Call to Reform UK Drug Policy
26 June 2014
New voices to the drug policy debate include the National Black Police Association, Michael Mansfield QC, Prison Governors Association, the main HIV/AIDs charities and social justice NGOs
As part of a global day of action, Blenheim joins over 80 high-profile figures and organisations by signing an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron calling on the government to review drug policy in the United Kingdom and move toward an approach that reduces the “harm caused by drugs and current drug policies.”
The letter – signed by Sting, Will Self, Simon Woolley, Michael Mansfield QC, the National Black Police Association, and the Prison Governors Association, among others – highlights that in the past 15 years, over 1.5 million people have been criminalised in the UK for drugs possession. What’s more, these drug laws are being disproportionately applied, with black people in England and Wales six times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched for drug offences despite the fact that drug use amongst this group is almost half that of the white population.
Supported by leading organisations from the fields of HIV/AIDS; drugs policy and treatment; and social justice, the signatories support the end of criminal sanctions for possession of drugs. The letter highlights the social and economic costs of pursuing a criminal justice response that impacts primarily on young people who receive criminal records that limit their employment and educational opportunities.
In addition to addressing the UK’s drug laws, the Prime Minister is urged to fully engage in the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in New York, and lend his support to governments in Latin America that are pushing for reform. Countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala have witnessed hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the “War on Drugs,” and are leading the charge for a global debate on the issue. However, without support from governments in the West there is a risk that the necessary action to change the international drug control system will not be taken in 2016.
Niamh Eastwood, Executive Director of Release, the organisation leading the action stated: “The drug policy reform debate has moved forward in recent years and the UK government needs to be at the forefront of it. In 2002 when the Prime Minister was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee he supported the recommendation that the UN consider alternatives to the status quo. We are asking him to stand by that commitment and recognise the damage that has been done, both nationally and internationally, by repressive drug policies”.
In conjunction with the letter, people will be staging a day of action in Parliament Square, Westminster, with a billboard erected to face Parliament which will underscore the Prime Minister’s inaction on drug policy. This will form part of the “Support. Don’t Punish” global day of action taking place in 100 cities around the world and will highlight the pressing need for better drug laws. Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who are coordinating the “Support. Don’t Punish” global day of action, said: “Today is a public show of force for drug policy reform. The tide is turning and governments need to urgently fix their drug policies and repair the damage that has been done”.