18 Oct Highlights From House Of Lords Debate On Drugs Policy

Drugs — Motion to Take Note

Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher

Moved by Baroness Meacher

That this House takes note of the report of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Drugs: Breaking the Cycle (HC 184, 9th Report, Session 2012-13) and the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, published in January.

Source: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2013-10-17a.654.7#g654.8

Video: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=13884

“The (UN) conventions were not drafted on the basis of evidence about how best to reduce addiction. No; they were drafted in response to a moral belief that taking drugs is wrong and that therefore everyone involved should be punished. No thought appears to have been given to the consequences of such a policy. Whatever our personal views about the morality of taking drugs—and people’s views differ—we all surely agree that good policy is that which reduces the level of drug addiction and harm to the individual and to others. Criminalising young people is contrary to that aim.” Baroness Meacher

“The importance of Uruguay, Colorado and Washington is that, for the first time in more than 50 years, evaluation of a regulated system has become possible. Many people believe that regulated herbal cannabis—and I emphasise “herbal”—properly labelled, with the THC level controlled, side effects and risks clearly shown, would be a great deal safer for young people than the illegal market that we have today.” Baroness Meacher

“The Minister will no doubt point to the recent modest fall in traditional drug use, but it needs to be set against the explosion in the use of new psychoactive substances. But the Government also need to take note of a few other facts. Despite any recent modest fall in the use of cannabis—and it is, mainly, cannabis—the UK still has one of the highest levels of drug use in Europe.” Baroness Meacher

“The reality, though, is that young people know that our drug law is an ass and disregard it; that cannot be helpful. An independent body with responsibility for research, information and classification would help a lot. We could then more easily move gradually to more evidence-based policies. ” Baroness Meacher

“Professor David Nutt, the former chairman of the ACMD, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that drugs should be decriminalised and compared the harm caused by illicit drugs to that of alcohol. He said that, “what we see now is a rising, rising, rising tide of damage from alcohol. There is no doubt a lot of people drink because it is legal and if there was an opportunity to use cannabis in a coffee shop-like model, they would not drink”.” Baroness Hollins

“If we look at the 2010 drugs strategy and the government response to the Home Affairs Select Committee report, we can see that the Government are still hoping against hope that the “war on drugs” posture will continue to be credible. However, as we have heard from so many speakers, it simply is not.” Baroness Miller

“Putting aside the fact that sometimes drugs such as cannabis or even ecstasy can have medicinal value, it should be possible, as presently it is not, at least to carry out studies to see at what level the consumption of various substances becomes really harmful. We should not strive to criminalise substances not shown to be significantly harmful and thereby risk alienating many consumers, particularly the young. Government should also bear it in mind that new psychoactive substances—chemical highs—not yet made illegal are increasingly being introduced into the market. A sound overall drugs policy should seek to combat the temptation to devise and resort to them too. The less the criminalisation involved, the better the chance of moving to a system by which drug-taking can be lawfully licensed and controlled and damage to health thereby reduced.” Lord Brown

“No drug is made safer left in the hands of organised criminals and unregulated dealers.” Lord Judd

“As with alcohol prohibition in the US, there is only one way to end this madness: ending the prohibition and replacing it with a system of responsible regulation. This must mean placing drugs under the control of doctors, pharmacists and strictly licensed retailers.” Lord Judd

“The way the Home Office has neglected evidence is appalling. There is no particular evidence that the present classification is any good, but it is absurd to classify cannabis together with drugs such as heroin, cocaine and crack.” Lord Taverne

“Much is often made of the fact that, in a 2007 paper, cannabis came in with a final net score lower overall than that for tobacco or alcohol, suggesting that it might be safer, but then again, in the same paper, cannabis scored higher than LSD, which is widely regarded as a model for psychoses such as schizophrenia. Is having hallucinations really more welcome than, say, the relaxing effects of moderate amounts of alcohol? Similarly, on the same scale, cannabis also had a higher score than ecstasy, a drug for which in the past five to six years more than 60 papers have documented adverse short and long-term effects on the brain. Therefore, on that comparison, cannabis should be more harmful. Moreover, smoking cigarette after cigarette in one sitting is unlikely to achieve an “overdose” akin to a single session of marijuana that can send smokers to A&E with acute panic attacks.” Baroness Greenfield

“I strongly urge the Government to ensure that our current drug policy is based on research and evidence, rather than the ideological and moral opinions of media commentators.” Lord Patel of Bradford