Within the Coalition Government, UK drug policies have been targeted. Senior members of the Liberal Democrats have said that the rules that are currently in place need a smarter approach if the problem is to be implemented. A report from the Home Office has been pointed out by the Lib Dems, stating that there is no apparent correlation between how tough a country’s law is and the amount of drugs that a country uses. There have been heated discussions from Tory MPs who think this knowledge acquired by the Lib Dems has been ‘hijacked’ for their own political gain.
To obtain a better understanding of this argument, here are the UK’s drug laws condensed and explained.
The Current Drug Laws in the UK
Illegal drugs are split into three categories under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. These categories are Class A, B and C. The penalties for Class A drugs are much more severe than those for Class C drugs. This is because they are more dangerous in every kind of way and are extremely addictive. If you are caught supplying Class A drugs, you can expect to be punished with life in prison. For Class B and C drugs, you can expect to spend up to 14 years in prison if you are caught supplying. Legal support is essential if you are charged for conspiracy to sell or supply drugs. The punishment for possession is less severe, but you can still get sentenced and face unlimited fines. In the UK, drug misuse has decreased, and based on this evidence, there is currently no intention to change the country’s laws.
The Rules Around Legal Highs
The UK law currently says that the only way a drug is classed as illegal is if it has been specifically banned. A ‘legal high’ refers to any substance that gives its user an effect that is similar to illegal drugs, such as cannabis or cocaine, but that hasn’t been banned. When a legal high becomes illegal, then manufacturers must tweak the chemical compound of the substance to change it into a new substance. This means they can avoid the law. The government is discussing the ban of the sale of all ‘psychoactive’ substances apart from some, like tobacco and alcohol.
The Role the NHS Plays During Treatment
There are several services offered by the NHS. Many local authorities and police forces aim to recognise and work alongside drug misusers and offenders as soon as possible after they have been arrested. The process involves drug testing, assessment via drug workers and then treatment. In cases where drug users do not make the effort to engage, further legal action will be required. Help with life skills, training and education is also offered to offenders, as well as housing and treatment. In April 2013, the Government stopped funding police commissioners and local authorities for these interventions.
An evidence-based approach has been requested and debated by MPs to decide what to do regarding the UK’s drug policies. However, a lot more research and discussion will be required before any new laws are passed.