‘Missing' drugs proposals: politics needs a real debate on drugs

Theresa May

The former Lib Dem minister, Norman Baker, has revealed drug proposals that he claims were removed from a report. There needs to be a discussion on drugs.

The former Lib Dem MP quit his position as crime prevention minister only last month, but still remains and MP.

The initial report, published in October, said that there is no evidence suggesting that being tough on personal use of illegal drugs can result in less drug use. However, despite such evidence the report made no policy recommendations, instead focusing on evidence and analysis of it.

Norman Baker sent a letter to Nick Clegg on Saturday, according to the BBC, outlining three proposals for drug policy in the UK:

“Treating addicts with prescribed heroin under clinical supervision

A Portuguese model in which those who commit minor drug offences are offered treatment programmes rather than facing criminal charges

Medicinal use of cannabis for certain conditions.”

Baker claims that the report was to include recommendations to move towards Portuguese model on drugs by introducing pilots. The Home Office disagree with Norman Baker’s claims.

The Conservatives are continuing to take a tough stance on the issue of illegal drug use, whilst their coalition partners favour ending prison sentences for those using personal drugs. They also favour making drugs more an issue about health rather than crime as they would like to see drug users get medical treatment. The Greens also favour and end to prison sentences, and want cannabis to be decriminalised.

Drug reform appears to be on the fringes of political life, with Ed Miliband recently saying that he does not favour decriminalisation. Speaking on Leaders Live in December, the Labour leader said:

“I'm not in favour of decriminalisation of, for example, cannabis.... I think there are mental effects of cannabis that people maybe didn't realise a decade ago.”

Despite the issue of drug reform being rejected by the main two parties, the country needs to have a proper debate on drugs. These claims by Baker show that this is the case. A Portuguese model might not be the answer, but there must be another solution to the war on drugs. A 2013 report by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, indicated that they think the war on drugs has failed.

Additionally, a 2012 YouGov poll for the Sun, suggested that 67% of people think government policy has worked ‘badly’ in reducing drug use in recent decades. It also suggested that 30% of respondents favoured decriminalisation of soft drugs, whilst 19% favoured legalisation. On the other hand, 43% favoured the current policy.

In regard to hard drugs, 83% favoured the current system. Whilst this poll was conducted a couple of years ago, one now would probably find similar results. The public have a tough attitude towards hard drugs, but are more open to changes in the way we look at soft drugs. This is where the country should be having a debate on drugs. People are favourable to some sort of change with soft drugs.