Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MP calls for impact assessment of drugs policy in Prime Minister’s Questions

In today’s Prime Minister’s Questions Lembit Opik MP requested a meeting with the PM to propose a full impact assessment of current drug policy.

His full question was:

“A new European Commission report on drugs shows that despite prohibition the illegal drugs trade has thrived, creating what the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, describes as a “staggering” criminal market, destabilising health policies and entire countries.

“As such, will the Leader of the House please convey my request to meet the Prime Minister to propose a comprehensive impact assessment of current drugs policy, to help us tackle this crisis in an evidence-based way?”

In response, Harriet Harman MP, Leader of the House, answering on behalf of the Prime Minister who is this week attending the G20 conference, said:

“I will pass on his request to the Prime Minister who I’m sure will agree that we need to make sure that every bit of support is available to those who are addicted to drugs and we need to crack down hard on dealers.”

UK drug enforcement policy is unique in terms of delivering the exact opposite of its intended outcomes, consistently, for decades - massive levels of drug misuse, health damage, and crime. This huge expenditure is also unique in the lack of scrutiny it has been subject to with regards to cost effectiveness or attempts to quantify these unintended negative consequences. Such scrutiny is long overdue and we welcome this initiative from Mr Opik

A full impact assessment laying out and counting the costs of current drugs policy in a structured and detailed way for the first time, would be a significant step towards making future policy evidence-based – and therefore more effective, just and humane.

Transform has long been calling for a full Cost Benefit of Analysis (CBA), which an impact assessment would be part of, comparing current UK drug policy with alternatives. We would like the UN to orchestrate a similar initiative at the global level. At a recent All Party Parliamentary Group on the Mis-use of Drugs meeting Transform laid down a challenge to all: support this approach, or don’t pretend you are interested in having evidence-based drugs policy.

We will be publishing our own UK oriented CBA soon, laying out the best evidence available, and the gaps in research that should be filled, so watch this space.


Anonymous said...

From Paul C.

I would like to see Mr Lembit Opik make the point more strongly - and go just a tiny bit further. After all, he is that very same MP who rode a two-wheeler Segway on the public roads in defiance of the daft law which bans these daft contrivances. He even challenge ministers to have him arrested for doing so.
Link to BBC News story about it

So, as he is a man of action and not just words and from a party that supports a change in drug laws, could he not go further and organize a 'smoke-in' in the House? This would also present an interesting legal situation: for as many will already know, the House of Parliament is (under law) a 'palace'. As such it does not see itself bound by some of the same laws that it imposes on the rest of the hoi polloi. For example, all it's many pubs inside the Palace, do not recognise the UK licensing laws and so will serve up a drink on request at any time, day or night. To clarify further. It is not that they have ever been exempted from the licensing laws, it more of a case where they have chosen to simply refuse to acknowledge them. The Sargent at Arms would surly see the parallel.
No doubt they may even stock a few bottles of the best Absinthe. (Which is ironically, still illegal in France).
Absinthe on Wikipedia

He could also invite that Cornish farmer and keen Kava supporter Prince Charles to come along and pass round a few cups of this marvellous Pacific pacifier; which was banned on the bases of inaccurate and garbled reports suggesting possible health problems.
Prince Charles Hopeful of End to Kava Ban.12 March 2005 - Fiji Times
A ban which now appears to have been orchestrated by the pharmaceutical industry to stifle competition; and worse: it has encourage people to go back to more harmful alcohol and benzo's for relaxation and stress relief.
Kava safety questioned. The Journal of the American Botanical Council
Fresh Organic Kava root would make a welcome addition to his range of Duchy Originals don't you think. Followed perhaps by Duchy Organic Liberty Caps.

If Opik and friends was to stage this stunt just before PM's question time, it would be very difficult to tell who had and who had not participated ( next time it's on, mute the sound and watch in silence and you'll get my drift). It would create a strong solidarity with the MP's who secretly think this way about the present drug laws. The more they come to see that many other MP's are on the same wavelength the bolder they will feel and willing to give their support. Thereby the Liberals' will also show that they have gauged the real mood of the county. They might even find more people voting for them. Did you read that last sentence Lembit? M – O – R - E ... V – O – T – E - S...

Anonymous said...

I think this is a stupid line to push and one which will lead nowhere. I'm not surprised to see a clown like Opik getting involved.

CBA is about the monetization of all costs and benefits. As a means of assessing the impact of drug policy alternatives this is so limited as to be of interest only to bean-counters and not to serious policy-makers or policy thinkers.

You need to do much better than this.

Steve Rolles said...

whether you like it or not the government are bean counters - and highlighting expensive policy and poor outcomes at a time of economic belt tightening may have more political and media leverage than many other traditional approaches. Read our effort next week and let us know what you think then.

Anonymous said...

You're no doubt right about the government, so fair enough, Steve. I will, as always, read what you put out next week.

a.danna said...

I don't think we'll see Mr Opik make a stronger point.
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