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NATIONAL DRUG POLICY:  UNITED KINGDOM

Prepared For The Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs

Gérald Lafrenière
Law and Government Division

3 July 2001

LIBRARY OF PARLIAMENT


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION 

NATIONAL DRUG POLICY 

   A.  Ten-Year Strategy to Battle Drugs
   B.   Legislative Framework
      1. Introduction
      2. Classes of Drugs
      3. Offences
      4. Penalties
      5. Exemptions
      6. Miscellaneous
      7. Other Relevant Legislation in the Field of Drug Misuse 

DEBATE IN THE UK

RECENT KEY REPORTS AND STUDIES
   A. Parliament
   B. Runciman Report
   C. Other Reports 

ADMINISTRATION 

COSTS
   A. Public Costs
   B. Social Costs 

STATISTICS
   A. Use
   B. Offences 

RECENT EVENTS 

MAIN EVENTS IN UK DRUG CONTROL 

APPENDICES


NATIONAL DRUG POLICY:  UNITED KINGDOM

INTRODUCTION

                          This paper provides a brief introduction to the national drug policy of the United Kingdom (UK).  In addition, the text includes a review of the UK’s ten-year strategy to deal with drug misuse and of the legislative framework with respect to drugs.  The administrations involved in implementing the strategy are set out, and recent key studies and reports conducted by Parliament, the government or related institutions in the area of drug misuse are also reviewed.  The costs related to drug misuse are briefly discussed.  Finally, information regarding prevalence of use and offences is set out.  The paper focuses on the application of the drug policy in England; its application varies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

                        This paper forms part of a series of country pictures being prepared by the Parliamentary Research Branch of the Library of Parliament for the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs.  

NATIONAL DRUG POLICY
   A.  Ten-Year Strategy to Battle Drugs  

                        In 1998, the government set out a ten-year strategy for combatting drug misuse in the UK which was published in a paper entitled Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain.  An Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator and a Deputy Co-ordinator were appointed to manage delivery of the strategy.  The approach combines both enforcement and prevention, with the government stressing the long-term nature of the drug strategy.  Enforcement against all illegal drugs would continue although the focus is to be on the more harmful drugs, including heroin and cocaine.  Because of the complexity of the drug problem, the approach is based on partnership between agencies, groups and government departments in planning and delivering activities which are generally coordinated at the local level.

                        The strategy has four targets/aims:  young people, communities, treatment, and availability.

 

·        Young people:  The goal is to help young people resist drug misuse in order to allow them to achieve their full potential.  The key objective is to reduce the number of people under age 25 reporting use of illegal drugs in the past month and previous year.  To accomplish this goal, the UK has set up drug education in schools and has targeted drug prevention programs focusing on young people at risk.  For example, the Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator’s Annual Report 1999/2000 indicates that 93% of secondary schools and 75% of primary schools had policies on drug education and that 95% of secondary schools had policies covering drug-related incidents.

·        Communities:  As part of the approach to protect communities, the strategy has programs which seek to identify offenders who misuse drugs at key points in the criminal justice system to enable them to obtain appropriate treatment.  Thus, the criminal justice system is viewed as having an important function in identifying drug users not receiving treatment services and facilitating their access to those services.  It is hoped this will break the link between drugs and crime and will protect communities from drug-related anti-social and criminal behaviour.  The key objective is to reduce levels of repeat offending amongst drug‑misusing offenders.  In order to do this, there has been an expansion of arrest referral schemes on a national basis (where drug users are identified and encouraged to take appropriate treatment) and of probation and court referral schemes.  In addition, new drug treatment and testing orders that were available in pilot schemes will soon be available in all courts in England and Wales.  This scheme allows a court, with the offender’s consent, to make an order requiring the offender to undergo treatment either in parallel with another community order, or as a sentence in its own right.  In addition, the program known as Carats (counselling, assessment, referral, advice and throughcare) is available in all England and Wales prisons, and additional prison-based rehabilitation programs are planned.

·        Treatment:  To enable people to overcome drug problems and live healthier lives, it is felt that treatment should be provided, including harm reduction strategies.  This also requires linking to wider government programs to deal with other problems that drugs misusers may have (e.g., social issues, education, housing and employment).  The goal is to see increasing numbers of drug misusers, including prisoners, receiving treatment.  One of the key issues currently in the UK with respect to treatment is the waiting times that people have to endure before obtaining appropriate treatment.  At present, the supply of treatment services is failing to meet demand.  A National Treatment Agency is planned which would be responsible for drug treatment provision and for ensuring the delivery of high-quality services.  With respect to harm reduction, the introduction of needle exchanges has led to relatively low HIV prevalence.

·        Availability:  The final aim is to stifle the availability of drugs on the street.  The key objective is to reduce access to drugs amongst 5- to 16-year-olds.  The goals are an increase in the seizure of class A drugs, the disrupting of more class A traffickers, and an increase in assets seized from traffickers.  Although assessing the impact of enforcement on availability may be difficult, effective law enforcement remains an important part of the UK’s strategy for tackling drugs.  A proportion of money from the confiscated assets fund is channelled back into anti-drug activity in support of the national drugs strategy.  The fund totalled £3 million in 1999/2000 and should rise to £5 million over 2000/2001.  

                        Ambitious targets relating to the drug strategy have been set out in the Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator’s First Annual Report and National Plan, including:  

·        halving the numbers of young people using illegal drugs (especially heroin and cocaine);

·        halving the levels of re-offending by drug-misusing offenders;

·        doubling the numbers of drug misusers in treatment; and

·        halving the availability of drugs on the streets (especially heroin and cocaine).  

                        The government’s approach also calls for better research and information in order to better monitor and measure the delivery of the strategy.

                        Although the ten-year strategy is supposed to focus on the most harmful drugs (heroin and cocaine), the number of people fined, cautioned and in some cases jailed for possession of cannabis still exceeds 100,000 a year.([1])

 

   B.  Legislative Framework

        1.  Introduction  

                        The main illicit drug legislation in the UK is the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA) (which is equivalent to Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act).  This legislation and its regulations (Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985) control the use of listed drugs (including both medical drugs and drugs with no medicinal use).  They set out the circumstances in which it is lawful to import, produce, supply, possess with intent to supply, and possess controlled drugs.  

      2.  Classes of Drugs  

                        Under Schedule 2 of this Act, drugs are classified as either A, B or C in theory to reflect the degree of harm they are considered to cause to the individual or society when misused.  Each class has different maximum penalties that apply to prohibited activities in relation to drugs. 

·        Class A is reserved for the more harmful drugs to which more severe penalties apply.  This class includes, among others, heroin, morphine, methadone, cocaine, opium and hallucinogens such as Ecstasy and LSD.  Also included are liquid cannabis (hashish oil), cannabinol and cannabinol derivatives and any class B drug prepared for injection. 

