Session 2002-03, 29 November 2002
REPORT ON DRUGS POLICY TO BE DEBATED
The Home Affairs Committee's Report into The Government's Drugs Policy: Is it Working? (HC 318) will be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday 5 December.
The Committee's Report was published in May 2002 following an eight month inquiry into drugs policy. The Committee made various recommendations for change in the Government's policy, including:
An increased focus on problematic drug users
Reclassification of cannabis as a class C drug and ecstasy as a class B drug
Priority for prevention in drugs education
Renewed emphasis on harm reduction and treatment of drug users, including the setting up of pilot safe injecting areas for drug users and a better use of diamorphine prescribing for persistent heroin addicts
The Report also discussed issues of legalisation and regulation of some substances, although the Committee declined to recommend such a step.
A fuller text of the Committee's recommendations follows below.
SUMMARY OF KEY CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
(Home Affairs Committee Report The Government's Drugs Policy: Is it Working?)
1. We believe that drugs policy should primarily be addressed to dealing with the 250,000 problematic drug users (paragraph 38).
2. While acknowledging that there may come a day when the balance may tip in favour of legalising and regulating some types of presently illegal drugs, we decline to recommend this drastic step (paragraph 66).
3. We accept that to decriminalise possession of drugs for personal use would send the wrong message to the majority of young people...and that it would inevitably lead to an increase in drug abuse. We, therefore, reject decriminalisation (paragraph 74).
4. We are not persuaded that an intent to supply should be presumed on the basis of amounts of drugs found; we therefore recommend that the offences of simple possession and possession with intent to supply should be retained without alteration (paragraph 77).
5. We recommend that a new offence is created of "supply for gain", which would be used to prosecute large scale commercial suppliers (paragraph 83).
6. We support...the Home Secretary's proposal to reclassify cannabis from Class B to Class C (paragraph 121).
7. We...recommend that ecstasy is reclassified as a Class B drug (paragraph 135).
8. We recommend that the number of treatment places for cocaine users is substantially increased. We recommend that resources are channelled into researching and piloting innovative treatment interventions for cocaine users (paragraph 140).
9. We consider that the risks posed by cocaine to the user and to other people merit it remaining a Class A drug (paragraph 141).
10. We recommend that more treatment places are created for crack users and that resources be channelled into researching and piloting more effective treatments. We further recommend that in the meantime efforts are redoubled to extinguish supply of crack cocaine (paragraph 147).
11. We recommend that the Government substantially increases the funding for treatment for heroin addicts and ensure that methadone treatments and complementary therapies are universally available to those who need them (paragraph 160).
12. We recommend that appropriate treatment forms a mandatory part of custodial sentences and that offenders have access to consistent treatment approaches within the prison estate as well as outside it. This should include strictly supervised methadone treatment in the first instance (paragraph 169).
13. We recommend that a proper evaluation is conducted of diamorphine prescribing for heroin addiction in the UK...as compared with methadone prescribing regimes (paragraph 178).
14. We recommend that the guidance and training provided to practitioners prescribing diamorphine to heroin addicts is strengthened (paragraph 179).
15. We recommend that an evaluated pilot programme of safe injecting houses for heroin users is established without delay and that if...this is successful, the programme is extended across the country (paragraph 186).
16. We conclude that the Dutch and Swiss evidence provides a strong basis on which to conduct a pilot here in Britain of highly structured heroin prescribing to addicts. We recommend that a pilot along the lines of the Swiss or Dutch model is conducted in the UK. Should such a pilot generate the positive results which one would expect...we recommend that such a system should supersede the little-used "British system" of licencing (paragraph 190).
17. We believe that all drugs education material should be based on the premise that any drug use can be harmful, and should be discouraged (paragraph 201).
18. We conclude that General Practitioners are, for the most part, inadequately trained to deal with drug misuse. We recommend that training in substance misuse is embedded in the undergraduate medical curriculum and postgraduate General Practice curriculum...We recommend that the Department of Health funds more training courses in substance misuse for existing General Practitioners (paragraph 218).
19. We recommend that a target is added to the National Strategy explicitly aimed at harm reduction and public health (paragraph 245).
20. We recommend that the Government reviews Section 9A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, with a view to repealing it, to allow for the provision of drugs paraphernalia which reduces the harm caused by drugs (paragraph 252).
21. We recommend that Section 8 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is amended to ensure that drugs agencies can conduct harm reduction work and provide safe injecting areas for users without fear of being prosecuted (paragraph 257).
22. We recommend that the Home Office and the Department of Health urgently review the current legal framework on the dispensation of controlled drugs by community pharmacists (paragraph 260).
23. We recommend that Drug Abstinence Orders are amended to carry the requirement of access to treatment (paragraph 264).
24. We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways-including the possibility of legalisation and regulation-to tackle the global drugs dilemma (paragraph 267).