i Editor's Letter: Debating the UK's policy on drugs

 

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The Independent Online

Should we change Britain’s drugs laws? I ask because that’s the question  debated in the House of Commons today. They’re 43 years old. Occasionally a substance is recategorised, but hardly any of our politicians have chased the dragon, and fewer still  dare dabble in drugs legislation lest they be pilloried as soft on Class-A.

The debate on possession (but not dealing) is changing. Abroad, radically  different approaches are trialled. Here in Britain, we have  a Deputy Prime Minister who wants to  decriminalise possession: “What those  people need is not to get put behind bars but treatment.” That campaign is  gathering surprising backers, including a red-top best known for promoting topless women on the newstand. “High time for a rethink,” that paper argued. “After decades of failed attempts to stem the scourge of drugs it starts to sound like common sense.”

A Home Office study obtained by this paper concludes that the UK’s punitive approach to drug abuse has failed to curb addiction. I’m yet to be convinced by all the arguments to  liberalise the supply of drugs – but if  top politicians acknowledge that using  drugs is a health and social issue  rather than a criminal one, the debate will finally have matured.

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“How refreshing,” writes Margate reader Dan Weller, “to see a journalist  in our beautiful – but brash – little town who was not intent on finding a dystopian nightmare of empty shops, graffiti and hooded youths.” So far, so good. But oh dear... “This certainly was not the case three years ago, when I first wrote in to berate two ‘vacuous  little snobs’ who managed to offend in such an ill-informed manner.”

Dan adds: “Either our town has improved drastically since then – or you are far choosier about who you employ. Had we known i was in town we would have bought your reporter a drink.” Free drinks for i journalists as they report from around Britain? You may be on to something, Dan.

i@independent.co.uk

Twitter.com: @olyduff

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