Theresa May orders study into drug decriminalisation in Portugal and US to assess impact on use and addiction
Home Office minister will visit Portugal where criminal penalties for drug possession were scrapped in 2001
A detailed study of Portugal’s decision to decriminalise drug possession – as well as moves to legalise marijuana use in two US states – has been ordered by Theresa May.
But the Home Secretary rebuffed calls by MPs to set up a Royal Commission to review Britain’s 41-year-old drugs laws and recommend changes.
The Home Office minister, Jeremy Browne, is to visit Portugal to examine the impact of the policy on levels of drug use and addiction.
Criminal penalties for personal drug use were scrapped in 2001, although tough sanctions remain in place for dealing.
He will also study evidence from the US, where Colorado and Washington state have voted to legalise marijuana. The drug has been decriminalised in another 14 states.
Ms May was responding to a report by the Commons home affairs select committee which praised the Portuguese policy of replacing criminal penalties with an emphasis on offering treatment and counselling for users. The MPs said the initiative had reduced public concern about drug abuse and had been supported by the police and all political leaders.
They also urged the establishment of a Royal Commission to examine drugs laws – a proposal that has divided the Coalition partners after it was supported by Nick Clegg and rejected by David Cameron. Opponents saw the proposed move as a possible first step towards relaxing drug legislation.
In her response to the committee, Ms May said: “The government does not believe there is a case for fundamentally re-thinking the UK’s approach to drugs – a royal commission is simply not necessary.
“Nonetheless we must continue to listen and learn from emerging trends, new evidence and international comparators.”
She argued there were “promising signs” that the Government’s anti-drugs strategy was working, pointing to figures suggesting use of illegal substances is at its lowest since measurement began in 1996. The number of registered heroin and crack cocaine users in England has fallen below 300,000 for the first time.
Ms May also said drug-related deaths had fallen over the last three years and record numbers of people were managing to kick the habit through treatment.
She said Mr Browne, a Liberal Democrat, would “look at a number of countries that cover a spectrum of approaches to drug policy and assess their effectiveness in cutting drug use and reducing harm”.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Sophia Loren: How I rejected Cary Grant and 'pulverised' Marlon Brando with my eyes
Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
'Russian submarine spotted' by Swedish military off coast of Stockholm
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...