Why are the UK’s drug laws so backward?www.newstatesman.com – New Statesman
Anti-prohibition movements have been gaining ground over the past decade, culminating in the 2020 presidential election at a wave of ballot initiatives around many nations to relax the rules around — and in some cases entirely legalise — cannabis. There was also an especially bold vote in Oregon to decriminalise possession of all drugs, like heroin and cocaine, and also to legalise medical psilocybin (the chemical in magical mushrooms).
Spurred into action by Favorable states, actually Joe Biden, that as a senator campaigned for tougher drug laws, has changed his tune. The president announced last month”No one needs to go to jail for a drug offence, so no one needs to go to jail for its use of a drug”.
The prevailing wisdom runs that, in which the US leads, the rest of the planet follows. So it was from the 1970s, once the UK and other countries jumped on Nixon’s screenplay, picking for prohibition and authorities rather than a controlled legal marketplace for controlled substances.
Yet the UK doesn’t seem to have obtained the newest message. On the side, despite the views of several party members, Keir Starmer lately made clear he opposes relaxing drug laws.
The government, meanwhile, is veering even further from liberalisation. It had been reported recently that that a”PR blitz” is proposed that will liken cocaine use to drink-driving , and that”the PM would like to ensure it is socially unacceptable to do drugs”. Boris Johnson’s self-confessed past drug use, combined with that of other cabinet colleagues, will not appear to have lent this government much insight to the collapse of prohibition; instead of”following the science” — along with the history — of drug legislation, they are continuing to get blinkered policy that has been proven to not work.
One man who knows all about the political double-think around drug use is Professor David Nutt. A doctor and expert in neuropsychopharmacology (a division of neuroscience that believes the effects of drugs in brain ),” Nutt, 69, has held a variety of positions at prestigious universities and institutes on both sides of the Atlantic, and also advised both the Blair and Brown governments on drug policy. He was appointed chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in 2008 — less than two decades after, following repeated clashes with police officers, he was dismissed. At the Moment, Nutt composed of his removal:
“I gave a lecture on the evaluation of drug harms and how these relate to the legislation controlling medication. Based on Alan Johnson, the home secretary, several contents of the lecture supposed I had crossed the line from science into policy so he sacked me. I don’t know which comments were outside the line or, so, where the lineup was”
More than a decade later, Nutt is scathing about how politicians treat science in connection with policy coverage.
“Facts are an irrelevance into politics. It is about avoiding the facts,” he laments, speaking to me through Zoom with copies of the new novel Nutt Uncut behind him. He points out that alcohol is far more dangerous — in relation to addiction and its effect on the mind — than prohibited drugs like cannabis and MDMA (ecstasy). “The policies come , as opposed to the evidence.”
This was the insistence on stated signs, which included asserting that”equasy” (horse riding) was over 20 times more likely to lead to severe harm than the drug ecstasy, that led to Nutt’s departure from the ACMD. Soon afterwards, he founded Drug Science, which refers to itself as an”independent, science-led drug charity, distinctively bringing together leading medication experts from a broad range of specialisms to carry out ground-breaking research to drug harms and consequences”.
Back in 2010, Drug Science found and added up the”harms” (to society and the person ) of 20 different drugs and ranked them in terms of risk. The most high-risk, according to the information, is still alcohol. Cannabis — class B from the UK — is ranked below tobacco and alcohol. Ecstasy — a class A drug in the UK (the highly restricted type ) — is close to the base of the scale. Nutt considers it half as damaging as alcohol into the consumer.
“Alcohol addiction takes 15-20 years off your life,” he clarifies. “Ecstasy use, if you understand you exactly what you’re doing and do not take too much, doesn’t affect lifespan in any respect.”
[see also: If You’re taking part in Dry January, there is no reason Why You Need ton’t drink well]
That doesn’t mean it is risk-free. “All medications have harms,” Nutt reminds mepersonally, noting that individuals can die from simply drinking too much water. “But we do not respond to that by exposing water”
What really enrages Nutt is how readily available alcohol is, while the use (let alone the source ) of much less harmful substances is punishable by prison. This to him is both an unconscionable double standard along with also a drastically counterproductive policy when the aim is really keeping people safe.
