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Drug Policy: the need for Reform

  • Apr 8, 2014 · 6:30 PM
  • Thatcher Room

Paul Flynn MP has agreed to host a meeting in the House of Commons on Drug Policy Reform in the UK.

Almost 2,000 young people die in the UK each year from taking illegal drugs of uncertain potency, that they can only get hold of on the illegal market.

Leading police, doctors, and politicians agree prohibition has completely failed

to curb addiction and instead is costing the UK £3 billion a year. It is clear something must be done and reform is urgently needed.

Traditional drugs are often in the hands of criminal gangs and often if a young person goes to a dealer asking for a low risk variety of cannabis, the dealer will try and persuade them to buy something "much more exciting". Criminal suppliers also have every incentive to adulterate the drugs in order to enhance the profits – cutting agents are at times seriously dangerous. Speaking at this meeting are,

Paul Flynn was educated at St. Illtyd's College, Cardiff, and at the University College, Cardiff. He has worked as a chemist in the steel industry, as a broadcaster on Gwent Community Radio. He was elected as MP for Newport West in 1987. He has been shadow spokesperson for Health and Social Security is a member of the Public Administration Select Committee. His political interests include health and medicinal and illegal drugs. He is Vice Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform

Andria E-Mordaunt is an activist, and  Mum to six year old Millie. She has been working on drugs issues since 1986, first as counsellor, peer support worker and  from 1993 as campaigner: local, national and international. Her life was turned upside down as of 1980 by the deaths of many of her loved ones: lives lost to HIV, ODs and other outcomes of the so-called war on drugs, so she helped found several NGOs for  people living with HIV and/or addiction issues. She is the founder of the John Mordaunt Trust, set up to honour the memory of her life-partner & fellow AIDS activist, killed by HIV. Andria wrote herMSc dissertation"Junkies in the House of the Lord: a look at the impact of drugs user groups on drug policy" at LSE..

June 1998, Andria arranged for Marsha B , RIP, an  Injection drugs User living with AIDS - to address the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) about the failure of the so-called war on drugs:  Andria wrote the speech, edited by Cannabis campaigner, Martin Barriuso. She is committed to helping to end the so-called war on drugs.              

Niamh Eastwood is Executive Director of Release. Having worked in drug policy for the last ten years Niamh is passionate about drug policy reform and believes that the most vulnerable in society are disproportionately impacted upon by the current drug laws.

Niamh has co-authored Release's two most recent policy papers 'The Numbers in Black And White: Ethnic Disparities In The Policing And Prosecution Of Drug Offences In England And Wales' and ‘A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Policies in Practice Across the Globe’. Niamh is also responsible for drafting many of Release's briefings for parliamentarians and policy makers. She has presented at international and national conferences and is regularly invited to comment in the media.

Niamh is also an Associate of The London School of Economics IDEAS International Drug Policy Project, a member of the Expert Steering Group for the Global Drug Survey and is on the steering group for the UK Harm Reduction Association.

AND  

                                           

Dr Michael Shiner

is an Associate Professor in the Social Policy Department at the London School of Economics and has particular interests in drug policy and policing. He has more than 20 years’ experience working in the drug field and has written widely on a variety of issues including drugs and the law, the delivery of drug services to black and minority ethnic groups and community responses to drug issues. Michael is the author of several books including Drug Use and Social Change and was co-author of"The Number in Black and White: Ethnic Disparities in the Policing and Prosecution of Drug Offences in England and Wales "

(with Niamh Eastwood and Daniel Bear)


************************************************************************



The all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform recommend three significant reforms on drug policy

First, to introduce a Class D for the least harmful drugs (legal highs initially) which would be controlled through regulation. The suppliers of these Class D drugs would be responsible for showing that their produce causes only limited harms to the user (they would be much safer than alcohol or tobacco, for example). The supply would be regulated and tough conditions on age limits, packaging and labelling applied. Such a policy is being introduced inNew Zealand and should, in our view be a priority for Britain where we have twice the use of "legal highs" as the rest of Europe.

Second, decriminalisation of the possession and use of small quantities of any drug is overdue in this country. Portugal introduced such a policy more than a decade ago. Instead of spending large sums on imprisoning young people, taxpayers' money has been spent on treatment. The result has been that fewer young people use or abuse drugs in Portugal than in neighbouring countries. More are in treatment and less in prison.

Finally, we need an evidence-based classification of drugs. This can only be achieved if the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs becomes an independent decision-making body. Politicians should retain responsibility for overall drugs policy but scientific assessments and decisions relating to individual drugs should be made by the scientists. The level of risk should be the only criteria determining the class of a drug.

