The new UK Drug Policy Commission launches today. The new organisation:
'is an independent body set up to provide objective analysis of UK drug policy. The Commission aims to improve political, media and public understanding of drug policy issues and the options for achieving a rational and effective response to the problems caused by the supply of and demand for illegal drugs.'
The launch was marked with the publication of a review of UK drug policy independently commissioned from policy experts Peter Reuter and Alex Stevens. It demonstrates that:
"the United Kingdom has the highest level of problem drug use and the second highest level of drug-related deaths in Europe. Commissioned from international experts to inform UKDPC's work programme, the report brings together evidence on the effectiveness of drug policies throughout the UK.
The report finds that despite successive attempts by governments to control the demand for and supply of illegal drugs, drug policy appears to have had minimal impact on the overall level of use of illegal drugs in the UK. Other factors are seen as more important. However, as the report authors observe, drug policy is most successful in addressing the harms resulting from problem drug use, such as ill-health, death and crime."
You can read the executive summary here or the complete report here. Its findings may not come as a great surprise to those in the drugs field, covering similar ground to previous independent reviews of UK drug policy, most recently by the RSA. But it is a detailed and authoritative review that presents the most up to date available data in an objective and readable format, and will be a useful resource informing the debate over the future of policy (whilst not making specific policy recommendations).
It arrives during a particularly important window of opportunity as the UK's 10 year drug strategy ends and the process of designing a new - hopefully improved - one gets underway.
Guardian: Between the lines - new drug strategies must reflect changing consumption patterns (Howard Parker)
BBC: Drug policy has 'limited impact'
Telegraph: Drug policies leave Britain bottom of table
Standard: Get tough policies fail in War against Drugs