Read it here first! This letter was sent by several Liberal Youth representatives to the Home Secretary, Teresa May, and to editors of several major national newspapers. The Libertine is honoured to be the first to publish.
Dear Home Secretary,
We are writing to express our dissatisfaction with this government’s simplistic stance on drug policy, in light of a recent report from the Home Affairs Committee.
This committee looked into a plethora of international evidence, considered extensive and complex problems relating to illegal drugs (and the trade thereof) and concluded that a full investigation is merited in the form of a Royal Commission.
This is a sensible request. It is not a commitment to any course of action other than to fully explore the available evidence. Yet their recommendations have been rejected out of hand in favour, we believe, of blind faith in antiquated policies.
This is regardless of our failure to significantly tackle Britain’s drugs problem – a small decline in illegal drugs has come hand-in-hand with an increase in lethal new legal ones. Any improvement, furthermore, should be measured against the fact that a report released four years ago showed Britain to have the worst drugs problem in Europe. Hardly a tough record to beat.
Our government is blindly ignoring the vastly beneficial possibilities that a change in drugs policy could afford both in reduction in crime and increase in successful treatment.
One must ask, as spending cuts become increasingly near the bone, whether the huge profits associated with illegal drugs – which are largely going straight to violent gangs, fuelling crime – could be recouped and spent on easing NHS costs and increasing funding for anti-gang policing.
Portugal successfully decriminalised drug possession over ten years ago and has reaped huge benefits: the number of addicts halved over a decade; overdoses fell still further, saving their health services millions; HIV cases fell sharply. Their bold, evidence-based approach has been a huge success – we dismiss exploring the options in Britain at our own expense.
Liberal Youth have long argued for a sensible, evidence-based approach which aims to help addicts to recover instead of rushing to punish them. A year ago, the Liberal Democrats voted in support of a similar stance.
We believe we should be discussing how best to overcome drugs problems, not how best to emphasise our ‘toughness’ to voters. Failure to deal with the issue does not represent toughness; it represents failure.
There will be no panacea, but there may be far more effective policy options.
We, the undersigned, hope that you will reconsider your response to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report and set up a Royal Commission immediately.
Conor McKenzie, Chair of Liberal Youth England
Samuel Lawes, Western Counties Chair, Liberal Youth
Stuart Wheatcroft, West Midlands Chair, Liberal Youth
Sean Davey, Greater London Chair, Liberal Youth
Antony Taylor, East of England Chair, Liberal Youth
Robin Rea, North West Chair, Liberal Youth
Harry Matthews, Sheffield, Chair of Liberal Youth
Ben Richards, East of England Chair, Liberal Youth
Sam Fisk, International Officer, Liberal Youth
Lance Casely-Hayford, Yorkshire & the Humber Chair, Liberal Youth
Sarah Harding, Liberal Youth, Southport
Kavya Kaushik, Liberal Youth, Aberdeen
Tristan Pithers, Liberal Youth, Newcastle Central
Request for Royal Commission: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/news/121210-drugs-report/
Britain worst in Europe, 2007: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2007/04/18/uk-britain-drugs-idUKL1848771320070418