Light drug users 'should not get criminal records'
PUBLISHED October 15, 2012
The UK Drug Policy Commission, which carried out a six-year study, has called for a "wholesale review'' of drugs laws and the classification system.
It likened some drug use to "moderately selfish behaviour" such as "gambling or eating junk food".
The report said that possession of small amounts for personal use should be a civil offence. It argued that many otherwise law-abiding young adults are criminalised and this is not always effective in promoting responsible behaviour.
The commission urged Parliament "to revisit the penalties applied to all drug offences and particularly those concerned with production and supply'', but stopped short of calling for the decriminalisation or legalisation of most drugs.
Its six-year study found much of the £3 billion Britain spends each year on tackling illicit drugs was not based on evidence.
However, the commission stopped short of calling for the decriminalisation or legalisation of most drugs.
"We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence at the moment to support the case for removing criminal penalties for the major production or supply offences of most drugs," it said. A new approach was needed because the rapid creation of new drugs was changing the market too quickly for the traditional methods used to control it.
Prof Colin Blakemore, the former chief executive of the Medical Research Council and a commission member, said: "Medicine has moved past the age when we treated disease on the basis of hunches and received wisdom.
"The overwhelming consensus now is that it is unethical, inefficient and dangerous to use untested and unvalidated methods of treatment and prevention."
Dame Ruth Runciman, the commission chairman, said British governments had done much to reduce the damage caused by drug problems, including needle exchanges and improvements to treatment for addicts.
"Those programmes are supported by evidence, but much of the rest of drug policy does not have an adequate evidence base," she said.
The Home Office said it "welcomed" the UKDPC report but was confident that its approach to drugs was correct.