·        Class B includes cannabis, cannabis resin, less potent opioids (codeine), strong synthetic stimulants (oral amphetamines) and sedatives (barbiturates). 

·        Class C is reserved for drugs that are considered the least harmful such as tranquilizers, some less potent stimulants and mild opioid analgesics.

                        The Home Secretary can change the classification of drugs through delegated legislation.  Any such change by order in council or regulation must be preceded by consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.  The Council is a statutory body which keeps under review drugs which are, or are likely to be, misused and advises government on measures necessary for the prevention of drug misuse.  The Advisory Council has published several reports related to drug use in the UK.

 

     3.  Offences  

                        Sections 3 to 6 set out which activities in relation to drugs are prohibited.  They include importation and exportation (the actual offences are contained in and prosecuted under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979), production, supply, possession, and possession with intent to supply.  Cultivation of cannabis is a separate offence but is also considered production.  Under section 8, it is prohibited for the occupier knowingly to permit premises to be used for:  production; the supply of any controlled drug; the preparation of opium for smoking; or the smoking of cannabis, cannabis resin or prepared opium.  Section 9 provides a series of offences related to opium, including smoking or otherwise using opium.  Section 9A prohibits the supply of any article which may be used in the unlawful administration of drugs (hypodermic syringes are excluded from this prohibition for the purpose of needle exchange programs).  Sections 18 to 21 create other offences mainly dealing with incitement to commit an offence under the MDA.  

      4.  Penalties  

                        Penalties are set out in sections 25 and 26.  Section 27 deals with forfeiture.  A table of relevant penalties can be found at Appendix A.

·        For class A drugs, the maximum penalties are as follows:  seven years and/or unlimited fine for possession; life and/or unlimited fine for production or trafficking with a mandatory seven-year sentence for a third conviction for trafficking.  The mandatory sentence for a third conviction of trafficking is found in the Criminal Sentences Act 1997.

·        For class B drugs, the maximum penalties are:  five years and/or unlimited fine for possession; and fourteen years and/or unlimited fine for production or trafficking.

·        For class C drugs, the maximum penalties are:  two years and/or unlimited fine for possession; and five years and/or unlimited fine for trafficking.   

                        In addition, producers and traffickers are also liable to confiscation of assets under the Drug Trafficking Act 1994.  As stated above, growers of cannabis may be prosecuted under section 4 (production) of the MDA rather than under section 6 (cultivation) of this Act.  This is significant because production (but not cultivation of cannabis) is designated a trafficking offence for the purposes of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994.  In 1997, a total of 4,168 people were dealt with for production offences of which 92% involved production of cannabis (25% of these offenders were cautioned and 18% of those who were found guilty were sentenced to immediate custody).  Offences that are designated as trafficking offences for the purposes of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 include production, supply, and possession with intent to supply as well as importation offences under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.  As stated above, pursuant to the Crime Sentences Act 1997, persons receiving their third trafficking offence (class A drug) are liable to a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment.

                        In the UK, most drug offences may be tried summarily by magistrates or on indictment with a jury at a Crown Court.  If tried summarily, the maximum cannot exceed six months and/or £5000 fine or three months and/or fine for less serious offences.

 

      5.  Exemptions 

                        Section 7 allows for regulations to be made to exempt certain activities from the offence provisions.  This allows for the use of drugs for medicine and for scientific research.  The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985 divide drugs into five schedules.  The regulations set out the classes of persons who are authorized to handle controlled drugs while acting in their professional capacities and lay down the conditions under which certain activities may be carried out.  More severe rules regarding importing, exporting, production, supply, possession, prescribing and record-keeping apply to Schedule 1 drugs with a gradual loosening of the rules for other schedules.  For example, the most restricted Schedule 1 drugs (such as LSD and cannabis) can only be supplied or possessed for research or other special purpose by licensed individuals and are not available for normal medical uses and cannot be prescribed by doctors who do not have a licence.  Schedule 2 drugs – which must be prescribed – are subject to a number of controls relating to prescriptions, secure storage and the need to keep records.  Schedule 5 drugs, meanwhile, are subject to the least administrative controls and may be freely imported, exported or possessed for personal use.

                        Cannabis and certain psychoactive cannabinoids and derivatives are classified under Schedule 1 as having no therapeutic benefit.  Thus, they cannot be prescribed and can only be possessed for research purposes by someone who is licensed to do so.  Nabilone (a synthetic cannabinoid) is licensed for prescription to patients with nausea or vomiting resulting from cancer chemotherapy, which has proved unresponsive to other drugs.  Dronabinol (a cannabinoid) has been rescheduled from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 and can be prescribed.  However, it remains unlicensed in the UK and has to be prescribed on a “named patient basis.”

                        Section 10 allows the making of regulations dealing with safe custody, documentation of transactions, record-keeping, packaging and labelling, transport, methods of destruction, prescriptions, the supply of information on prescriptions to a central authority, the licensing of doctors to supply controlled drugs to addicted patients, and the notification by doctors of their addicted patients.

                        The Misuse of Drugs (Supply to Addicts) Regulations 1997 restrict to a few specially licensed doctors the ability to prescribe heroin, dipipanone and cocaine for the treatment of addiction. 

 

      6.  Miscellaneous 

                        The MDA allows the Secretary of State to withdraw the authority of a doctor, dentist or pharmacist to prescribe, administer, manufacture or supply specified controlled drugs.  This decision may be reviewed.

                        The Act also allows police to search premises and to stop and search persons on suspicion that they are in possession of a controlled drug.

                        Section 28 applies to most MDA offences and allows the defendant to prove a lack of knowledge of facts relevant to a charge.  Otherwise, the offence would have been an absolute offence.  The prosecution is not required to prove knowledge, however, and the burden is on the offender.

 

      7.  Other Relevant Legislation in the Field of Drug Misuse 

                        The Medicines Act 1968 (equivalent to Canada’s Food and Drugs Act) regulates the production and distribution of medicinal drugs and other medicinal products in the UK.  It generally requires a marketing authorization or licence before a product may be distributed.  The Act deals with the testing, sale, supply, packaging, labelling, prescribing, dispensing by pharmacists, and selling in shops of medicinal products.  Many controlled drugs are also medicinal products and must thus satisfy the requirements of both the MDA and the Medicines Act 1968.

