Centre welcomes call for drug law rethink

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has welcomed calls by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) for ‘the personal possession and the use of all illegal drugs to be decriminalised’, and for a new strategy to be developed to deal with drug harms modelled on the Portuguese harm reduction approach.

Helen Mills, Research Associate at the Centre, who chaired our recent event on Portugal’s health-based approach to drug-taking, said:

When Portugal adopted a health-led approach to drugs in 2001 it did so because it wanted a humane, mature, evidence-based strategy to reduce drug harms.

In the UK, the government's most recent legislation, the Psychoactive Substances Act, appears to be unworkable and couldn’t be more in contrast to these ambitions. This report adds to a growing body of voices saying this isn’t good enough.

The RSPH call comes in a new report, Taking a New Line on Drugs, endorsed by the Faculty of Public Health and a wide range of stakeholders including the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

The report includes a poll of more than 2,000 UK adults, which found that 56 per cent agree that those who have drug misuse problems should be referred for treatment rather than be dealt with as law breakers. Less than a quarter, 23 per cent, disagreed.

Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said:

The time has come for a new approach where we recognise that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue, and that those who misuse drugs are in need of treatment and support, not criminals in need of punishment.