SMMGP position on drug policy reform (Sep 2018)

The statement below sets out our position on drug policy reform.

This week the Global Commission on Drug Policy published its latest report Regulation: The Responsible Regulation of Drugs. Also this week, the BMJ Opinion published a blog post on Why doctors should support regulated markets in illicit drugs discussing the Commission's report and stating that it is often underappreciated that risks attached to using drugs increase when it is produced, sold and consumed in an unregulated criminal environment.  

There have for some for some time now been calls globally for reform including from the World Health Organisation[1], UNAIDS and many non-government organisations[2]. In 2016 the BMJ published an editorial entitled The War on Drugs has Failed which called on doctors to take a lead in drug policy reform[3].   

SMMGP has worked for more than 20 years with a focus on supporting good practice in alcohol and other drug treatment, and the promotion of general health and wellbeing of people in treatment within the constraints of UK government drug policy. The framework has a political goal of prohibition and aims for abstinence from illicit drugs as enshrined in the 2017 UK Drug Strategy.

We have largely left the discourse here in the UK around politics and policy to our colleagues in other agencies that are better placed to comment on those matters, such as Release, LEAP UK, Transform Drug Policy Foundation and many others. UK parliamentarians and law enforcers, and perhaps most importantly, more and more parents and other family members and friends who have experienced the tragedy of a drug related death of someone close to them are building a strong case that calls for reform.

In the past year, actual change is happening which is slowly eclipsing the rhetoric (e.g. drug testing at festivals by The Loop, and multi-agency local initiatives where law enforcement and health work together, such as the one recently announced in Middlesbrough).

We are fully in support of those working for drug policy reform in the UK in line with international evidence which has concluded that governments should consider decriminalisation of minor drug offences, strengthen health and social responses to drug use, and work towards pragmatic and rational policies with the health, wellbeing and dignity of people who use drugs at the centre. We stand with the growing global movement calling for drug policy reform including removing punitive policies and giving consideration to market regulation. 

 SMMGP, September 2018

(Read our book reviews – “Good Cop, Bad War” and “Drug Wars” by Neil Woods and JS Rafaeli).

[1] UNGASS 2016. Contributions from United National Entities https://www.unodc.org/ungass2016/en/contribution_UN_entities.html

[2] UNGASS 2016. Contributions from stakeholders https://www.unodc.org/ungass2016/en/contribution_UN_ngos.html

[3] BMJ 2016;355:i6067 doi:10.1136/bmj.i6067