                        As stated above, the MDA prohibits the importation or exportation of a controlled drug unless it is exempted by regulation or it takes place under the proper licence.  The offences, however, are actually under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 which acts together with the MDA to prohibit unauthorized importation or exportation of controlled drugs.  The offences under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 are usually charged and prosecuted by H.M. Customs and Excise rather than by the police and Crown prosecutors.  In 1997, a total of 1,741 people were dealt with for these offences, 68% of which involved cannabis (31% were dealt with by compounding and of those found guilty by the courts, 79% were sentenced to immediate custody).

                        Part II of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 controls the manufacture and supply of certain precursor chemicals which can be used in the manufacture of illicit drugs.  Manufacture or supply contrary to the Act is a trafficking offence for the purposes of the Drugs Trafficking Act 1994.  Regulations may be made dealing with notification of exports, record-keeping and the supply of information.

                        The Drug Trafficking Act 1994 was adopted to enable the UK to meet its obligations under the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances 1998 (The Vienna Convention).  It creates offences in connection with laundering and handling of the proceeds of drug trafficking, and introduces confiscation measures.  The burden of proof is placed on the defendant to prove that the assets were lawfully acquired and applies the civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities. The MDA does not distinguish between trafficking and non-trafficking offences.  Rather, this distinction is made in the Drug Trafficking Act 1994; the main consequence of designating an offence as a trafficking offence is that the confiscation provisions apply.  In addition, an offender is liable for a third trafficking offence involving a Class A drug to a minimum penalty of seven years imprisonment under the Crime Sentences Act 1997.

DEBATE IN THE UK 

                        As in Canada, the debate in the UK regarding cannabis would appear to revolve around two issues:  1) decriminalization or legalization of cannabis for recreational use; and 2) the medicinal use of cannabis.

                        Currently, the recreational use of cannabis is prohibited in the UK.  Under the MDA, it is illegal to grow, produce, possess, or supply cannabis to another person.  It is also an offence to allow premises to be used for growing, preparing, supplying or smoking it.  Maximum penalties for cannabis offences in the UK are fairly severe (these vary throughout the EU).  As in Canada, there is considerable discretion in how the law is applied and in many cases the police caution those found in possession of small amounts of cannabis.  In the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, Drugs and the Law, the following was stated regarding the use of discretion, particularly with respect to cannabis:

Many cases are kept away from the courts by cautioning and compounding and, in Scotland, warning letters and fiscal fines.  By far the largest increase in police cautioning in England and Wales has been for cannabis offenders, from 41% in 1990 to 55% in 1997.  This has meant in practice a tripling in the number of cannabis offenders for which a caution was given, from 16,500 to 47,000.  Cautions are part of an offender’s criminal record.  There is no provision at present for these records to expire under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.  The Government has recently issued a consultation paper proposing that this anomaly should be corrected and that cautions should be immediately spent.  This would also apply to reprimands and warnings, which are to replace cautions for young people under 18 under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

 

Cautioning is not used by H.M. Customs and Excise or in Scotland.  For importation and exportation offences, compounding – a monetary penalty in lieu of prosecution – may be used in cases involving cannabis not exceeding 10 grams in weight.  While compounding does not necessarily become part of an offender’s criminal record, it may be mentioned in subsequent court proceedings  Its use for cannabis importation offenders fell between 1990 and 1997 from 58% to 45%.

…This discretion in the implementation of the MDA is desirable but produces anomalies in the differing regimes of cautioning and compounding, and inconsistencies in the cautioning rates between police forces.  More than half of the arrests for cannabis offences result in a caution.  We do not criticise the police for their extensive use of cautioning.  It is currently the only realistic and proportional response.  Without it, the courts would have ground to a halt.  However, the use of discretion does not lessen the disproportionate attention that the law and the implementation of the law unavoidably give to cannabis and cannabis possession in particular. ([2])

 

                        The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes has a long history in the UK.  It was prescribed as a medicine in the UK until 1973.  At that time, it became a drug that could not be legally used as a medicine and today its medicinal use remains prohibited.  As will be discussed in the next section, the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords recommended that cannabis be made available for medicinal purposes in a 1998 report.  This recommendation was rejected by the government which indicated that before such a change could be considered, the safety and efficacy of cannabis would have to be demonstrated.  G.W. Pharmaceuticals has been given permission to grow cannabis with the aim of developing a cannabis-based medicine; clinical trials have commenced in the UK.

RECENT KEY REPORTS AND STUDIES

     A.  Parliament 

                        In 1998, the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords studied the issue of medicinal use of cannabis and tabled a report entitled Cannabis:  The Scientific and Medical Evidence.  The purpose was to examine the scientific and medical evidence with respect to the medicinal use of cannabis and determine whether current restrictions were appropriate.  In addition, the Committee considered whether the prohibition on recreational use was justified based on the scientific evidence of adverse effects.  However, the mandate did not include other issues such as the social and legal aspects of cannabis use.  Much of the report sets out the Committee’s scientific findings.  These are not reviewed in great detail in this paper.

                        The Committee discussed the long history of cannabis use both as a medicine (usually in the form of a tincture) and an intoxicant.  The Committee noted that the “advent of a host of new and better synthetic drugs led to the abandonment of many ancient herbal remedies, including cannabis.”([3])  The Medicines Act 1968 allowed the government to licence pharmaceutical companies and products.  The following was stated:

 

Existing drugs received “licences of right”.  The licensing powers are now exercised through the Medicines Control Agency (MCA).  Doctors may prescribe an unlicensed drug, or a licensed drug for an unlicensed indication (“off-label”); but they do so at their own risk, and without the benefit of the surveillance for adverse effects which is conducted in respect of licensed medicines through the “yellow card” system.([4])

 

                        At this point, cannabis was still able to be prescribed under certain conditions.  In 1973, cannabis’s licence of right was not renewed and the regulations under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 prohibited medical use altogether (by listing cannabis in what is now Schedule 1). 

                        The Committee then went on to review the following issues:

 

·        The pharmacology of cannabis and the different ways it may be administered.

·        The evidence of toxic effects of cannabis, including:  the short and long-term effects of cannabis; whether the user develops tolerance to the drug; and whether it causes dependence.  The Committee found that although cannabis “is not in the premier league of dangerous substances, new research tends to suggest that it may be more hazardous to health than might have been thought only a few years ago.”([5])

·        The evidence regarding the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids.  The Committee discussed the current medical use of cannabis in the UK (quite widespread even though it is illegal) as well as the current medical uses of cannabinoids (certain cannabinoids are legally in current use in UK medicine), and proposed new indications for cannabis-based medicines (including alleviating certain symptoms related to multiple sclerosis).  The Committee stated that it “is important to distinguish the different substances and preparations; for instance, cannabis leaf must be distinguished from cannabis extract, and whole cannabis from THC.  It is also important, although not always easy, to distinguish the various possible routes of administration, e.g. by smoking and by mouth.”([6])  For the Committee’s description of the current legal controls on cannabis, see Appendix B.

