25 October 2011

Lib Dems Must Resist Any Further Restrictions Around 'Legal Highs'

The ACMD has today called for further punitive laws to be enacted to tackle the growing number of new psychoactive substances being marketed an consumed in the UK. It wants analogues of already illegal drugs to be banned in the assumption that they will have similar effects.

The coalition agreement does state that the Lib Dems will enable legislation that "will introduce a system of temporary bans on new ‘legal highs’ while health issues are considered by independent experts."

We have already done that. This exact legislation was part of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act which passed earlier this year.

Liberal Democrat policy was recently brought up-to-date at this year's conference with the passing of a motion on protecting the community from drug harms. The party's stance is now crystal clear. Any further drug policy legislation that can be voted for by Lib Dem MPs must involve:

• an independent panel to assess our current drug laws,
• a switch to the 'decriminalisation' approach which has shown beneficial outcomes in Portugal,
• or a legal framework to enable a strictly controlled supply of cannabis.

Now we must be practical. We should not outright ignore the work of the ACMD - that was the attitude taken during the dying years of the Labour government. However, if the Conservatives wish to progress with any further drug restrictions with us in government, they must also be open to considering some of our party's drug policies too.


Adam said...

That's a good point, Duncan. Any new drug legislation that goes beyond the coalition agreement should be accompanied at least by a broad, independent study of the very fundamentals of UK drug policy. Efforts to criminalise khat or salvia may be another opportunities.

The ACMD are quite right to point to the dangers of taking unknown or untested chemicals. It's disappointing though that they don't seem to say anything about the reasons why NPS can be of unknown composition, or why better-studied and most-probably less harmful drugs aren't available.

They recommend that "the burden of proof should be placed upon the supplier to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the product being sold is not for human consumption and is safe for its intended use" but perhaps the government should instead clarify what clinical trials, non-addictiveness or other hoops a recreational drug would need to go through to be approved for regulated sale ('safer' than alcohol?). Give chemists the incentives and direction to develop safer recreational drugs.

Anonymous said...

The Liberal Democrats (at least those with the power to do so, i.e. the MPs) have no intention of moving towards decriminalisation regardless of anything any conference says, any manifesto commitments or any pledges that they themselves may have signed.

I joined the Lib Dems because I wanted to see drugs policies removed, I left the party very disappointed.

Seriously, don't waste your time.

Anonymous said...

"There is nothing liberal about drug addiction. A life enslaved to a chemical is not a life with liberty."

From one of your articles.

Duncan Stott said...

Absolutely, and I support strong regulations on drug suppliers and rehabilitation services for addictive drugs for this very reason.

What I don't support is a punitive, blanket ban on the supply or possession of a drug because it's addictive (and as an aside, some of the currently banned drugs aren't particularly addictive anyway).

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