Is taking drugs a human right? A cross-party group of MPs and peers think so

MPs and peers calling for drug policy reform say human rights legislation could be used to decriminalise possession, purchase and growing of drugs

Matt Dathan@matt_dathan
Wednesday 19 August 2015 11:40

Taking drugs is a human right, according to a cross-party group of MPs and peers who want to legalise the possession, purchase and growing of drugs.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform want to use human rights legislation to decriminalise drug use, claiming the "blanket prohibition" drug policy approach has failed.

In a new report it suggests that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlines rights to "private and family life", could be used by defendants caught with illegal drugs.

It says drug laws needed to “reflect the supremacy of human rights conventions" and suggests that as long as drug taking does not harm others, it should not be a criminal offence.

The possession, purchase and growth of drugs such as cannabis should be decriminalised by using human rights legislation, according to the report

The group is an informal grouping of parliamentarians but its high profile and authoritative membership gives the group a significant degree of influence.

Its members include the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, former Justice Secretary Lord Falconer, former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson and the former director general of M15 Baroness Manningham-Buller.

The report by the group could lead to a test case brought by a drug user but Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, who said the successful use of Article 8 of the ECHR could "open the flood gates" for people using the legislation to avoid prosecution against all kinds of crimes.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, warned against using Article 8 to defend against prosecution for drug use

"This is novel as far as decriminalisation is concerned," he said. "One exemption, though minor, could open the floodgates. Human rights legislation is not designed to be used in this way."

The report by the group says: “For European countries the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 8, could be invoked in support of the argument that possession or purchase or cultivation of drugs for personal use, particularly in small quantities, do not injure other people's rights either directly or indirectly and therefore should not be criminalised.

“The interpretation of the Drug Control Conventions must take full account of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the impact of current policies in human terms.

Former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson is a member of the group calling for the use of human rights legislation to be used to decriminalise drug use

“This applies fully to the response to the production, trafficking and sale of controlled drugs.

“When the existing unbalanced prohibitionist response to drug market activities breaches human rights, then adjustments must be made.”

A Government spokesman said it had "no intention of decriminalising or legalising drugs".

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