·        The recreational use of cannabis, including information on prevalence, the pattern of use and the content of cannabis consumed in the UK.  As stated above, the Committee did not consider all issues related to recreational use.  For example, the Committee did not consider “the wider range of social and criminological issues which would be raised by any proposal to change the law on recreational cannabis use.  These include enforcement, the impact on use of other illegal drugs, and the international context and the danger of ‘drug tourism’; as well as ethical, philosophical and religious questions about the freedom of the individual, the nature of society and the morality of mind-altering drugs.”([7])

·        The possible changes to the law regarding medical use and research, including making cannabis and/or additional cannabinoids prescribable by moving them from Schedule 1 (where it cannot be used at all in medicine except for research under special licences) to Schedule 2 (where it could be prescribed under certain conditions) in advance of any cannabis-based medicine being licensed following research and clinical trials.  The Committee discussed the prosecution for use of cannabis for medical purposes, the arguments for and against the possible transfer from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, and the effect on research activities of the current classification and the requirement of obtaining a licence.

 

                        Based on evidence that cannabis can be effective in relieving the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and against certain forms of pain, the Committee recommended that clinical trials of cannabis for these conditions “be mounted as a matter of urgency.”  The Committee members did indicate that if a medicine became licensed (after clinical trials), they did not envisage smoking being used to administer it.  Thus, they called for research into alternative delivery systems.  The Committee also recommended that cannabis should be reclassified as a Schedule 2 drug so that doctors would be permitted to prescribe an appropriate preparation of cannabis, “albeit as an unlicensed medicine and on the named-drug basis”; this would also allow research without a special licence.  For more information on prescribing on a named-drug basis, see Appendix C. 

                        Compassion was the main reason for recommending the change to the law (a law under which patients risk prosecution to get help).  Another reason was the inconsistent way in which the law was enforced which brought it and Parliament into disrepute.  The Committee also noted that the change in classification should encourage research by getting rid of unnecessary regulation and removing the stigma attached to cannabis.  For more information on cannabis research licences, see Appendix D.

                        The Committee did note that cannabis-based medicine would not be appropriate for certain groups of patients such as pregnant women, people predisposed to schizophrenic illness or those with cardiovascular conditions.  In addition, users would have to be warned of possible side-effects.  The risk of addiction would have to be considered when deciding whether to prescribe.  Thus, the Committee recommended that “if doctors are permitted to prescribe cannabis on an unlicensed basis, the medical professional bodies should provide firm guidance on how to do so responsibly”([8]) and that “safeguards must be put in place by the professional regulatory bodies to prevent diversion to improper purposes.”([9])

                        With respect to the recreational use of cannabis, the Committee added that although the harms must not be overstated, there was enough evidence of toxic effects of cannabis to justify maintaining the current prohibition. 

                        The government rejected the recommendation to reclassify cannabis.  It indicated that before cannabis should be available for prescription, its safety, quality and efficacy would have to be demonstrated and a marketing authorization issued by the Medicines Control Agency.  In addition, the government indicated that allowing prescriptions of cannabis would reduce momentum in research.  The government was also concerned with the possibility of prescribed cannabis being used for improper purposes.  For a copy of the government response, see Appendix E.  The Committee, in a report on 4 March 1999, found the government’s arguments against the recommendations to be unpersuasive (see Appendix F).

                        In March 2001, the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords presented another report dealing with the current state of research into the therapeutic uses of cannabis, the roles of the Home Office and the Medicines Control Agency in the licensing of cannabis-based medicines, and more recent issues relating to the prosecution of therapeutic cannabis users.  The Committee reiterated that cannabis should remain a controlled drug and that the legalization debate should maintain a clear distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic use.

                        With respect to the current state of research, the Committee noted trials recently approved for funding by the Medical Research Council.  The Committee was concerned about the long timeframe for developing usable therapeutic preparations from these trials.  It was more encouraged with the progress being made by G.W. Pharmaceuticals, both with respect to establishing the efficacy of a cannabis-based medicine and in developing suitable medical preparations (e.g., a sub-lingual spray).

                        The Committee noted remarks made by the Minister of State in the Home Office in which he indicated that once the quality, safety and efficacy of an appropriate preparation of cannabis is established, the government would reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the Misuses of Drugs Regulations.  Although government policy has not changed, the attitude appears to have changed; as well, research with respect to cannabis appears less hampered than before.  The Committee, however, does stand by its original recommendation that cannabis be rescheduled in order to facilitate research.

                        The Committee also discussed the prosecution of therapeutic users of cannabis.  They noted that the decision to prosecute varies from region to region and that, in some cases, juries have acquitted therapeutic users who do not deny the offence but plead therapeutic use in mitigation while others are found guilty.  The Minister indicated that he had no intention of changing the current system whereby decisions to prosecute are made at the local level.  He indicated that discretion could be exercised at three levels:  by the police, by the Crown Prosecution Service, or by the Courts.  The Committee believed that the acquittal of cannabis users by juries on compassionate grounds brings the law into disrepute.  Members of juries find it undesirable to prosecute genuine therapeutic users, and the Committee believes this problem underlines the need to legalize cannabis preparations for therapeutic use.

                        The Committee noted that the decisions made by the Medicines Control Agency appear to be inconsistent.  For example, although it is satisfied that the information on the toxicological profile of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is adequate, it is not satisfied with the toxicology data of cannabidiol.  This could delay production of a cannabis-based medicine by as much as two to three years.  The Committee did note that the Canadian regulatory authorities appear not to require these additional toxicology studies for cannabidiol.  The Committee members also stated several reasons why they did not agree with the Medicines Control Agency’s decision.  One of the key problems is treating cannabis-based medicines as new medicines (even though, the Committee notes, it has a long history of medical use).  The Committee was of the view that the Medicines Control Agency – by raising unsubstantiated issues – has “not adopted a positive approach towards the licensing of a cannabis-based medicine.”  The Committee was concerned that the Medicines Control Agency’s approach places “the requirements of safety and the needs of patients in an unacceptable balance.”  The Committee concluded that the Agency’s attitude “means that cannabis-based medicines are not being dealt with in the same impartial manner as other medicines.”  The Committee members added:

 

We believe that a thorough and impartial reappraisal of the published scientific literature on the safety of CBD and cannabis extracts should lead the MCA to reconsider their present overly cautious stance.  We are at least encouraged that the MCA state that they are conducting a more detailed review of existing literature reports on cannabis and CBD.([10])

 

   B.  Runciman Report

 

                        In August 1997, The Police Foundation set up an independent inquiry (chaired by Viscountess Runciman) to assess the UK’s legislation on the misuse of drugs.  The main goal was to determine whether the legislation needed to be revised in order to be more effective and more responsive to the changes that had taken place in the 30 years since the original law was passed.  The report recognizes that the goal of drug legislation must be to control and limit the demand for and the supply of illicit drugs because eradication of drug misuse is not a realistic goal.  The report also stated that the law must fulfill UK’s international obligations and noted that international agreements – while restricting some options – allow for room to manoeuvre, particularly in the areas of drug use and possession.([11])  The report discussed different approaches towards drug use and possession and towards minor acts of supply taken by some other European countries and found that the UK had a comparatively more severe regime of control of possession offences.