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  • Ed

    Interesting. Impressed by Niamh Eastwood, less so by Dr. Shiner, whose conclusions from his statistics I found suspect. Of course he might be right but... It was suggested, for example, that stop and search of those without criminal records led those thus searched to have an above average chance of becoming criminalised within 12 months. Therefore, no S&S, no progression to crime. An alternative conclusion is that shrewd application of S&S was aimed at the right people, just didn't catch them out first time round... Distant (I am old!) post-graduate studies in statistics at Bath University's Business School has taught me an enduring suspicion of "statistical" data (how collected, by whom, with what objective or objectivity) and superficial conclusions therefrom, and Dr. Shiner's was a presentation that reminded me why this was the case. Nevertheless, a good evening, which left me, amongst other things, with the impression of Mr. Flynn as a rare beast - a politician with integrity.

    1 · April 10, 2014

    • Andria

      Whatever way you look at this, relations between people of colour and the cops need improving, which will not happen if they keep targeting young brown-skinned youth on the streets of ANY inner city. Years ago, I walked through Brixton with Brian Paddick (just after homophobia had made it impossible for him to become commissioner of Police...not to mention the lies of the previous chief..) Anyways, I found it interesting and encouraging that he made efforts to be friendly and receptive to ALL regardless of ethnicity or any thing else for that matter

      April 10, 2014

    • Andria

      The US leading Drug Policy Reform crew, btw, gave him an award back then

      April 10, 2014

  • Ed

    Dear Avinash, Stopping the innocent is a step on the way to stopping the guilty, and I think we'd all agree that stopping them is a Good Thing. And as a society we should accept the necessity for this, as indeed we do in many circumstances. All those who attended the meeting on Tuesday were "stopped and searched" and few resented it, though many may have felt saddened by its need....

    1 · April 10, 2014

    • Avinash

      Being searched when entering Portcullis was a choice that people made - if you want to attend the meeting then you have to go through it.I have been S&S while in public and doing nothing wrong, and I did not have a choice - it is embarrassing and it is definitely not the same as going through security at Parliament with everyone else. Lucky for you, you don't fit the demographic that the police target with S&S. Literally nothing good came out of me being S&S, just like many of my friends have been stopped - usually with no result, or at worst the police finding a bit of cannabis. This is not a good thing. It does not help society - it deepens divisions

      1 · April 10, 2014

    • Ed

      Dear Avinash, Actually.... I'd rather be young and thus more likely to be stopped! And S&S isn't all about drugs, there are other reasons, too. I have been stopped from time to time, most recently whilst driving in Devon in a car similar to one thought to have been involved in some sort of incident, and this bothered me not in the slightest. Some years ago I was stopped by the gendarmerie a few miles into France, and both I and my car were turned out comprehensively - in the rain. Tent unrolled, sleeping bag examined and on and on - and I wasn't thrilled about that. But I got over it! Maybe it was because I had a beard - the French don't like beards!

      April 10, 2014

  • Francis S.

    Paul Flynn MP sent me a mail today when he said " Greatly enjoyed the evening - especially the marvellous audience.." So thanks to all who came as we almost always have a great audience!

    1 · April 9, 2014

  • Alisdair B.

    I wanted to attend but today has been a nightmare. I wanted to raise the point concerning the criminality that surrounds this issue.
    The supply and profits of illegal drugs are mainly controlled by criminal gangs. If drugs are legalised and/or decriminalised these gangs will move to other areas to maintain their income. The areas I have in mind are extortion, identity theft, cyber-crime etc.
    Any discussion about the reform of drugs policy should address the issue of criminal gangs.

    1 · April 8, 2014

  • Andria

    Looking forward to meeting all the people who have contributed to this discussion and many more tomorrow. Let's see if we can work out a way to support PM Cameron to understand that even as you promote abstinence for some dependent drugs users, you can also begin the process of legally regulating the global drug markets..I say WITHOUT a fanfare preferably
    www,usersvoice.org

    April 7, 2014

  • Francis S.

    Please note, the meeting is now in the Thatcher Room and not the Wilson Room of Portcullis House. These two rooms are adjacent to each other.

    April 8, 2014

    • Lowenna

      Hiya, I am planning on attending the meeting this evening but I can't seem to make my membership payment online, it keeps telling me there has been a problem. Will I still be able to attend? Many Thanks, Lowenna

      April 8, 2014

  • Lowenna

    Hiya, I am planning on attending the meeting this evening but I can't seem to make my membership payment online, it keeps telling me there has been a problem. Will I still be able to attend? Many Thanks, Lowenna

    April 8, 2014

  • Noor J B

    Afternoon all, looking forward to our discussion tommorrow! How long is the queue usually and do we need to bring ID? LoL

    April 7, 2014

    • Francis S.

      Queue time can vary but give yourself 30 minutes and you don't need ID.

