So I know this is a little bit different to what I normally post about, but I recently wrote this article for my Universities newspaper and I thought that I would post it on here too. A reference site for my work. If people like this then please let me know and I can also post more news articles and not just my literary reviews.
12 million people in England and Wales have tried an illegal drug in their lifetime. Based on the current policy in the UK, those persons found in possession of an illegal drug are liable for prosecution but may also be offered treatment for any dependency issues they may have. This policy is working: drug rates are at their lowest since 1996. So to me, it seems absurd to decriminalise drugs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The proposal, by activists campaigning to make drugs legal, to organise a Royal Commission seems in itself to be a waste of time and money. Theresa May has made it clear that “a royal commission is simply not necessary” as the government has “no intention of decriminalising drugs”. It would make far more sense to invest that money into further rehabilitation for drug addicts and expand the treatment programme. The purpose of the commission was to investigate the methods executed in other countries in order to tackle drug problems. Portugal has decided that possession of a small quantity of illegal drugs will no longer be deemed as a criminal offense as long as those caught in possession enter programs which will dissuade them from future usage. Similarly in the American States of Colorado and Washington cannabis has been legalised. The study would consider these new policies as well as other approaches and determine whether something similar could be implemented and be beneficial for Britain.
But why should we decriminalise drugs? If our current approach is producing the results that it set out to achieve then it would be erroneous to make changes.
Legalising drugs would prevent drug addicts from being prosecuted for doing what they enjoy doing. But this is not the entire problem. Often drugs and crime go hand in hand. The lengths to which some people go to possess drugs can include theft or burglary of family or strangers which can often leave distressing effects in its wake. That need to take more drugs can have devastating impacts on families and communities; destroying relationships and the individual’s life. This impact is often highly underestimated, with quality of life on a sharp downward curve and the drug user left in a state of incapacity. If the drugs that are able to cause so much harm to people were legalised, it would only enable those who are addicted to them to be able to acquire them more easily and potentially more frequently.
Currently, “the number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England has fallen below 300,000 for the first time.” Something is working. These statistics are also supported by the lack of recurring drug users. The focus on treatment has enabled rates to drop because the services have widened and received more funding, allowing a greater majority of people affected by drugs to be treated for their drug related issues. For every £1 taxpayers spend on drug treatment they save £2.50 on reduced crime and lower costs to the NHS, says the National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse. Local communities and families have benefited hugely because of the current approach to dealing with drugs. If they were to be decriminalised, or at least some of them, would this not pose a threat to these impressive statistics? The current policy is working, why change it?
12,320 18-24 year olds required treatment for crack or heroine in 2005/6 compared to 4,690 young people in 2011/12. If even more money was invested into this worthwhile treatment programme then these statistics would not only maintain their impressive position but potentially decrease further. Decriminalising drugs may cause a relapse in the downward curve of reoffenders and addicts, which would impose more pain onto their families and communities. Sanctioning an unhealthy lifestyle by legalising weaker drugs will not make those who are currently under the influence take lesser quantities because it will be less ‘cool’. Surely it would only make their availability increase. Decriminalisation will only result in a drug high and those once impressive statistics will be lost in the smoke.