                        The report indicated that the law should be based on the following principles:

 

·        as a means of reducing demand, the law is only one aspect of a broader agenda of health, prevention and education;

·        it should reflect the latest scientific understanding and the social and cultural attitudes of modern British society;

·        it should be realistically enforceable;

·        it should infringe personal freedom only to the degree necessary to restrain serious levels of harm to users or others;

·        it should target the drugs that cause the most harm;

·        it should reflect the relative harmfulness of activities connected with each illicit drug or category of drugs, and provide for sanctions proportionate to that harm; and

·        in its operation, the law should be accepted by the public as fair, consistent, enforceable, flexible and just.

 

                        The report noted a steady increase in the prevalence of both problem drug use (including injecting among problem drug users) and casual drug use in the UK over the past 30 years.  Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug, with age 30 being a big divide in drug use.  Despite a steady rise in drug offences and seizures (including amounts seized) over the years, the report concluded that efforts to limit supply have in the most part failed.  The report found that the public views health-related dangers of drugs as more of a deterrent than their illegality, availability or price.  In addition, public attitudes to cannabis compared to other drugs were significantly different (cannabis was seen as the least harmful drug, its possession should be the lowest of priorities for police, and a number of people – a third to half – believe that the laws should be relaxed).([12])  All age groups shared these views, although support for legalization was not as strong among older age groups.  With respect to other drugs, strong drug laws were fully supported despite concern with health risks resulting from drug use.  The public was much more concerned with trafficking than with possession offences.  The report noted that tackling social deprivation is a must in any strategy to tackle drug misuse.  The inquiry found that there was a lack of data on drug use and the absence of detailed cost information about drug use (e.g., health care, enforcement and other social services costs).  Thus, it was difficult to do any type of assessment of drug control and prevention strategies.

                        The UK’s drug classification was reviewed and the report recommended keeping the current three-tier drug classification system (class A, B and C).  This classification enables authorities to distinguish between the relative risks of different drugs and allows sanctions to be applied that are proportionate to a drug’s harm.  However, the report found that the criteria by which drugs are classified should be clearly described.  The classification should take into account modern developments in medical, scientific and sociological knowledge; as well, the main criteria should be dangerousness of the drug to the individual and to society.  The report set out factors to consider, including:  the risks of the drug itself (acute and chronic toxicity); risks due to the route of use; extent to which the drug controls behaviour (addictiveness/dependency) and ease of stopping; and social risks (costs to society in terms of crime, medical costs, social harm through intoxication, etc.).  Based on these factors, the report recommended some changes to the drug classes to counteract what the members felt was a dangerous message, i.e., that all drugs are equally dangerous.  The members of the inquiry believed that these changes would enhance the law’s credibility and that education and attention should be refocused on the more harmful drugs such as heroin and cocaine.  The report recommended the following changes:

 

·        cannabis should be reclassified from a class B drug to a class C drug and cannabinols from class A to class C;

·        heroin and cocaine would remain in class A (the most dangerous drug category) while Ecstacy and LSD would move to class B; and

·        buprenorphine would move from class C to class B.

 

                        It is interesting to note that the members of the inquiry would have classified alcohol as a class B drug bordering on A while tobacco would have been on the borderline between B and C if these substances were controlled under the MDA.

                        The report found that possession offences should remain, even if for personal use.  However, the law should minimize the harmful consequences of a contravention in appropriate cases.  The report concluded that for the majority of possession offences, imprisonment was neither proportionate nor effective.  It recommended that imprisonment no longer be available for possession of class B or class C drugs.  Imprisonment should remain a possibility for possession of class A drugs, although the maximum would be shorter than what is currently set out.  This would reflect what the courts are currently doing; the average possession sentence is fairly short compared to the maximum available.  In addition, the report recommends lowering the maximum fines for all classes of drugs.  According to the report, imprisonment for possession would be rare.  Non-custodial responses would include fines, probation orders, probation orders with treatment conditions attached, and conditional discharges.  These sanctions would be most suitable for possession of class B and class C drugs where a caution was not appropriate.  The report noted that in over 50% of cases, police use cautioning.  This approach was supported but the report felt that this discretion needed a proper framework.  Thus, cautions should become a statutory sanction with guidelines set out in regulations.  This would allow the enforcement of conditions attached to a caution.  Finally, the report recommended that a caution should not carry a criminal record.  If the recommendation to reclassify cannabis as a class C drug were carried out, it would have certain consequences, including that police would no longer be allowed to arrest for possession of cannabis.  For arrestable offences, the police have powers to insist that suspects accompany them to the police station and to search their premises without a warrant.  Police would still have the power to stop and search for all drugs, however.

                        The report also discussed how the law is enforced, particularly with respect to the police power to stop and search and the exercise of police discretion to caution offenders rather than prosecute.  The MDA provides that the police may search and detain a person if he or she has reasonable grounds to suspect that any person is in possession of a controlled drug in contravention of the Act.  There are guidelines on how to exercise these powers.  In England and Wales in 1997/98, a total of 343,900 persons were stopped and searched and 39,000 were arrested (the majority of the latter involved cannabis with the usual outcome:  a caution).  The report made no recommendation regarding this power although it did note the controversial nature of the power.

                        The report then went on to discuss the use of police discretion.  In the UK, after arrest and after the offence is admitted, a caution may be administered.  This is not a criminal conviction but may be cited in court as part of the defendant’s criminal record.  The information will be given in criminal records certificates but not criminal conviction certificates issued under the Police Act 1997.  Some employers may require a criminal conviction certificate but for certain high-profile positions, a criminal record certificate is needed.  The report recommended that cautions become spent immediately (thus, no rehabilitation period for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974).  The effect would be that the person would not have to disclose the caution if asked by a prospective employer whether they have a criminal record, but could still be cited in court during criminal proceedings.  It should be noted that cautions have been abolished for people under age 18 and replaced by a new system of reprimands and warnings.  A reprimand is similar to a caution (although a reprimand cannot be repeated or given to young offenders with a previous conviction or warning), while a warning results in the offender being referred to a youth offending team for assessment and requires participation in a rehabilitation program unless this is inappropriate.  A warning may be repeated only once under certain conditions.  Reprimands and warnings may be cited in criminal proceedings in the same circumstances as a conviction.  The report recommends that they become spent immediately.  The police also give informal warnings; these may not be cited in court and often are not recorded.  Compounding is available under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 (no admission of guilt and in drug cases limited to cases of small amounts of herbal cannabis or cannabis resin).

