How to help ensure that the drive to reform the UK's outdated drugs policy continues
The comparative failure of the UK's drugs policy is acknowledged by far fewer MPs than you might think. Despite incontrovertible evidence that ideologically-driven policies are failing, most MPs are scared to look at a bold new direction. But an increasing number are beginning to admit in public that it is unacceptable to spend over £3 billion of taxpayers' money each year tackling drug use, roughly half of which is spent on drug law enforcement. These MPs are from all parties, and Julian Huppert is one of the most prominent.
In 2014, Julian teamed up with Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and Bob Ainsworth of the Labour party to secure a landmark parliamentary debate, calling for a reassessment of existing policies to tackle the misuse of drugs. Julian said: “Thoughtless, ineffective and costly drugs policy in this country has been a complete shambles. It’s about time we moved away from treating drugs users as criminals and putting them in prison. More attention is needed on giving treatment and helping people come off addictive drugs.”
In Portugal, where the government has pushed to get addicts into treatment, whilst also decriminalising personal drug use, health outcomes are radically improving and the number of deaths caused by drugs is falling. Pleasingly, the approach is also extremely popular amongst the public - polls show support for the reforms are extremely high.
In his speech during the debate, Julian said: "My belief is that the so-called war on drugs has simply not worked. What it has done is cause more harm than it has alleviated. It is not about being hard on drugs or soft on drugs; it is about being smart on drugs and doing the right thing. The model we have had for so long in this country has been based on the idea that when it comes to some substances, our aim should be to stop people taking them. The idea is to reduce the number of users, rather than looking at the harm the substances cause. That is the wrong goal and it has not worked.
"Drug use is still high, with millions of people regularly breaking the law, which is not an effective disincentive. Hon. Members can talk to many police officers about this, but frankly it makes the law look silly when 4 million people a year are committing a criminal offence, of whom 100,000 - randomly selected, but with somewhat more from poorer communities and black and minority ethnic groups - get arrested, with a few unlucky people, again disproportionately poorer people and those from black and minority ethnic groups, being thrown in jail. It does not work. It is time to change."
The work done by Julian Huppert is a small start towards turning around government policy. It will be a long road. But the important thing is to get Julian back into parliament to help continue the effort.
Yes, there is, whether you're an individual or an organisation, and whether you're in Cambridge or not. Most important of all is encouraging people to vote for Julian Huppert. Even if you're not in Cambridge, you may know people who are. Remind them that despite what the media would have us believe, we're not voting for the next prime minister, we're voting for our local MP. The importance of a change in drugs policy won't need any explanation, but not everyone realises the importance of Julian Huppert's election to the possibility of making it happen.
Email friends and colleagues a link to this page, or tweet a link to it. Share this page on Facebook. Or link to some of the articles below. You could even blog about the subject. This transcends party politics and is about the future of drugs policy in the UK. Every message and every conversation helps - yours as much as anyone's.