Friday, March 30, 2012

Transform submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Drug Policy

All written submissions to the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Drug Policy have now been published in one mammoth 720-page pdf document which makes for intermittently fascinating reading that would fill many blogs for anyone with the time an inclination (it will certainly be useful reference tool in the future).

Transform's submission is included and we have also made it available to read online in pdf as originally formatted and coming in at a more managable 11 pages. Due to word constraints, our submission mainly focuses on addressing two of the inquiry's key considerations:

  • The extent to which the Government’s 2010 drug strategy is a ‘fiscally responsible policy with strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights’ in line with the recent recommendation by the GlobalCommission on Drug Policy, and:
  • Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by the Select Committee in 2002
Our submission also gives an overview of some of the key issues involved in the legal regulation of drugs. Note that although not mentioned in the above terms of reference - the 2002 HASC report recommended that 'the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs dilemma'. When HASC looked at this topic in 2002 there were few, if any, detailed published explorations of a how a legal system of drug market cregulation might work. This gap in the literature has subsequently been filled by Transform's ‘After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation’, as well as other publications such as those from the King County Bar Association and The Health Officers Council of British Colombia.)

Importantly, the Transform submission also picks apart some of the government's standard responses to calls for debate on alternatives to prohibition and discusses the factors that are currently impeding drug policy reform. Our submission (PDF) concludes by making the following recommendations to the committee:

  • Make a clear call for decriminalisation of possession of drugs for personal use 
  • Re-state the 2002 recommendation 24, and build on this by calling on the Government to show pro-active leadership in promoting the debate on alternatives to prohibition (including legalisation/regulation) in a range of international fora, including the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, but also a range of other relevant UN and international fora 
  • Call for the establishment of a joint select committee inquiry to conduct a cross departmental inquiry into alternatives to prohibition 
  • Noting that the HASC in 2010 recommended a “a full and independent value-for-money assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and related legislation and policy”, call for a comprehensive independent Impact Assessment of UK drug policy and legislation, both domestic and international commitments. Such an IA should consider alternative approaches, including intensifying the war on drugs, maintaining the status quo, decriminalisation models, and legalisation/regulation models. This undertaking could potentially involve a series of parallel thematic Impact Assessments (ie human rights, health, development, crime etc) 
  • Call for the UN conventions to be revised to remove the stranglehold on individual states exploring models of legal drug market regulation, allowing experimentation by expanding the menu of available options
Download the Transform submission.


Anonymous said...

With regard to your comment "Such an IA should consider alternative approaches, including intensifying the war on drugs, maintaining the status quo".
I think your submission is excellent, except for these two.
This verges on the irresponsible in my opinion, when you talk of how the war on drugs has failed how can you put this in your submission?

With respect...

Steve Rolles said...

the idea with an IA is to objectively review a series of options, as well as what we have currently, using the same crieria - this will then demonstrate which option is likely to deliver the best outcomes. The point about including all the options is to show which ones work as well as which ones dont - providing an objective comparison as a basis for moving forwards.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, but if you give this government the option to stick with the stays quo they will.
We know they are willing to ignore the evidence... I do understand your point though.

Sunshine Band said...

How can it be 'objective' for any right minded organisation to ever even put such an idea into writing? That worries me greatly, this is about the wanton destruction of lives due to fundamental disrespect for human values such as basic peaceful freedom over consciousness - winning the war means the end of civilisation, and I would ask that you stop using this hideous 'war on drugs' expression - its as offensive as it gets frankly, its a war on humanity.

Steve Rolles said...

it allows an objective comparison of the options - that all - not a difficult concept. Any suggestion we are endorsing those postions is ridiculous. read our impact assessment briefing paper.

I dont agree with you on the 'war on drugs' language point for reasons we have gone over many times. Our substantive written output is absolutely clear on what we are talking about, and what we want.

Sunshine Band said...

For me this isn't a technical issue as to how to best stop people using drugs, or even a focus on harm minimalisation, that isn't the end game I am aiming for, the end game must be to fee humanity from this stiffling oppression that the war on people's minds represents; as you objectify as a war on 'illegal drugs'.

