Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 18 June 2010

Motion for drugs impact assessment at Lib Dem Autumn Conference

My friend Ewan, the founder and head of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform has put together a motion for Autumn conference in which he calls for an impact assessment of current drug policy including all alternatives.

Both parties in our coalition government are on record as saying they are always keen to assess the evidence relating to policy. An impact assessment is the best way to be able to impartially assess the evidence relating to drugs policy, therefore I hope that this move will be welcomed by the Lib Dem party leadership and at large. There is also a section about heroin maintenance programmes for which there is already ample evidence of efficacy.

Ewan is looking for voting reps to support this motion at conference and more generally for support from across the party. I think it is vital that although we are in government we still retain the dynamic policy debate that attracted so many to the party in the first place.

If you are a Lib Dem and want to support the motion please contact me via e-mail. The deadline for the motion is 30th June so please get in touch before then.

The wording of the motion is below:

Conference notes:

A) The state of Britain's finances requires urgent consideration of policies which might significantly reduce state spending but which at the same time could help create a healthier society.
B) Despite many billions of pounds of drug-related spending each year nationally and internationally, there has been a clear long term pattern of increasing drug availability, increasing use of drugs that cause the most harm, increasing health harms, and increasing levels of crime.
C) Illicit drug profits are fuelling crime, corruption and conflict across the globe and undermining security and development in a growing number of producer and transit countries, with the gravest impacts falling on the poor and marginalised. Up to 50% of Taleban income comes from the opium trade.

D) Prior to coming before Parliament all new legislation is now required to have an Impact Assessment completed comparing the costs and benefits of the proposed approach with all the main alternatives to ensure the best option is being taken. This was not the case in 1971, and no Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) has been carried out.

E) A comprehensive survey by the World Health Organisation has demonstrated that there is no association between more stringent prohibition and lower levels of drug use. Heroin maintenance treatment trials have yielded consistently positive results. Wider adoption of this practice in Switzerland has extended these excellent results and has broad public support. Decriminalisation of personal possession and use of drugs in Portugal has also yielded many benefits and is now supported by all the main political parties in the country.

Conference believes:
i) We have a duty to assess all possible approaches to drugs to ascertain the best way to:
a. Minimise deaths, injuries and illness brought about by overdose, contaminants, blood-borne infection, and the mental health implications of drug use.
b. Ensure dependent drug users are not compelled to harm themselves or others by funding their drug use through street prostitution, acquisitive crime or drug dealing
c. Increase respect for and co-operation with the police, ensure drug dealing is no longer an attractive career path for young people, minimise gang violence and prevent prison overcrowding.
d. Spare the Treasury billions of pounds in criminal justice costs, raise tax income, and reduce the costs of drug-related crime to businesses and individuals.
e. Ensure producer and transit countries are not being destabilised and constrained in their development potential by the activity of drug cartels and the resulting resource expenditure required to combat them.
f. Reduce the exposure of children to drugs and promote safe and stable family and social environments for their healthy development.
ii) The Liberal Democrats are a party committed to evidence-based policy formation. A drugs policy impact assessment can allow Britain to lead the world in subjecting this politically controversial subject to the kind of independent, expert scrutiny that could finally break the taboo on public political engagement with drugs policy issues.
Conference therefore calls for the Government to:
1) Recognise the extensive evidence supporting heroin maintenance treatment as an effective treatment option for dependent users, make funds available for the setting up of heroin maintenance treatment programmes throughout the UK, and set ambitious targets for the reduction of indicators such as street prostitution, acquisitive crime and drug-related death to encourage provision of effective health and social services for dependent drug users.
2) i) Immediately initiate an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) and related legislation and policy comparing the current approach to drugs with all the alternatives including stepping up prohibition, Portuguese-style decriminalisation of personal possession and use and strict legal regulation of drug production and supply by the government. This process must be developed in cooperation with key stakeholders and be open to rigorous independent scrutiny.

ii) Call on the EC and UN to undertake an Impact Assessment internationally to incorporate impacts on producer and transit countries, and ensure drug policy reflects the “three pillars of the UN” in supporting development, human rights, and peace and security across the globe.


John said...

shouldn't that be `to be debated at Lib Dem Conference` lol

teekblog said...

cracking motion, if a little wordy - that criticism as always levelled at me though so I don't mean it in a bad sense...!

Had I been a voting rep I would have supported the motion - hope you and Ewan find sufficient signatories to get it submitted, would be great to debate evidence-based drugs policy @ Conference!