      1 · April 7, 2014

  • Suzanne L.

    A worthy subject to discuss but I am so fed up with queuing to get into H of C and Portcullis House and being asked three times where I'm going, being patted down etc etc. We are paying a very high price for MP's "security".

    1 · April 3, 2014

    • Suzanne L.

      Andria Thanks but it's only been since 9/11. In my young days (ha,ha) one could just walk in with one friendly policeman or official.

      April 4, 2014

    • Andria

      One decade....G, it certainly feels longer. Thos Iris photographers at airports are partially responsible for ruining my vision i bet!

      April 7, 2014

  • P.Selvaratnam

    Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations

    April 5, 2014

  • P.Selvaratnam

    I consider beginning to have a discussion is the initial stage of ''action''. I am itching to be a part of a discussion of The Long Term Now, the report by OMCFG.

    April 3, 2014

  • P.Selvaratnam

    I would like to see someone assess our GN21 meetings with a view to raising their quality - the quality of discourse.
    When the whole of mankind faces huge problems we cannot go on without questioning the quality of our action.
    Research (eg the report by Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations) shows that there is a huge gap between knowledge and action - many categories of professionals have been saying this for decades.
    I am still bristling from the low level intellectual discourse at an AGM held in London a few days ago.

    1 · April 3, 2014

    • Francis S.

      Pascal Lamy who chaired that Commission said,
      “The ability to address today’s global challenges is undermined by the absence of a collective vision for society. We urge leaders to establish shared global values to protect the prospects for future generations.”
      You can only agree on action once you get some agreement on vision. What we can do is open up the debate and then develop different themed groups, discourses and online collaboration to develop a vision that can lead to appropriate action.
      It is a long and on going process. Those who demand action usually mean action they agree with but when you open up the public square for deliberative discussion then there are many views and creating new visions does not happen overnight. But it is a journey worth taking.

      1 · April 3, 2014

    • Andria

      Well said Francis

      April 7, 2014

  • Iain M.

    I'm sadly unable to make this but I so wish I could. I haven't had time to format things but I hope that my amateur research abilities coupled with my extensive experience - of which I can't describe herein for fear of self incrimination but I wish to be heard or at least have some input. I realise that this little box is limited to 1000 characters too, so I hope that my little bits of info give ammunition to somebody....
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/9569797/Drugs-Live-the-Ecstasy-Trial-Channel-4-review.html
    The vicar.... ....felt "very disconnected from God".
    "But the former soldier found himself becoming paranoid, angry and distrustful... ...he was fighting the drug.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9571107/Channel-4-drugs-programme-criticised-by-Governments-chief-adviser.html
    figures suggest misuse of drugs is continuing to fall out of fashion. UTTER RUBBISH...

    1 · April 2, 2014

    • Iain M.

      Oops- do we? Sorry. I don't recall. Maybe I "ate" too much that day. So sorry. I made a few mistakes along the way but no major ones and always kept people safe in my presence. Anyhow, in that case, I look fwd to mtg you again sometime and thank you for your "like". Makes me feel happier - someone is listening and understanding my splurge.

      April 2, 2014

    • Andria

      Not a splurge. U clearly feel strongly about this issue and TG another one of us does. I'm sre lots of people care but few know or feel they know how to respond to the drugs use of folk they love... It;s easy ISH when you got a doctor who is willing to write a responsible adequate prescription...

      April 7, 2014

  • Iain M.

    ...
    another negative view was Professor Andy Parrott....
    doubt there'd be so many viewers for Bone Regeneration: Live!”

    http://time.com/19210/colorado-recreational-pot-purchases-add-2-million-to-state-revenue/
    Colorado Recreational Pot Purchases Add $2 Million to State Revenue

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/03/10/marijuana-revenue-colorado-taxes/6261131/

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/03/10/marijuana-revenue-colorado-taxes/6261131/
    Colorado makes $3.5M in pot revenue in January - USA Today
    ...figures seem to vary but anywhere between 2 and 3.5million will do - quite a lot either way
    Hope that helps/contributes/get's heard
    END

    1 · April 2, 2014

    • Iain M.

      you're welcome

      April 5, 2014

    • Iain M.

      soz tks omg btw n all that ;-)

      April 5, 2014

  • Kieran C.

    I will be attending with Michelle Rigby.

    1 · April 4, 2014

  • Kieran C.

    I will be attending with Michelle Rigby.

    1 · April 4, 2014

  • P.Selvaratnam

    ''I would like to see a psychologist on the panel'' - I don't know if there is one or not.

    According to the psychology books I've read and to the experience I've had with the thousands of children I have met in my life as a teacher there is certainly some correlation between self-esteem and self-control which is related to ''bad habits''.