                        The report supported the use of discretion but felt that a proper framework was needed to ensure that it operates as even-handedly as possible.  Thus, they believed that cautioning should become a statutory sanction with proper guidelines set out in regulations.  This would also allow conditions attached to cautions to be legally enforced, and police should have the power to charge the offender with the original offence if the conditions are not satisfied.  The report also recommended the introduction of fiscal fines for operation by the Crown Prosecution office to replace prosecution (only to be used in cases that would otherwise be prosecuted and should not be used to replace cautions).  The report also recommended that all out-of-court sanctions should not be cited in court as evidence of character.  The report did state that cautions, reprimands and warnings should stay on national police records to allow appropriate action to be taken should the offender commit a further offence.  In addition, information on drug cautions, reprimands or warnings should be included in a criminal record certificate only in the most exceptional cases.

                        With respect to trafficking, the report mentioned that there should be an attempt to differentiate between acts of different gravity with respect to supply offences (for example, supply between friends versus as part of an organized criminal group and supply of class A drugs versus other drugs).  The report recommended a separate offence of dealing, the main ingredient of which would be the pattern of activity of illicitly transacting business in drugs.  The offence would be a trafficking offence for the purposes of the Drugs Trafficking Act 1994.  The report also recommended that the maximum penalty for trafficking in class A drugs be lowered to 20 years and that the maximum for class C drugs (including cannabis) be raised to seven years.  The report also recommended the adoption of sentencing guidelines, for trafficking offences in particular.  These would set out aggravating factors including involvement in organized crime, the use of violence or firearms, the involvement of minors, the location of the offence, etc.  The report also mentioned the ineffectiveness of the laws dealing with confiscation of assets (in their view, a pragmatic problem rather than a legislative one).  The report recommended improving the effectiveness of the current system by setting up a new national confiscation agency and making several other changes.

                        Although the inquiry members believed that the drug legislation in general did not need radical change, the legislation’s application to cannabis was the exception.  Thus, many of the more significant changes apply to this drug.  The report noted that it was the drug most widely used and most likely to bring people in contact with the justice system.  The report also noticed the gap between how the law is written and how it is practised with respect to cannabis (due to the use of discretion).  The members of the inquiry were of the view that cannabis was less harmful to the individual and society than other illicit drugs (although not harmless).  With respect to cannabis, it was felt that the current law produces more harms than it prevents and that the law’s response is disproportionate to the drug’s harm.  The report, thus, recommended penalties for cannabis possession for personal use be decreased and that imprisonment not be an option (normal sanctions for possession and cultivation for personal use would be out-of-court disposals, including informal warnings, statutory cautions or a fixed out-of-court fine).  In addition, the report stated that cultivation of small amounts of cannabis should be prosecuted under section 6 (cultivation of cannabis) rather than section 4 (production) so that it not be considered a trafficking offence.  The cultivation offence should be treated in the same way as possession of cannabis.  In addition, permitting people to smoke cannabis on their premises would no longer be an offence.  The members of the inquiry were of the view that the benefits of such a strategy outweigh the risks and that this would promote the targeting of enforcement on those drugs and activities that cause the most harm.

                        The report concluded that demand is not significantly reduced by the deterrent effect of the law.  Education and treatment can be successful, however.  Thus, the members recommended a less punitive approach to possession offences and a more punitive approach to trafficking (particularly with respect to profits obtained from drugs).  The members believed that harm could be reduced with credible education and treatment when needed.  They indicated that treatment is cost-effective in reducing problem drug use and associated criminal activity and recommended a substantial reallocation of resources from enforcement (currently 62%) to treatment (currently 13%).  For them, drug misuse was first a public and individual health problem and second a crime problem.  They discussed “caution-plus” schemes where, as part of the decision to caution, the offender agrees to seek treatment or counselling.  However, currently there are no powers to enforce any conditions attached to a caution.  The same difficulties apply to arrest referral schemes.  The inquiry members believed that cautions should be set out in legislation with guidelines governing the conditions that may be attached.  Police should be given the power to charge the offender with the original offence if the conditions are not satisfied.  They also discussed the powers of the courts to require convicted offenders to undergo treatment as part of community orders (e.g., probation).  In addition, they discussed drug treatment and testing orders that recently became available.  The order may be made where the sentence is not mandatory and may last from three months to three years.  The stated criterion is that the offender “is dependent on or has a propensity to misuse drugs and that this dependency or propensity is such as requires and may be susceptible to treatment.”  The court has no power to specify the nature of the treatment, and the offender must express his or her willingness to comply with its requirements.  Drug testing is part of the order, and offenders risk more severe penalties if they fail these tests.

                        With respect to prescribing of drugs, the report also made a series of recommendations including:

 

·        license the private prescribing of class A drugs to problem users based on training and links to specialist support, the purpose of which is to deal with irresponsible prescribing by doctors; 

·        set up a national register of private prescriptions in order to scrutinize and monitor them; and 

·        set up a national information system (accessible to prescribers) to provide prescribing information on individuals, in order to minimize risks of double doctoring.

 

                        With respect to the medicinal use of cannabis, the report concluded that the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for certain serious illnesses outweighed any potential harm.  They endorsed the view of the House of Lords report that cannabis and cannabis resin should be moved to Schedule 2 (thus permitting possession and supply for medical purposes).  Because the House of Lords recommendation was rejected by the government and because it would be years before a licensed cannabis product becomes available, the report recommended a new defence in law:  duress of circumstance on medical grounds for those accused of the possession, cultivation or supply of cannabis for the relief of certain medical conditions.

                        In its reply to the report, the government rejected or referred for further consideration many of the recommendations made by the inquiry.  On the key issues of reclassifying cannabis and other drugs and the depenalization of cannabis, the government did not support the inquiry’s recommendations.  With respect to the reclassification of cannabis, the government was mainly concerned with the health risks associated with its use.  In addition, the government believed that any recommendations for changes to drug classification should come from the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs.  With regard to the depenalization of certain offences dealing with cannabis and other drugs, the government rejected removing imprisonment as a possible sanction.  It believes that the option of imprisonment is both an incentive to treatment and allows the courts to consider a wider range of orders.  In addition, they did not want the police powers of arrest to be abolished for these offences.  In dealing with the medicinal use of cannabis, the government indicated that the quality, efficacy and safety of a medicinal form of the drug must be established before prescribing should be allowed.  In addition, it indicated that the criminal justice system enabled consideration as to whether a prosecution is in the public interest.  The government also indicated that new funding would be largely focused on treatment and prevention initiatives.

