Our colleagues over at Release - long time reform campaigners and defenders of those who fall foul of the UK's unjust, outdated and often plain ridiculous drug laws - have launched a new campaign as part of their wider project to drag the drug policy debate out of the stagnant waters of politically driven drug-war posturing and into what rational pragmatists might call 'the real world'.
see Guardian blog article and discussion: the drugs do work - for a lot of people
The campaign kicks off with an attention grabbing Bus-poster highlighting the the obvious but frequently overlooked fact that: NICE PEOPLE TAKE DRUGS
As Release graphically point out:
- Over a third of adults in England & Wales have used illicit drugs
- More people have used cannabis than voted for Labour at the last election
- 13,000 children were arrested for drug offences in 2006/07
- Over 1 million adults used class A drugs last year
“the constant association by politicians and the media of drugs with words like evil and shame simply does not reflect most people’s experience of drugs. The public is tired of the artificial representation of drugs in society, which is not truthful about the fact that all sorts of people use drugs. If we are to have a fair and effective drug policy, it must be premised on this reality first and foremost.”
Drugs and drug policy do not get properly discussed and politicians are afraid to take on a subject that governments have totally failed to bring under control. The current system has brought us powerful drugs like crack cocaine, skunk and methamphetamine; has ravaged countries from Afghanistan to Colombia and has cost billions in a war on people who use drugs. Governments have almost no control over drugs and they are arguably more available and cheaper than ever before. It is often far easier for a 15 year old to get cannabis than alcohol.
Breaking the taboo on drugs is the first step to reducing the harm that they can cause. We must shift the perception that drug users are ‘bad’ and that all drug use is ‘evil’. Over one third of the adult population of England and Wales have used illegal drugs. By far the greatest risk to the majority of these people is criminalisation and stigmatisation. A focus on banning substances and arresting those who experiment with them has been at the expense of the absence of a robust and comprehensive public health campaign. Release believes there are more effective ways to manage drug use, ways that would make drugs much less dangerous and critically, less available to children.
There are a range of available steps that can be taken – Portugal, Spain, Germany, and Mexico have all decriminalised personal possession.....it is time the UK considers an alternative and much safer approach.
This campaign will highlight the completely out of touch approach taken to drugs by much of the UK’s media and political parties. It will challenge politicians who use their ineffective ‘tough on drugs’ stance for political expedience. It will start a debate about the kind of drug policy that this country wants to see. The UK does not want drug laws that benefit massive drug cartels and are convenient for politicians, but ones that deal sensibly and maturely with drugs and make our society a safer place for our children.