    April 3, 2014

  • P.Selvaratnam

    I would like to see a psychologist on the panel. Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking/teenage pregnancy are mainly due to low self-esteem which means lack of critical level of psychological support in the family and its surroundings(eg school)

    April 3, 2014

    • Andria

      How do you know there isn't a "psychologist"­ on the panel?

      April 3, 2014

    • Andria

      Just something to think about Sir. Meanwhile, Let me say something about drugs and self-esteem. In truth, I have not read one piece of research that shows a direct correlation between cigarette- ANY drug - use and low self-esteem, though it appears to be fairly clear that many people who become dependent on drugs are struggling in some area of their lives. However, All of Humanity are struggling...What is that makes one group (fairly consistent in numbers I might add) really devote their minds and bodies to drugs, even when their lives are threatened by this behaviour. Changing the law around some drugs would make the lives of some "addicts" easier but I'm not sure how much that would do to reduce the numbers. THAT is something we would have to work on more arduously.... For example, reducing poverty comes immediately to mind....

      1 · April 3, 2014

  • Fiona W.

    To remind you of my earlier posting, David Nutt can now be seen on the RI website in a programme with Sharon Ruston, 'From laudanum to meow-meow', from 13 March (about 1 hr, Prof Nutt in at about 30 min).

    1 · April 1, 2014

  • roger

    Has Prof. David Nutt (former adviser to HMG, author of Drugs Without the Hot Air) been invited?

    1 · March 25, 2014

    • Andria

      I think David might only come IF he were invited to speak as he lives away from London. We already have four committed speakers BUT who knows what might happen by April 8th. Thinking.....

      March 25, 2014

    • Andria

      ALSO, my feeling is we need to increase the numbers of 'experts' who speak out as opposed to always be relying on the 'usual suspects'

      March 25, 2014

  • Fiona W.

    Roger - Failing having him there in person, the RI event 'Drugs, science and society: past, present and future' is now available. Look up 'The Royal Institution YouTube. Prof Nutt speaks in the second half.

    March 25, 2014

  • Andria

    Simion, wonderful work brother. I spent some years doing very similar work with drug injectors. Are U coming to the meeting next month? warm regards

    March 22, 2014

  • SIMION MAKORI N.

    Thank you to get you on so to work together for my humbleness i will work with your team because i used to train youth, women and men in HIV/AIDS.

    1 · March 22, 2014

  • terence f.

    Sadly busy elsewhere which is a shame.

    March 20, 2014

  • Fiona W.

    Yes, Andria. Look forward to seeing you there.

    March 20, 2014

  • Robert F.

    Very much looking forward to attending Andria and hearing you speak. Robert

    March 20, 2014

  • Andria

    Fiona, thanks for this. I spoke alongside Prof Nutt at one of Students for Sensible Drug Policies(SSDP) Conferences years ago. I know that he would agree with me when I say that for MOST people, Cannabis CAN be less dangerous. That said keeping it illegal has done so much damage to (particularly) young people's view of on-the-beat-cops - most appear to think they are stupid for upholding a law that few people respect any more, not to mention the amount of money that is spent policing oftentimes vulnerable - and getting angrier...." youth. Niamh will address the discriminatory way in which that law is abused by cops to criminalise young people of colour. Are you coming to the meetup next month?

    March 20, 2014

  • Fiona W.

    On 13 March David Nutt, neuropsychologist, q.v., gave a talk at the RI who say it will be available as a video on their website in about a week's time. His belief that canabis should be legalised and that it is much less dangerous than alcohol may make interesting viewing before this meeting.

    1 · March 20, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am gutted I cannot attend this. For many years I've sought a supportive rather than punitive approach from Whitehall. I know it's a cliche but please don't forget the damage wrought by legal drugs (Tobacco and Alcohol) in your discussions.

    1 · March 12, 2014

    • Andria

      Tricky .... asa we talk about damage from legal drugs, the prohibitionists demand"so why U wanna make the other drugs legal too" as if injectors would sit about a dinner table injecting! Otoh, there prob would be a temporary increase in drugs use, but unlikely to be sustained ...seems to be the opinion of the vast majority of academics and other activists amongst reformer

      March 13, 2014

  • Andria

    Alia, we will be trying to stick to UK discussion as that is where we are (not that I particularly want to), but I love the way you have kicked off this discussion in a global sense! Safety is NOT criminalising the addicted population so that many feel compelled to steal, sell sex and drugs in order to support drug habits. That's one thing

    March 4, 2014

    • Andria

      In fact, criminalising ANY drugs users has no benefits that i am aware of

      March 6, 2014

  • Alia

    Pivotal debate.From Afghanistan to South America to the users of drugs at all levels of Society---- how do we legislate to improve safety for everybody?

    1 · February 21, 2014

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