UK drugs policy petition reaches 100,000 signatures, may prompt Parliamentary debate

Friday, February 14, 2014

Caroline Lucas, Green MP.
Image: The Health Hotel.

The Backbench Business Committee of the House of Commons is to discuss whether to schedule a debate on reform of Britain's drug laws, after a petition calling for an independent review of the laws reached 100,000 signatures this week. The petition was started by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and calls for a cost-benefit analysis and impact assessment for the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The petition was backed by the online campaigning organisation Avaaz as well as by numerous celebrities and public figures including the comedian Russell Brand, businessman Richard Branson, rock performer Sting, and broadcaster Joan Bakewell.

Lucas said Britain now spends £3 billion annually on enforcing drugs policy and an assessment of "whether Britain's current approach is value for money or money wasted" is required. She also said: "The Misuse of Drugs Act is hopelessly out of date. It has never been reviewed, or undergone a cost-benefit analysis. In England and Wales alone, an estimated £3 billion a year is spent fighting the war on drugs, to little effect. Over half of the people in prison are thought to have serious drug problems, and yet we continue to fail to treat drug addiction as the serious health problem it is."

Russell Brand — who has spoken publicly of his use of drugs — said: "Almost 2,000 young people die in the UK each year from taking illegal drugs. But leading police, doctors, and politicians agree prohibition has completely failed to curb addiction."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stated his support for the review in a newspaper editorial: "The UK can lead the debate in Europe and Europe can lead the debate in the world. But we must be prepared to start afresh with a new mindset and be prepared to do things differently."