In the penultimate installment in our review of party election manifesto commitments on drug policy (see Labour, LibDems and Conservatives), today is the turn of the Green Party manifesto, published yesterday and titled 'fair is worth fighting for'.
Simply making our society more equal will improve our health, without spending a penny extra on the NHS. Life expectancy, infant mortality, low birth-weight and self-rated health are worse in more unequal societies. Mental illness is much more common in more unequal countries. Drug addiction is more common in more unequal societies. Obesity is less of a problem in more equal societies like Japan and worst in the most unequal ones like the US. Better health is not a matter of ever-increasing spending on the NHS. A surer route, which can’t be disrupted by the need to bail out bankers, is to support simple things like good food, less competition and less stress."
To deal with crime we have to address why it occurs and what to do when it does. On the causes of crime we must first recognise that there is more crime in more unequal societies, and that by making our society more equal in the ways set out in this manifesto we will also make it safer. Second, we must act on the fact that over half of all crime is caused one way or another by misuse of Class A drugs, mainly heroin or crack cocaine. Radical reform of our drug laws will massively cut crime.
To address the causes of crime we would:
- Treat heroin and crack addiction as a health issue and not wait for them to become a crime problem. We would offer treatments that may include prescription of heroin thus removing the cause of most petty drug-related crime carried out by the addicts and removing the market from heroin dealers.
- Concentrate police and customs resources on the large-scale production, importation and marketing of these drugs.
The last bullet point about focusing police and customs resources on Class A drug markets, suggests that they would not be focussed on other drugs, but, like the Lib Dems, is somewhat at odds with the rest of the analysis, essentially recommending a symptomatic response whilst ignoring the reality that prohibition is the primary cause of these markets.
Like the Lib Dems, the Greens have an official drug policy document which takes a rather more bold and progressive stance than you might assume from the slightly watered down version put forward in the Manifesto. Called "Drugs: A Realistic Approach"(2008) its analysis does not mince words:
"The prohibition of drugs doesn’t work. It does not protect society in any way, and makes it more difficult to minimise the harm caused by drug use. Addicts are treated as criminals, rather than patients in need of treatment. Every year, tens of thousands of people are put through the criminal justice system, needlessly paralysing the resources of the police, courts, and prisons. Families are torn apart, and people are made jobless and homeless just because they are criminalised by outdated laws. Drug barons are profiting from prohibition and using that money to corrupt those individuals and institutions that should protect society".
"Take the drug trade out of criminal control and place it within a regulated and controlled legal environment."
The 2010 manifesto does, however, offer marginally more than in 2005 when all that was proposed on drug policy was:
"Restitution for the victim and the community and rehabilitation of the offender are key ingredients of the Green approach to justice. While prison plays an important role in the criminal justice system, it should not be used as a way of simply holding people with long-term drug addiction, social and mental health problems."and, under a bullet list introduced with:
The Green Party will develop and invest in a range of crime reduction and prevention measures that focus on tackling local sources of potential crime and improving the safety of our communities. These measures will address the social and environmental causes of crime and will include:the proposal of:
- Demarcating drug-taking as a health rather than a crime issue