In Scotland, a person possessing Class A drugs will in most cases be issued a police warning, effectively reducing personal possession.
This recent announcement comes hard on the heels of a record-high 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020. England and Wales also saw a record year of drug-related deaths.
A handful of police forces in England and Wales have adopted similar reforms, including schemes that divert people to drug education courses or treatment. Welcoming, this could go to the Scottish government or the police force. The main law is the Reserve of Westminster where the decades-old Drug Abuse Act remains the main obstacle to real reform.
Enacted in 1971, the Misuse of Drugs Act defines the list of controlled substances in the UK, a list that has expanded over time, as well as the penalties associated with the possession and supply of each.
The act reinforced a police-driven, criminalization-focused strategy to suppress drug use, drug supply, and drug markets, all of which have grown rapidly since 1971.
a hard legacy
The Drug Abuse Act has largely failed, and the government knows it. Consistent official reports have shown that criminalization does not preclude use. And, despite £1.6 billion a year being spent on drug law enforcement, this approach has “little impact on the availability” of drugs.
The negative effects of UK drug laws are well documented, particularly the way policing practices such as “stop and search” have been racialised. In England and Wales, black people are nine times more likely than white people to stop and do drug discovery, and 12 times as likely to be prosecuted for cannabis possession, despite being less likely to use drugs. is more. Despite drug use being ubiquitous across different socioeconomic groups, disadvantaged areas experience more intensive drug policing.
Prisons are overcrowded, with high levels of drug use within. Britain has the highest level of fatal overdoses in Europe, Scotland tops the sad league table, and England and Wales third. These are just a few of the effects of trying to block our way out of the “drug problem.”
Recent research by the charity release found that the COVID lockdown also had little impact on the UK’s drug supply. If the drug market remained stable despite a complete shutdown in the country and massive disruptions to international travel and trade, it is hard to imagine how even the most punitive application of the Act could do the same.
Despite evidence that criminalization does not reduce drug use and drug markets, the Drug Abuse Act of 1971 stands as the undisputed basis of UK drug policy for the two main parties at Westminster.
That’s because the “war on drugs” was never about drugs. It was, and continues to be, about social control, particularly of poor and racial communities that governments see as “problematic”. As author and law lecturer Kojo Korum writes, international drug control since the 19th century has been deeply associated with the European Colonial Project and the desire to control indigenous and colonized populations. It should come as no surprise that domestic drug laws have similar dynamics.
The UK government’s well-publicized focus on targeting “middle class drug users” is a good example of this, and stands as a tacit acknowledgment that drug laws have never been applied equally. , and has instead targeted poor communities and ethnic minorities.
In keeping with the distorted logic of prohibition, the proposed solution to racist and discriminatory drug laws is not to remove or reform those laws, but to widen the net to target more people. This is a distorted notion of not only promoting equality in the law, but dishonestly shielding the law from scrutiny, not the law itself, by suggesting a driver of racial drug policing and drug-related deaths.
While legislative reform is not within the bounty of the Scottish government, it follows, as much as possible, evidence from more than 30 countries around the world that have abolished criminal sanctions for possession of drugs. None experienced increased rates of drug use, many experienced better health and social outcomes, including lower rates of drug-related death – not only because of the legal landscape, but also because He invested in evidence-based harm reduction, drug treatment and social welfare. Services.
The crisis of drug-related death is not only a Scottish problem, but a problem for politicians in all four countries. Correct criminalization of people using drugs, regulation of drug markets in a way that includes communities that rely on the illicit economy to survive, and macroeconomic and social reforms that address inequality, There will indeed be elements of a new and evidence-based medicine strategy. . If the government wants to save lives, it must reform our harmful laws, starting with the Misuse of Drugs Act.