Home Affairs Committee recommends UK drug policy reform


in Harm reduction,Policy

The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee published its 3 volume report on drugs today, to widespread press coverage (some of which is collected in links are below). The Beckley Foundation submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, along with many other expert organisations and individuals invested int this field. The full report can be downloaded here.

Some recommendations of the HASC:

1. The establishment of a Royal Commission to consider the best ways of reducing the harm caused by drugs in an increasingly globalised world, to be required to report in 2015.

2. Allocation of ring-fenced funding to drugs policy research (most appropriately within the Medical Health and Research Council), since although drugs policy ought to be evidence-based there is currently an absence of reliable data in some areas.

3. Close consideration and analysis is required of the decriminalisation experience in Portugal, and the legalisation systems that develop in the states of Washington and Colorado, and the proposed legalisation system in Uruguay. It is recommended that the responsible minister from the Department of Health and the responsible minister from the Home Office together visit Portugal in order to examine its system of depenalisation and emphasis on treatment.

4. The government should initiate a public debate on all of the alternatives to the current drugs policy as part of the Royal Commission, in particular discussion should be had with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways—including the possibility of legalisation and regulation—to tackle the global drugs dilemma.

As can be seen from these recommendations, the overall tone of the report is that the Government needs to adopt a more evidence-based and harm-reducing approach to drugs – something the Beckley Foundation is fully in support of.

Our Breaking the Taboo campaign aims to force politicians to accept the need for an open debate on our failed drug policies – join the campaign at and #breakthetaboo yourself on twitter.

An interesting development for the Beckley Foundation’s international policy programme is the recognition of the effects of UK drug policy on other countries, such as Colombia, and an accounting of their views. President Santos recently signed the Beckley Foundation Public Letter, calling for a new approach to global drug policy.

Even if numbers of drug users are falling here, the report takes clear that we need to take stock of the effects of our international collaboration in human rights abuses and state destabilisation via the power of the criminal networks responsible for bringing drugs to consumer countries like the UK and the US.

The response of the Home Office to this report is both predictable and disheartening: (from Jeremy Browne, Home Office Minister, interviewed this morning on BBC Radio 4 – can be listened to here on iPlayer)

“The home secretary has said she doesn’t think the royal commission is the answer at this time, but we are open to new ideas and evidence-based research to carry on reducing the harm caused by drugs in this country”

This report in fact follows a six year study by the UK Drugs Policy Commission (that called for decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of illicit drugs) and itself echos many of the findings of the committee’s last major inquiry into drugs in 2002 (when David Cameron was a member).

Our Breaking the Taboo campaign aims to force politicians to accept the need for an open debate on drug policies – join the campaign at and #breakthetaboo yourself on Twitter.

One could be forgiven for wondering what kind of extra evidence the Home Office could require in order to take reform seriously – and the Beckley Foundation fully intends to continue its work on drug policy reform at national and international levels until we find out.

Press Coverage


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