Last week, at the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches' General Assembly meeting at Nottingham University, the Unitarians became one of the first faith groups in the UK to speak out on the drugs issue and call for a Royal Commission on Drugs or an independent inquiry into drug policy. The reolution was passed with overwhelming support; 154 voting in favour, 3 against and 1 abstention.
The vote followed presentations from David Barrie, Chair of Make Justice Work, and Jane Slater, Head of Operations at Transform Drug Policy Foundation.
“This General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches asks the UK Government to establish without delay a Royal Commission or an interdepartmental public inquiry to:
1) examine the present UK drug-related health and crime situations and compare those in other countries
2) examine and review the efficacy of current UK legislation in relation to drugs both those which are illegal and those which are legal
3) review options for alternatives to the current criminal justice-based approach, drawing on the experience of other countries, including the appropriateness of the medicalisation and decriminalisation of drug substances and the treatment of addictions.”
The Unitarians are now embarking upon a campaign to persuade the government to set up a Royal Commission or interdepartmental inquiry, which would give alternative approaches the consideration they deserve and represent an important first step away from counterproductive prohibitionist policies.
The Unitarians now join a growing list of public figures and organisations who want to see a review of UK drug policy:
- Nick Clegg DPM, personally
- Bob Ainsworth MP, former Labour Home Office drugs minister and secretary of state for defence
- Peter Lilley MP, former Conservative Party deputy leader
- Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party leader
- The Home Affairs Select Committee
- The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform
- Liberal Democrats (almost unanimously at Conference 2012)
- Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood
- Carel Edwards, former Head of the European Commission's Anti-Drug Coordinating Unit
- Professor John R Ashton CBE, Chair UK Public Health Association
- Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, outgoing President of the Royal College of Physicians
- Professor Richard Wilkinson, Author of 'The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better'
- Professor Neil McKeganey, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, University of Glasgow
- Professor Ben Bowling, Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice, King's College London
- Dr Nick Heather, Emeritus Professor of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies at Northumbria University
- Dr Linda Cusick, Reader in Substance Use, University of the West of Scotland
- Professor David Nutt, Chair of Neuropsychopharmacology, Imperial College London, and Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs
- A range of other organisations including the Prison Governors Association, Health Poverty Action, The Howard League for Penal Reform, and Human Rights Watch.