AGM of the Group

Date: 18/07/18                                                  Time: 09:30-10:45                                            Location: Room M, PCH

Attendees: Crispin Blunt MP, Jeff Smith MP, Baroness Meacher, Baroness Walmsley, Ronnie Cowan MP , Lord Radice, Lord Mancroft, Baroness Hamwee.

Also in attendance: Tarsilo Onuluk (Office of Crispin Blunt), William Archer (Office of Jeff Smith), Office of Ann Clwyd, Frank Warburton (Office of Molly Meacher


1.       Apologies

Baroness Afshar, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Lord Ashdown, Richard Benyon MP, Baroness Chalker, Lord Dear, David Drew MP, Baroness Finlay, Mary Glindon MP, Lord Howarth, Lord Ingelwood, Bishop James, Eleanor Laing MP, Pauline Latham MP, Clive Lewis MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Layla Moran MP Dan Poulter MP, Alan Whitehead MP, Paul Williams MP.

2.       Minutes of Officers Meeting - 23rd May 2018.

Approved without comment

3.       AGM Business.

A)     Election of officers:

Baroness Joan Walmsley (Vice-Chair) and Lord Alan Howarth (Treasurer) stepped down from their positions.

APPG members expressed their thanks for the service of Baroness Walmsley and Lord Howarth for their service to the Group.

Co-Chairs and other positions approved.

B)      Activity Report approved without comment

C)      Income/Expenditure Statement approved without comment

4. Financial report

See the financial report here.

5.       Presentation from Mike Trace, Strategic Adviser to the Group

Mike ran through his experience in the drug policy field and gave an overview of international drug policy direction since UNGASS 2016.

Mike proposed to use recess to work on a two year work plan which will be circulated for the officers to review upon return.

Mike was appointed as a Strategic Adviser to the Group.

6.       AOB

Ronnie Cowan MP gave an update on the progress of the APPG Medical Cannabis. Officers discussed the medical cannabis campaign progress.

ACTION: Officers agreed to write to the MHRA following the Home Secretary’s announcement.




6.       Presentations from guest speakers on International Drug Policy Issues

Ann Fordham – Executive Director, International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)

IDPC are a global network of civil society organisations which comes together to campaign for progressive drug policies. IDPC Provide policy and strategic advice to Governments at national and local level.

Momentum in the drug policy debate has been gathering, more people coming to the table advocating for reform.

International drug control regime is based on three treaties:

·         The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol;

·         The Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971;

·         The Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

Governed by three institutions:

·         Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND)

·         International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)

·         World Health Organisation (WHO)

These exercise  normative pressure on actors to punish users, dealers and traffickers in order to rid the world of drugs. This has been consensus for over 50 years.

These actors have failed to reduce the scale of the illicit drug market – UNODC say the drug market is thriving, the market is more resilient and robust than ever.  As an example, the US spends an estimated $100 billion each year on drug law enforcement.

Next March, UN should be reviewing goals set in 2009 in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action of 2009.

UNGASS – In 2016, Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala called for an urgent conference on drug law reform due to alarming rise in drug related deaths and violence.

The outcome document was viewed as lacking initially, but perception of the document has changed among EU and Latin American countries.

State of international drug policy debate - The consensus is cracking, there’s now no global agreement on drug policy approaches.  There are divisions between those who want to extend 2009 targets to eliminate the market, and EU and others pressing for reform based on the UNGASS document linked to the SDGs.


Naomi Burke-Shyne – Deputy Director, Harm Reduction International

Harm Reduction International is a non-profit working to reduce the health and social impacts of drug use and drug policy.

31 million people in world have drug use problem according to the World Drug Report 2018. We must do everything possible to reduce harm from drug use, harm reduction measures are cost-effective and have much better health outcomes.

Examples of these initiatives include the provision of Naloxone, an anti-overdose medication, and drug testing in city centres to analyse and prevent harm associated with street drugs.

Political landscape – Strong man stances across the world are not allowing space for harm reduction e.g. Sri Lanka, Russia, US, Philippines are taking more oppressive stances.

10 years ago UK was champion of harm reduction but has stepped back from the international stage. 

There has been a deprioritisation of harm reduction by the UK Government and internationally, UK should be providing strong leadership, for example through:

·         The UNAIDS Coordinating Board, chaired by the UK’s Daniel Graymore.

·         Robert Carr Fund – UK should increase contribution from £5m to £10m which funds local level advocates.



Niamh Eastwood - Executive Director, Release

Release campaign for reform of UK drug laws and an end criminal sanctions for all drugs. 

They undertake research on countries across the globe who have adopted this approach and have been asked to provide technical assistance to Ireland and Ghana who are hoping to decriminalise all drugs.

There has been a 109% increase in heroin deaths over the last 5 years as a result of the Governments abstinence-based approach and devastating cuts to treatment budgets.

Stop and search cases have reduced so prosecutions have dropped however 40,000 people still gained criminal records due to drugs last year.

These are predominantly poor and BAME people despite the latter use drugs less than white people. Often young people.

The UK Government knows it doesn’t work:

·         2014 Drug Comparator Report – Some took harsh approaches such as Japan and Sweden and others practical, found former had little impact on drug-related harm.

·         Evaluation of 2010 UK Drug Strategy – Chapter 5 on enforcement, showed that £1.6 billion spent on enforcement but the Government admitted that it had little impact on the resilience of the market.

Over 25 countries across the globe including Italy, Spain, US States etc have all decriminalised drugs to varying extents. The evidence shows that drug use did not rise as a result of the reforms, reduction in injecting drug use, drug related deaths fell rapidly.

·         Portugal – Drug-related deaths now stand at 3 per million, ours is 69 per million, and over 100 per million in Scotland.

·         Czech Republic – Analysed impact of criminal legal framework, found that criminal sanction had no impact on criminal drug use or drug-related harm.

·         Australia – Compared West (criminalised cannabis) and South (not criminalised) Australia, West had worse social and criminal justice outcomes


Frank Warburton