 

   C.  Other Reports 

                        A Working Party of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Physicians also published a report in 2000.  Entitled Drugs:  Dilemmas and Choices, the report examined key issues in preventing drug misuse.  The following are some of the key issues and findings of the report, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation:

 

Spending on prevention:  Three-quarters of UK expenditure is devoted to enforcement and international supply reduction.  There is little evidence that this is money well-spent.  The proven cost-effectiveness of methadone maintenance and abstinence-based programmes for heroin addicts suggests that more of the available budget should go to treatment programmes.  New money for treatment announced by the Government is welcome, but calls for expansion of unproven and untested treatments must be resisted.

 

Research:  Current UK expenditure on drugs research does not begin to match the magnitude of the problem.  Just one per cent of the annual drugs prevention budget would inject £14 million into research – over double the current spent.

 

Improving the value of treatment:  Systematic investment in staff training, monitoring of patients and essential support services is needed to bring improvement rates achieved by UK treatment programmes closer to those in the United States.  In particular, more extensive drug treatment facilities are needed for adolescents.

 

Private prescribing:  Private prescribing of substitute drugs leaves scope for malpractice that comes close to ‘buying a prescription’.  Doctors treating drug-users outside the health service are not currently required to have extra training in addictions and receive little monitoring or regulation.

 

Drug-testing by employers:  Although expensive and surrounded by legal and ethical issues, the technology exists for drug-testing of employees using hair samples.  This provides a record of drug-use over the previous three months and could, therefore, have a major impact on the prevalence of drug-use in future.

 

Ecstasy:  Many young people use Ecstasy, and some drugs education campaigns may have proved counter-productive.  Any advice given to young people should take account of the likely impact on those who continue to use drugs as well those who will be deterred.

 

Amphetamine:  Dependence on amphetamine, especially when injected, probably carries more risk to users and public health than heroin.  Little research has been carried out into dependence or treatment.

 

Cannabis:  Cannabis is not a harmless drug, but its ill-effects on health are almost certainly less than those of tobacco or alcohol, which are legal.  More research is needed into the medicinal benefits and long-term ill-effects of the drug.  Legislative experiments, as in the Netherlands, should be encouraged.  People requiring cannabis to relieve disabling medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, should not be prosecuted.

 

Future policy:  The Government’s Ten-Year Strategy for Tackling Drug Misuse recognises the need for greater investment in treatment.  But there are no easy answers, and ambitious targets for reducing the proportion of young people using heroin and cocaine by 50 per cent by 2008 are unlikely to be achieved by the modest initiatives announced so far.  Attempts to curb the illegal international drugs trade have consistently failed and will probably continue to do so.  If the prevalence of drug-use and drug-related crime continues to rise, the pressure on the UK and other governments to change policies that are clearly failing is bound to increase.([13])

 

ADMINISTRATION  

                        Because of the complexity of the drug problem, many different departments and organizations are involved in implementing the UK drug strategy.  The key organizations in the UK’s drug strategy are the drug action teams at the local level which are responsible for ensuring that the strategy is translated into concrete action.  For a more detailed description on who is responsible for implementing the UK’s drug strategy, see Appendix G which is reproduced from the United Kingdom Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator’s Second National Plan 2000/2001.

  COSTS 

   A.  Public Costs 

                        In 1997/1998, most of the costs were directed at enforcement.  The total expenditure of £1.4 billion was spent on the following activities: 

·        drug misuse, enforcement and international supply reduction accounted for 75% (enforcement includes police, court, probation, and prisons – 62%; international supply, which encompasses customs and excise, Foreign and Commonwealth Officer – 13%);

·        treatment and rehabilitation – 13%; and

·        education and prevention – 12%.([14])  

                        The drug strategy suggested that resources be shifted from reactionary measures to more proactive measures dealing with prevention.  In addition, it was stated that the existing resource provision is ad hoc rather than strategic and that allocation mechanisms are largely historically driven.

                        Following a comprehensive spending review in 1998, an additional £217 million are to be allocated over a three-year period to drug activities.  “A substantial share of these new funds will be directed at initiatives designed to break the link between drug misuse and crime, including Arrest Referral Schemes and Drug Treatment and Testing Orders.  The idea is to provide every drug misusing offender entering a police station or prison with a chance to seek treatment by the year 2002.”([15])  The extra funds are to be spent as follows:

 

§         £133 million will be provided for the implementation of the strategy to tackle drug misuse in the criminal justice system.

·        Prisons will receive £60 million for treatment services and £12 million for voluntary drug testing in prisons.

·        £61 million will be made available for the piloting and implementation of Drug Treatment & Testing Orders.

§         £70.5 million will be allocated to health and local authorities to fund new treatment services and to improve community care for drug misusers.

·        Health Authorities will receive £50 million for treatment services and for young people at risk.

·        Local Authorities will receive £20.5 million to improve access to services and increase numbers in treatment programs.

§         £10.5 million will be allocated to support Drug Action Teams across the country and for national research into effectiveness of anti-drugs activity.

·        £3 million will be allocated to support cross-departmental development of more effective drugs education.

·        £6 million over 3 years will be provided for a major new research program.

·        An extra £3 million will be available from the Confiscated Assets Fund in 1999/2000, to be increased to £5 million and £7 million in subsequent years. ([16])

 

   B.  Social Costs 

                        The UK Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator’s Annual Report 1999/2000 stated that drug misuse costs Britain over £4 billion per year in crime, sickness and absenteeism.  In addition, it was estimated that one-third of property crime is related to drugs.

STATISTICS  

                        The Office for National Statistics estimates that the illegal drugs market alone accounts for nearly 1% of national output, equivalent to £8.5 billion a year.([17])

 

   A.  Use

                          Information in this section is taken from a paper entitled UK Drug Situation 2000 prepared by DrugScope and is based in large part on the 1998 British Crime Survey regarding England and Wales.  The survey is conducted every two years and has a drugs component.  In the 16-59 age group, 32% in England and Wales say they have “ever used a drug” (1996 = 29% and 1994 = 28%).  This rises to 50% for the 16-24 age group.  Recent drug use was less common, however.  For example, in the 1994, 1996 and 1998 surveys, 10%-11% reported drug use in the last year and 6% reported drug use in the last month.  Drug use does change with age:  30% of 16- to 24‑year‑olds reported drug use in the last year and 20% in the last 30 days (this compares to 3% and 1.5% for 45- to 54‑year‑olds).  In addition, there is a higher prevalence of drug use in males than in females.  With respect to children, surveys in England show that 13% of respondents aged 11 to 15 reported ever taking a drug.  For children, prevalence increases with age.  For example. 3% of 11- to 12-year-olds, 13% of 13- to 14-year-olds, and 31% of 15‑year-olds reported ever using drugs.