“The drug laws are a mishmash of political expedience and the influence of strong lobbyists. They do not serve any purpose concerning minimising the harms of drugs or diminishing using medication — if anything else that they do the contrary.”
His perfect legislative approach would begin by decriminalising personal possession of all drugs — as was performed in Oregon lately and in Portugal in 2001. Highly addictive drugs like heroin would still be prohibited to sell, with the hope that the availability of controlled alternatives will shrink the black market and also bring down associated offense.
Nutt acknowledges, however, this is a fantasy. Critics of parties are too fearful of a press backlash to proposed an evidence-based drugs policy — he cites the pressure on Tony Blair to get tough on magical mushrooms, David Cameron’s volte-face on downgrading MDMA’s classification when he became Tory leader along with Gordon Brown’s eccentric (at Nutt’s view) move to upgrade cannabis to class B from class C. He notes too that many politicians — such as former medication minister Bob Ainsworth and former Conservative leader William Hague — miraculously became liberalisation goes after leaving office.
But while he knows the awkward position they are in, he is utterly disparaging in their duplicity, especially when so many were — and might still be — consumers themselves.
“We’ve been campaigning for wastewater testing out the Houses of Parliament for years,” he laughs, when asked what effect that a shaming initiative centered on cocaine use could have, suggesting some politicians fight to fulfill their own rhetoric on the evils of drug use.
“You’ve got the second or third most powerful man in government — Michael Gove — who by his own admission could have been imprisoned for his past cocaine use. The hypocrisy is so overreaching.”
You are able to feel Nutt’s frustration when he talks of how Britain has been left behind, though other countries have abandoned their murderous wars on drugs and also adopted a model that intends to help users, not imprison them.
“You’ve got to prove that the countries that have shifted the legislation haven’t disintegrated,” he states. “Consider the example of Portugal. Portugal decriminalised all drug ownership. That lets heroin addicts to have treated instead of going to prison” Portugal currently has the lowest prices of drug-related death in western Europe.
“At precisely exactly the identical time, we’ve increased heroin deaths into an all-time high. Our policies of using criminal sanctions kill people”
Nowhere, Nutt states, is that the anti-science way more clear compared to cannabis. Even with a much-heralded legislation change two years ago permitting medical cannabis products to be available in the NHS, excess red tape means a mere couple of prescriptions are granted. With kids with acute conditions like epilepsy still not able to get treatment, Nutt asks exactly what the government is so scared of.
“They’ve had medical marijuana in the usa for 20 decades, 200 million Americans have access to this, 100 million have access to recreational bud. The world is not ending. However, in Britain…” he trails off in despair. “We’re so fearful of cannabis.
And that’s what seems to antagonise him most: how successive UK authorities refuse to appear at signs from outside our boundaries and also rethink their hard-line position.
“We’re so our own arses concerning thinking how clever people are as a country. We won’t learn from anybody else whatsoever. But there is lots of evidence out there.” And, he notesit’s not as though the UK approach is working anyway.
“Anyone can get cannabis everywhere… and it is illegal. So at what stage do you take that the policy has neglected?”
In the end, the situation will only change when the political maths will — when politicians realise just how much they must drop from denying to countenance liberalisation. Economics might play a role — demonstrating a legal, regulated cannabis market in the UK would provide an estimated #690m annually in taxation to the Treasury, along with price savings on prisons. The UK public already back cannabis legalisation by two into one, and possibly the case of the US can jolt UK MPs from the anti-drugs dogma.
It is tough to state whether Nutt has substantially controversy, after all, he has seen how governments operate. “We’re still living with the historical legacy of the lies we’ve told about medications,” he sighs, with all the air of a guy who has fought this battle many days, and develop against a wall of irrationality, fear and hysteria.
However, his message to those who ignore lessons in the remainder of the planet and oppose his work along with that of his coworkers in Drug Science is apparent:”Get real. We need to realise within this nation that prohibitionist policies based on penalizing individuals for using drugs haven’t worked. They do not work — they won’t get the job done ”
[see also: ” We want answers to the drugs debate, but we should not seem to earthly outliers to locate them]