Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Report raises need for UK to overhaul its drug policy


Britain's drug policy has failed and should be replaced with a system that recognizes drinking and smoking can cause more harm than some illegal drugs, according to an independent study published on Thursday.

Shifting the focus of drug education to primary school children from secondary students and the establishment of "shooting galleries,'' or rooms where users can inject drugs, are among the recommendations of a two-year study into drug policy and alternative solutions by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manu-factures and Commerce.

New laws are needed that acknowledge that "whether we like it or not, drugs are and will remain a fact of life," the report said. "On that basis, the aim of the law should be to reduce the amounts of harms caused to individuals, their friends and families, their children and their communities."

The commission, composed of academics, politicians, drug workers, journalists and a senior police officer, said current laws are "driven by moral panic," with large amounts of money wasted on futile efforts to stop supply rather than going after the criminal networks behind the drugs on British streets.

The report, which aims to influence a government drug strategy review due next year, also called for jail sentences to be given for only the most serious drug-related crimes and for addicts to be given jobs and housing as part of treatment. It recommends the current drug classification system be replaced by an "index of harms."

"The evidence suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others," said the panel's chairman, Anthony King of Essex University.

The report called for an end to the current policy's "criminal justice bias" that treats addiction as a health and social problem rather than a cause of crime.

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