Liberal Democrats are expected to call for an independent inquiry into the decriminalisation of possession of all drugs. A motion to be put at the party's annual conference next month is likely to be passed. It would be the first government-sponsored inquiry into decriminalisation, but is unlikely to have the support of David Cameron who has hardened his approach to drugs after being a past advocate of more liberal legislation as a member of the home affairs select committee.
Dame Judi Dench, Sir Richard Branson, and Sting have joined an ex-drugs minister and three former chief constables in calling for the decriminalisation of the possession of all drugs. The high-profile celebrities together with leading lawyers, academics, artists and politicians have signed an open letter to David Cameron to mark this week's 40th anniversary of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The letter, published in a full-page advertisement in The Guardian, calls for a "swift and transparent" review of the effectiveness of current drugs policies.
Forty years after the introduction of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, more than 2.8 million people report using illicit drugs every year in England and Wales. While cannabis remains overwhelmingly the most popular, this Home Office total also includes 800,000 mainly young adults who put the country at the top of the European league table for powder cocaine use.
The Demos/UKDPC report Taking Drugs Seriously published today sets out clearly how legal highs have exposed the ancient Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA) as totally inadequate legislation. They propose a whole new range of regulatory controls for the 600 or so drugs (and growing) covered by the act. The report was described by Britain's most senior drugs officer, Chief Constable Tim Hollis, as "a timely and helpful contribution".
The UK's "outdated" drug laws could be doing more harm than good and are failing to recognise that banning some "legal highs" may have negative consequences for public health, according to the leading independent panel set up to analyse drugs policy. On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act, the UK Drug Policy Commission warns that the exponential rise in "legal highs" and the availability of substances over the internet is making current laws redundant.