A six-year study of Britain’s drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.
The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.
The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.
They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.
But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.
The commission is chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman with a membership that includes the former head of the British Medical Research Council, Prof Colin Blakemore, and the former chief inspector of constabulary, David Blakey.
The report says their analysis of the evidence shows that existing drugs policies struggle to make an impact and, in some cases, may make the problem worse.
The work of the commission is the first major independent report on drugs policy since the influential Police Foundation report 12 years ago called for an end to the jailing of those possessing cannabis.
The UKDPC’s membership also includes Prof John Strang, head of the National Addictions Centre, Prof Alan Maynard, a specialist in health economics, and Lady Ilora Finlay, a past president of the Royal Society of Medicine.
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