Today the Plurinational State of Bolivia can celebrate a rightful victory, as the country can become formally a party again to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, but without being bound by its unjust and unrealistic requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished.” This represents the successful conclusion of an arduous process in which Bolivia has sought to reconcile its international treaty obligations with its 2009 Constitution, which obliges upholding the coca leaf as part of Bolivia’s cultural patrimony.
The UK says in its objection to Bolivia's reaccession to the 1961 UN Single Convention with a reservation that allows for the traditional chewing of coca, that it 'respects the cultural importance of the coca leaf in Bolivia'. It also recognises the status of traditional uses of coca under the Bolivian Constitution. These words reflect that change in views one would have expected since the 1960s. But in what way does the UK in fact 'respect' the cultural importance of coca when going on to try to see through the destruction of the manifestation of that culture? (See also: Objections to Bolivia's reservation to allow coca chewing in the UN conventions)
Sweden joined the United States and the United Kingdom in objecting to the re-accession of Bolivia to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs after Bolivia had denounced the convention and asked for re-accession with a reservation that allows for the traditional age-old ancestral habit of coca chewing in the country. Italy and Canada also objected, but the objection of Sweden is particularly disturbing.
Human rights groups have urged the UK government to heed the recommendations of an influential parliamentary committee that has told the government to stop funnelling money into anti drug-trafficking programmes in countries that administer the death penalty. Over the past decade, the UK has given millions of pounds to help Pakistan, China and Iran combat drug smuggling. MPs and human rights groups are horrified by credible claims that the increased aid has met with a corresponding rise in arrests which, in turn, has led to more people ending up on death row, including several Britons.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" summed up the response from the Home Office, and later David Cameron, to the publication of the home affairs select committee's year-long inquiry into drug policy last week. Why waste time on setting up a royal commission into drug policy (something his coalition partners, in contrast, went on to call for) when our current drug policy is working? The key evidence for this, quoted like a mantra by the government, is falling drug use. But the "falling drug use" plank on which the government is walking is a very shaky one.
The decriminalisation of some drugs appeared a more realistic prospect tonight after charities backed Nick Clegg’s call for a Royal Commission to review Britain’s laws on illegal substances. “A Royal Commission may or may not be the best way to organise a review but, whatever the process, let’s stop pretending that a 50-year-old strategy, and a 40-year-old law, are sufficient to manage a 21st-century drug market.” (See also: Debate: Should the UK follow Washington's example and permit the legalisation of drugs?)
Divisions between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over Britain's "war on drugs" emerged on Friday after the Liberal Democrat leader said that current policy was not working and accused politicians of "a conspiracy of silence". He said Cameron should have the courage to look at issues such as decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs. (See also: Nick Clegg calls for royal commission on drugs reform)
The Home Affairs Select Committee in the United Kingdom report on drug policy draws on lessons from Portugal’s decriminalisation of drug possession and puts forward a case for the UK reconsidering its own policies. Alex Stevens assesses the situation in Portugal, noting that while decriminalisation has coincided with a fall in the most problematic forms of drug use, it is not the only factor. (See also: Portugal: Ten Years After Decriminalization)
The underlying aim of The Sentencing Council's new guideline for drug offences in England and Wales is to ensure sentences are consistent and the punishment proportionate. The guideline was launched in February 2012 and early results suggest it is beginning to have its desired effect. But achieving that consistency has involved a long process of research and careful testing of the results with judges, lawyers and the general public. (See also: Drugs, crime and punishment)
D. Thanki, J. Matias, P. Griffiths, A. Noor, D. Olszewski, R. Simon, J. Vicente
14 November 2012
This report brings together, for the first time in Europe, an integrated overview of the prevalence of intensive cannabis use, defined as daily or almost daily cannabis use (use on 20 or more days in the month preceding survey). Self-reported data regarding frequency of cannabis use from large, probabilistic, nationally representative samples of general population surveys from 20 countries, representing more than 83 % of the population of EU and Norway, were collected through two rounds of ad hoc data collection in 2004 and 2007 and through a routine, standard data collection instrument since 2010.
Britain's funding of Iran's anti-drugs trafficking programmes has been called into question after a UN watchdog expressed alarm at a sharp rise in the number of narcotics smugglers executed in the Islamic state. A new report by Christof Heyns, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, spells out concerns that the flow of overseas aid to Iran has been followed by an increase in hangings.
What should be researched is not drugs policy but drugs politics, the hold that taboo has on those in power, and the thrall that rightwing newspapers have over them. This has nothing to do with public opinion, which is now strongly in favour of reform. Most sensible people find the present regime disastrous and want drugs regulated, rather than the wild west that is the urban drug scene today. It is politicians who think "soft on drugs" implies some loss of potency. It is the greatest single failure of modern statecraft.
Ruth Runciman, Chair of the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC)
15 October 2012
Despite the successes of recent years, there are still approximately 2,000 drug-related deaths in the UKevery year. Nearly 400,000 people have serious drug problems and the annual cost to society is estimated to be about £15bn. There is little or no evidence to support much of current expenditure on law enforcement and education in schools. We spend billions a year without knowing if it does any good. In boom years this was objectionable; now it is unsustainable.
Illicit drug use in England and Wales is firmly on a downward curve, with the latest annual figures confirming the long-term trend that they might simply be "going out of fashion". The latest figures published on Thursday even record a decline in recently banned so-called "legal highs" such as mephedrone and Spice (synthetic cannabis). "More generally, drug use having become more normalised in society, might then be just as prey to fashion as any other cultural artefact. Drugs don't appear to be 'cool' these days as they once were," writes Harry Shapiro, editor of Druglink magazine.
There is a real concern among many scientists that the government's classification of ecstasy as Class A overstates the danger it poses to society and inhibits important research that could help people suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Another area where MDMA could be useful is in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Scientists believe it could be successful at targeting the part of the brain that causes rumination and repetitive thinking about negative experiences.
Penalties for growing and selling cannabis must be toughened because a surge in the trade is driving up shootings and gang-related violence, a senior police officer has warned. According to Assistant Chief Constable Andy Ward of Merseyside police, an "explosion" in cannabis production has resulted in bitter struggles between rival gangs keen to exploit the ease by which cannabis can be manufactured and what they regard as easy money.
A former government adviser on drugs has told MPs that alcohol consumption would fall by as much as 25% if Dutch-style cannabis "coffee shops" were introduced in Britain. Prof David Nutt also told the Commons home affairs committee that he stood by his claim that horse-riding was more dangerous than taking ecstasy, despite the fact that the comparison triggered his sacking as chairman of the advisory committee on the misuse of drugs (ACMD).
Drugs such as LSD and MDMA should be decriminalised and sold in pharmacies, the government's former chief drug advisor has said. Professor David Nutt said that many substances currently banned are no more toxic than alcohol and that the potential penalty and criminal record which go with them amount to more harm than the drugs themselves. He added that he was not in favour of full legalisation and "selling heroin in supermarkets" but said a system whereby drugs - including Class A substances - were sold in pharmacies could work.