                        Cannabis is the most widely cultivated, trafficked and used illicit drug in the UK.  The young use it most commonly, with usage declining with age.  Almost half of 16- to 24‑year‑olds in England and Wales report ever using cannabis, with 17% using it in the last month.  Only 5% of adults aged 55 to 59 report ever using this drug.  For a breakdown of cannabis use by age group, see Appendix H. 

                        For a brief summary of prevalence, patterns and developments in drug use, see Appendix I.  In addition, for a brief summary of drug consumption in the general population based on the 1998 British Crime Survey, see Appendix J.  

 

   B.  Offences  

                        As stated, people arrested in the UK may be dealt with in different ways including cautioning by police or prosecution (except in Scotland where other procedures are available).  Under the Customs and Excise Act 1979, compounding (the payment of a monetary sum in lieu of prosecution) is available in cases of importation of small quantities of cannabis (10 grams or less).  In addition, the authorities may use their discretion and take no further action.  This last option would not appear in criminal statistics.

                        The total number of people dealt with for drug offences went from 35,000 in 1988 to 153,000 in 1998.  Of these, 127,840 were found guilty, cautioned, fined or settled with by compounding.  In 1997, the number was 113,150.  For information (drugs involved, how people were dealt with, etc.) regarding categories of offences (import and export, production, supply, possession with the intent to supply, and possession), see Appendix K.  The most common drug was cannabis at 76%.  Almost 90% of MDA offences are possession offences and, generally, three-quarters of all possession offences involve cannabis.  For a breakdown of offences by drug type for 1997 and 1998, see Appendix L. 

                        The number of people who receive cautions has increased dramatically over the years and of the people found guilty, cautioned, fined or settled with by compounding, cautioning now accounts for almost 50%.  Thus, many of the cases are dealt with outside the courts.

                        In 1998, the number of drug seizures was 149,900, an 8% increase over 1997.  Cannabis was involved in 76% of the cases.  For a breakdown of seizures by drugs for 1997 and 1998, see Appendix M.  Between 1995 and 1999, the average price of most drugs remained relatively stable. 

RECENT EVENTS 

                        It should be noted that UK drug possession laws are to be challenged in court shortly.([18])  It will be argued that the prosecution for possession of 1.8 grams of cannabis breaches Article Eight (the right to respect for private life) of the European Convention On Human Rights which became part of UK law when the Human Rights Act came into force.  If successful, possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use could be decriminalized in the UK.

                        Also of note is that the UK anti-drugs co-ordinator position has recently been eliminated.  The current co-ordinator will retain his position until he publishes his annual report in the summer of 2001 and will then be given a job relating to tackling international drug trafficking.([19])

                        Scotland Yard has endorsed a plan that will relax enforcement with respect to cannabis possession.  People will be given warnings rather than being cautioned, arrested and possibly charged.  It will start as a pilot project and should roll out across London in three to six months if successful.  A warning is recorded only by local police and does not have to be declared by a job applicant.  Warnings are allowed under the police’s discretionary powers.([20])

MAIN EVENTS IN UK DRUG CONTROL

                          For a list of main events in the twentieth century, see Appendix N.


APPENDIX A   

Source:     Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Drugs and the Law.


APPENDIX B 

Source:        House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, Cannabis:  The Scientific and Medical Evidence.

 

APPENDIX C

Source:        House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, Cannabis:  The Scientific and Medical Evidence.  

  APPENDIX D 

Source:       House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, Cannabis:  The Scientific and Medical Evidence.

 

APPENDIX E 

Source:       Select Committee on Science and Technology, Second Report, Appendix 2.

iii  

iv  

 

APPENDIX F

Source:       Select Committee on Science and Technology, Second Report, CannabisGovernment Response, 4 March 1999.

ii  

APPENDIX G

Source:       The United Kingdom Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator’s Second National Plan 2000/2001.  

ii  

iii  

iv

APPENDIX H

    Source:       Drugscope, UK Drug Situation 2000.

 

APPENDIX I 

Source:       Drugscope, UK Drug Situation 2000.

ii

APPENDIX J 

Source:       Drugscope, UK Drug Situation 2000.

ii

iii

APPENDIX K 

Source:     Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Drugs and the Law.

ii

iii

iv

v

vi


APPENDIX L

Source:       Drugscope, UK Drug Situation 2000.  

APPENDIX M 

Source:       Drugscope, UK Drug Situation 2000.  

APPENDIX N

Source:     Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Drugs and the Law.

ii

iii


([1])        “Drug Laws:  the debate nobody wants,” The Guardian, 14 May 2001.

([2])        Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Drugs and the Law, Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Drugs and the Law, March 2000, chapter 7, paragraphs 28, 29 and 31.

([3])        House of Lords, Select Committee on Science and Technology, Ninth Report, Session 1997-98, Cannabis:  The Scientific and Medical Evidence, para. 2.6.

([4])        Ibid., para. 2.7.

([5])        Ibid., para. 4.1.

([6])        Ibid., para. 5.1.

([7])        Ibid., para. 6.19.

([8])        Ibid., para. 8.16.

([9])        Ibid., para. 8.17.

([10])      House of Lords, Select Committee on Science and Technology, Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis, Second Report, 14 March 2001, para. 29.

([11])      Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – Drugs and the Law, March 2000, p. 74.

([12])      Ibid., Chapter 2, para. 64.

([13])      Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Drugs:  dilemmas, choices and the law, November 2000.  This article may be found at http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/foundations/N70.asp.

([14])      Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain, The Government’s Ten-Year Strategy for Tackling Drugs Misuse, April 1998, in the chapter entitled “Resourcing and Managing the Work.”

([15])      DrugScope, UK Drug Situation 2000, The UK report to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, November 2000, p. 7.

([16])      Ibid., pp. 11-12.

([17])      “The Untouchables,” Economist, 21 April 2001, Vol. 359, Issue 8218, p. 49.

([18])      “Cannabis law faces court challenge,” Guardian Unlimited, 1 June 2001, can be found at http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk.

([19])      “Blunkett sacks drugs czar Hellawell,” The Times, 13 June 2001.

([20])      “Yard relaxes approach to cannabis offences,” Guardian Unlimited, 15 June 2001, can be found at http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk.


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