The 'safe houses' represent a step forward in drug policy, but who’s brave enough to back Brighton?

Despite the overwhelming international evidence, successive governments have done more, not less, to compound the suffering of addicts and their communities

Share

And so Brighton makes a small but significant step on the centuries-long march from murderous stupidity to eventual sanity that is drugs policy across the Western world. The lovely seaside town, where one in four people have used drugs, could be the first in Britain to trial shooting galleries where addicts can safely consume illegal drugs without fear of prosecution. The aim is to shift the focus of addiction treatment from criminality to public health.

Such decriminalisation consumption rooms are widespread in Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg, where they have had mixed results. That’s mixed as in varying from the highly effective to exceptionally effective. By taking addicts out of the shadows, away from the bridges and underpasses and station concourses where our monstrous drugs policy has long forced them, such galleries reduce harm not just to the addict, but to the society to whom he or she belongs.

And yet the overwhelming international evidence didn’t stop the following unforgivable inanity from South Coast rozzers. As the BBC reported: “Sussex Police welcomed the report but emphasised the importance of a ‘holistic approach’ to illegal drugs” In other words, we hope this helps, but we’re not holding our breaths… So is ceding control of the supply of drugs to organised crime syndicates still the way to go?

It’s important to outline just what suffocating short-sightedness this is. Imagine a “war” waged by successive British governments for 40 years, costing a billion pounds a month. Tens of thousands of casualties; the same number again locked up in jail each year; and the enemy is roughly half a million strong, and getting stronger by the minute. This, you would think, would be enough to warrant successive prime ministers being sacked, never mind home secretaries. Yet madly, because of foggy thinking and a shrieking press, successive governments have done more, not less, to compound our suffering, safe in the knowledge that it will help them get re-elected.

In fact, that fatuously labelled “war” has been waged, ever since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The problem is not just that we’re losing it; it’s that there is not the remotest prospect of victory. Until we have the guts, as a country, to recognise the catastrophe of our drugs policy, and challenge the hysteria and immaturity that consigns millions of people to needless misery, innovations like that in Brighton will be welcome but small distractions, a bunch of needles in a giant, international haystack of our own making. And Sussex Police will go on trotting out nonsense, instead of making our country safer.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick