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March 2007
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Drug Policy Overhaul in the UK

There has been much talk in the UK in recent months about recommending changes in how the government handles drug policy, and there’s very little doubt in my mind that the U.S. is eventually going to be led in this area from overseas.
That doesn’t mean that Britain’s government is lacking the elements of inflexible, politically fearful and greedily opportunistic elements that we have within our prohibitionists in the U.S., but they may be less entrenched.
Well a new expert commission report is out

Britain’s antiquated laws have failed to control the rapid spread of drug use over the past 30 years and should be replaced with a system that treats users as victims rather than offenders, the Government has been told.
A two-year survey of drug use reached the damning conclusion that the current legislation is “not fit for purpose”, failing to recognise that alcohol and tobacco can cause more harm than “demonised” substances such as cannabis and ecstasy. The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Commission on Illegal Drugs said current laws were “driven by a moral panic” and one of its members warned that increasing numbers of primary school children were experimenting with drugs.
The commission, which included academics, community workers and politicians, demanded the abolition of the Misuse of Drugs Act, to be replaced with a broader Misuse of Substances Act.

I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing (pdf) yet (I hope to this weekend), but for the best analysis, I turn you over to the wonderful folks at Transform Drug Policy Foundation blog, who have been doing excellent work in following all the details. They have a full review RSA drugs report: good, but no cigar [Update: page moved and updated ]
They note the brilliance of passages like this one:

Drugs policy should, like our policy on alcohol and tobacco, seek to regulate use and prevent harm rather than to prohibit use altogether. Illegal drugs should be regulated alongside alcohol, tobacco, prescribed medicines and other legal drugs in a single regulatory framework.

But they also note that ultimately the report falls short:

We are left with what is, in many ways, a brilliant, thoughtful and throrough report, but also one that walks you to the door but isnt quite willing to suggest you walk through…

[Thanks to several readers for tips on this.]

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