Welcome to UK420

Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to contribute to this site by submitting your own content or replying to existing content. You'll be able to customize your profile, receive reputation points as a reward for submitting content, while also communicating with other members via your own private inbox, plus much more!

This message will be removed once you have signed in.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

Drug reforms must consider the wider issues Letters



Drug reforms must consider the wider issues



Decriminalisation is a welcome change of approach, but it must be accompanied by a strategy to tackle the broader challenges faced by addicts, writes Prof Harry Sumnall, while resident judge Roger Elsey says the victims of drug users must also be protected

r Kojo Koram’s powerful opinion piece (Enlightened drug reforms are sweeping the US. Why is Britain so far behind?, 25 February) highlights how decriminalisation of drug possession in the US may be a mechanism to address disparities in the UK criminal justice system, and help to change public attitudes towards people who use drugs.

However, despite progressive law reforms in the US, drug-related deaths are at historic highs, the drugs market is still awash with potent synthetic opioids, and while public opinion backs decriminalisation or legal regulation of cannabis, the same cannot be said for support for life-saving treatments such as opioid agonist therapies and harm reduction interventions, where access is impeded in many states.


In contrast, in the much discussed example of Portugal, decriminalisation of drug possession was accompanied by substantial investments in treatment and support services, after years of underinvestment. In the UK, where few are imprisoned for simple possession offences, people who experience harm from their substance use have seen cuts to treatment services, have high levels of unmet physical and mental health needs, and report high levels of loneliness and disconnection from community support. Many live with histories of childhood trauma.

While decriminalisation is a welcome change of approach to drug policing, without a simultaneous commitment to the broader challenges faced by drug users, we are unlikely to have much impact on the overall burden of harm caused by drugs and drug policy.
Prof Harry Sumnall
Professor of substance use, Liverpool John Moores University

• Your editorial (22 February) suggests that possession of drugs has two consequences – damage to the health of users, and the criminalisation of marginalised groups. I have extensive experience of sentencing offenders in both youth courts and domestic violence courts. In both, the offenders are similar in that their pre-sentence reports and antecedent histories show that many – I believe most – are drug users.

The interests of the victims of their offending also need to be considered as part of the consequences of drug-taking. Before the decriminalisation bandwagon becomes unstoppable, research is needed into how these vulnerable victims can be protected. It is the use of drugs, not the law, which is causing them harm.
Roger Elsey
Resident judge and HM coroner, HM courts of Episkopi and Dhekelia, Cyprus





1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post

Dear Roger,


A man much wiser than me once said -


"It is difficult to get a man to understand the truth when his salary depends on his not understanding it"


Upton Sinclair, American novelist and social reformer 1878-1968


5 people like this

Share this post

Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0