MP Julian Huppert takes his fight for a change in the drug laws to Parliament tomorrow (Thursday, October 30) prompting the first full Parliamentary debate on the issue in a generation.
He wants a major review of the country’s drug policy with a move towards decriminalising drugs for personal use which is included in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
And he welcomes the call to look again at the policy on marijuana use for medicinal purposes.
“It’s about a common sense approach,” says Julian. “We need an approach which will do what is right and what will work. It’s about putting pragmatism over ideology. Doing what makes sense over letting pre-conceptions lead us into failure.
“The evidence is growing that marijuana can be used as an effective medical remedy. It can be used to relieve the symptoms of a number of diseases. If it is shown that this can help improve people’s lives, then why should we not look at doing this? People should not have to break the law to access these things.
Julian played a key role in the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into the county’s drug policy which heard from lead figures on the front line war against drugs.
And he went to Portugal to learn more about how the country’s policy of decriminalising possession and targeting the dealers has cut drug usage and got more people into treatment.
“The evidence is clear,” said Julian. “We need a drugs policy based on evidence and on minimising the damage caused by drugs. The public mood is changing and the case for reform cannot be any stronger.
“We spend £5 million every year putting people in prison – people whose sole offence is possessing drugs for their own use. More broadly, we spend £3 billion a year policing the drugs trade. In fact, we spend more than any other country in Europe and yet we have one of the highest levels of drug use.
“It is estimated that there are around 2,000 drug-related deaths in the UK every year and 400,000 people are believed to have serious drug problems. And it’s not just the users that are affected; it impacts on their families, friends and the broader community.”
Julian will tell Parliament that the UN General Assembly will hold a special session on drugs in 2016 where many of the most prominent voices will be calling for fundamental change.
“We want to see an approach so that people who need help can find the support they need,” he added. “I am proud that my party is calling for an immediate end to imprisoning people for personal possession.
“We are calling for a change so that drugs policy is made a joint Health and Home Office responsibility – something the Home Affairs Committee’s report also called for.
“We also want to create Royal Commission to review our drug laws and make recommendations for reform including looking at the wide range of legal highs that are available, some of which are more dangerous than many already prohibited substances.
“Prohibiting drug use hasn’t reduced the harm, it’s increased it. There has been a rise in drug cartels and other major consequences of driving the trade underground.
“Instead of filling up our courts system with people who need help we need to look at other ways of tackling this problem. Our country has a chance to take the lead here – times have changed in the last 40 years, it’s time our drug policy caught up.”