’s regulation and order method to drug coverage, which the Scottish authorities stated lately precipitated better hurt to individuals who used medication. This month, the UK authorities unveiled plans to jail individuals for as much as two years for possessing laughing gasoline until it was getting used legitimately in catering or medication.

“The suppression of these recommendations reveals what most experts have long concluded: the Home Office has zero interest in drug policies that work,” stated Prof David Nutt, who was sacked from his position as the federal government’s chief drug adviser in 2009 after arguing that alcohol is extra harmful than sure unlawful medication.

“Their behaviour demonstrates a desire to deny any expert evidence that would reveal their persisting criminalisation approach to be illogical, inhuman and ineffective,” he added.

The report sought to harmonise the 1971 Misuse of Medication Act with 2016’s Psychoactive Substances Act, which usually doesn’t criminalise possession. However, it detailed wider issues over UK drug coverage amongst consultants. It cites the reported success of Portugal in decriminalising medication and notes that drug use has remained steady in nations after they’ve criminalised possession.

Steve Rolles, senior coverage analyst at Rework Drug Coverage Basis, stated: “The committee clearly felt pressured into calling for a review in secret. If the recommendation had been published at the time, it would have informed lawmaking and public debate – accelerating much-needed reforms and reducing the catastrophic impacts of the UK’s failed drug laws.”

Helen Clark, the previous prime minister of New Zealand and chair of the International Fee on Drug Coverage, which campaigns for reform, stated: “It would be commendable if the UK government were now to accept and act on this advice.”

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MPs on the house affairs choose committee this 12 months questioned the minister for policing, Chris Philp, over the report however he refused to be drawn on its contents. “Somebody FoIed it,” he stated. “The advice [from the ACMD] was provided privately. It’s highly unlikely we’d want to disclose.”

However, a first-tier tribunal in January dismissed the Dwelling Workplace’s confidentiality argument, however accepted that drug coverage reform discussions had been “live at the relevant time”, thus defending the report from disclosure.

It got here after the knowledge commissioner in September 2021 dominated equally. “The commissioner is satisfied that the policy that the report relates to is live and that it is subject to ongoing review,” it stated. That is regardless of the federal government repeatedly stating it has no plans to decriminalise medication.

A Dwelling Workplace spokesperson stated: “This document from seven years ago was not a formal review with recommendations for publication. There is no safe way to take illegal drugs, which devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities, and we have no plans to consider legalisation or decriminalisation of drugs.

“Our 10-year drugs strategy set out ambitious plans, backed with a record £3bn funding over three years to tackle the supply of illicit drugs through relentless policing action and building a world-class system of treatment and recovery to turn people’s lives around and prevent crime.”

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