I received a letter from Downing Street this week, in response to my meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown to call for an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act. In July of last year I met with the PM to ask the Government to compare and contrast the impacts of the current prohibitionist legislation with alternatives, including legal regulation and control. Here is the briefing that I gave him.
His response is in full below. It includes the following:
"We do not intend to undertake an impact assessment comparing the costs and benefits of different legislative options for domestic drug policy. We see no merit in embarking upon such an undertaking in view of our longstanding position that we do not accept that legalisation and regulation are now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response to the presence of drugs."
So let me get this straight, the Government will not review the evidence of efficacy of the current policy or compare it with alternatives because it is committed to the current regime and, without exploring the outcomes of the Misuse of Drugs Act or prohibition, has decided that alternatives are "not acceptable". So far, so bad. Let's not let evidence get in the way of an effective drug policy (witness the sacking of David Nutt). Meanwhile our tax pounds will be spent on prohibition, without checking whether the policy is of any use, or heaven forfend, totally counterproductive...
I am also not overly reassured by:
"We are working to ensure that UN drugs activity is based on evidence and effectiveness..."
Do not forget that the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has identified the Drug Control System as the cause of much of the 'drug problem'.
But there's more - the absolutist position - that regulation will not be acceptable now "...or in the future..." Yes folks, that means for ever!
...and is a statement that is completely undermined by the fact that legal regulation is the Government's chosen option for alcohol, tobacco, caffeine etc etc
It also suggests:
"The methodological challenges involved in attempting to calculate the scale of the drugs market (supply and demand) and the costs of its harms are very significant."
Oh, so it's too hard is it? I can think of many experts from all round the world who would be delighted to assist in this task. At any rate, this "challenge" is created by gifting the market to unregulated dealers in the first place.
With David Cameron back pedalling on his previously held position (when he sat as a backbencher on the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2001/2), that the UK should initiate a debate at the UN on alternatives to prohibition, the outcome of the upcoming general election is unlikely to herald early reform in the right direction.
Should you wish to ask your MP or parliamentary candidate if they support an Impact Assessment, feel free to use our briefing or contact us for advice.
Transform will be bringing you more on drug policy election shenanigans over the next few months.
(Click on the images to enlarge the letter and view it full screen)