Whilst you propose a regulatory model, the question you are addressing is flawed if it could include, even for comparative purposes, the notion of stepping this war up. You are comparing outcomes, and that is fair enough, but where is the real moral heart in all of this? I think if I was complaining about a pointless war being fought against people based upon discrimination, perhaps even observing a perpetual genocide, I wouldn't suggest by way of comparison that the way out of this would be to industrialise the killing. I think what is missing from Transform and the whole mainstream momentum from Branson et al is the notion of individual liberty. Where is the realisation at the heart of the drug 'problem' that actually taking drugs is a normal human desire, and indeed a good thing, as long as it's done responsibly? Policy has failed to differentiate between use and misuse and that means that the whole possibility of sensible regulation is being lost. I think the notion of erradication is so abhorrent it shouldn't be used at all, even if its not your conclusion or recommendation, to even contemplate it shows the flaw in your ideology as the evil is not only the harm of drug misuse and the conflict, the treatment of drug users as human beings, indeed all humanity is defined by the limits on truth that enforced abstinence represents.

Steve Rolles said...

We have written about the distinction between use and misuse, and indeed the need for benefits of drugs use to be factored into analysis in a number of our publications, including blueprint.

Including all the options for ways forward - including the ones we find obnoxious - is a way of establishing a baseline comparison and also a way of establishing cross sectoral sign up to the process. When prohibition is exposed to scrutiny thwe process will only lead in one direction.

We really arent arguing about anything here - You need to get off your high horse and read what we are actually saying/advocating

Sunshine Band said...

I have read a lot of your material and there is clearly a wish to appear 'respectable' by portraying drug use as a problem best managed by other means, and there is usually no mention of the key human right at stake here at all. There is lots of talk about collateral damage via a paradox of consequences of the war. Yet you certainly do shy from any chance to respect and represent the interests of normal drug users. You agreed when I pointed this out after one of your media interviews, that you had talked about drug use being a problem and how it could be reduced, we agreed that you should have drawn the distinction between misuse and use.

Yet a constant theme of these discussions with me is that you field and dismiss every one of my points, yet rather frustratingly you know I'm right in fact but argue that in substance it's unimportant. It's vital to appreciate that you are ignoring the principal human right to take drugs, and there is no mention of it in the HASC submission. The whole issue would never arise if people didn't want to take drugs, and the wanting is not always to do with addiction or poor social conditions, it is the positive aspect of all of this that underpins the whole issue. I think that as far as policy is concerned things are going backwards - Transform is all but silent on the atrocities in the UK such as people losing homes, losing jobs, losing families, going to prison, being abused by police etc all for a few plants, and the trends towards more surveillance, more testing, new non impairment based drug driver laws. I seriously think a re-think is needed, and it has to be based upon rescuing a proportionate threshold for interference into liberty based upon anti-social outcome - yes this may be the message as the long shot of your decent Blueprint concept, but in order to garner proper understanding and support we have to create a unified appreciation that this is about human rights at the core of the war, not just as a consequence of the war, and how we must respect human choices, as long as they are peaceful.

Why you think this is from my high horse is unclear, this is the root of the issue, disrespect for humanity, frankly your dismissive responses to me over the years smack of arrogance and inflexibility. I press the 'war on illegal drugs' error with you time and time again because it goes hand in hand with allowing yourselves to be drawn into a discourse that imagines stepping up the war is an option, or that we are dealing only with harms as opposed to freedom. In truth Steve this is about control of the minds of people, when we talk about drugs as inanimate objects we lose sight of the real meaning of this, really what drugs are is an effect, a state of being, and the reason why we are controlled with respect to them is principally because many are powerful social de-conditioning agents.

Steve Rolles said...

You are misunderstanding me again.

We have written about personal rights: there is a dedicatred briefing, and the issue is raised in Tools for the debate, and we helped get liberty to adopt a position on user rights. But, whilst we are very clear on this issue we have also made a tractical decision not to have it as the bridgehead of the campaign. I have no problem with others taking a different route - infact it probably works well that there are different apporoaches. There are a number of important intersections between drug policy and human rights and we work closely with organisations (notably including the center for druigt policy and human rights) in developing a number of these themes (we pushed for them to submit to HASC for example). We also engage in these debates with user goups (mostly INPUD) and specifically at the annual UN CND. it is about more than user rights however - as made clear in the coun the Costs human rights briefing. Because user rights are you primary concern doesnt mean that they should be everyones. nor does it mean you are wrong. Try and see the distinction between principles and tactics.