Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Welcome to the APPG for Drug Policy Reform Website

The APPG for Drug Policy Reform began in January 2011 with the position of the Group being:-
  • That the global war on drugs has failed
  • That we will work for drug policy reform
  • That the Group will draw upon available evidence and experience in order to inform our recommendations

Achievements to date:-

  • International Conference November 2011
  • Inquiry Report: Towards a Safer Drug Policy
  • European Initiative for global debate and reform of drug policy event January 2014

Guidance on interpreting the UN Drug Conventions

Drug policy is now part of a debate at UN level, and a review of  the UN Drug Conventions on Drugs will begin at the UN General Assembly in September and culminate in the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy in March 2016 where Member States will be considering a number of policy approaches. As a contribution to that debate the APPG has published Guidance on a flexible interpretation of the Drug Conventions which demonstrates the extent to which reform of national drug policies can be accommodated within current Conventions.

The guidance has been prepared by the Group with the support of officials and experts from Latin America and Europe. It provides a radical re-interpretation of the Conventions.  

It is not, for example, justified to violate human rights in the quest to comply with the conventions on drugs. Blanket aerial coca crop eradication in rural areas is unacceptable when this leaves families and whole communities without access to clean water or a livelihood.

Likewise, denying terminally ill people access to essential pain relieving medicines, in the interests of upholding the UN drug conventions cannot be justified.   And yet this is commonplace in 160 UN Member States.   In total, 5.5 billion people, including 5.5 million with terminal cancer live in countries with low or non-existent access to controlled medicines.  

Across the Globe, children and young people are being criminalised for using small quantities of drugs.   This prohibitionist approach to use leads to greater use of the most dangerous Class A drugs; higher levels of addiction and long term damage to the prospects of the children and young people affected

The UN drug conventions permit drug supply and possession for ‘medical and scientific purposes.  The Guidance proposes that a modern interpretation of the term 'scientific purposes' enables drug reforms to be introduced and evaluated, thus contributing to creating a new experimental and evidential ethos and improving the knowledge base on the efficacy of drug policies. 

To read the full guidance click Guidance on Interpreting the UN Conventions

The Guidance references two legal opinions prepared for the All-Party Group by a senior UK barrister, Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC. The first prepared with Sarah Clarke QC concerns the UN Drug Conventions - Room for Flexibility, the second deals with the issue of Regulated Markets for Cannabis.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill

In an attempt to limit the use of 'legal highs' the Government has introduced the Psychoactive Substances Bill which seeks a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances whilst exempting certain psychoactive substances such as coffee which are thought to be acceptable.

The APPG has had a number of concerns about the bill including:
  • a blanket ban as proposed is unworkable as it will criminalise 'harmless, everyday products'
  • the removal of a consideration of harm from the decision to ban could mean that suppliers of such low harm substances which are nonetheless psychoactive could face prosecution
  • There is no role within the legislation for expert advice from bodies such as the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)
Members of the APPG raised these concerns as the Bill was passing through the Lords at its report stage on the 14th July. Click here to read the Hansard record of the debate.