The UK is currently realigning their sights on targeting recreational drug users. A report written by Dame Carol Black outlined that in the UK drug use has become a cultural norm recreationally. Rather than seek to see how that can be embraced or treated to reduce harm, the UK government will seek to punish those involved harder at every level.
Although the UK heavily relies on punishment for drug offences to ‘help’ the problem, drug problems in the UK have steadily gotten worse. Heroin is of the highest purity level ever, which indicates that supply lines are well in tact and no need to water down. Drug deaths in Scotland are at an all-time high.
The war on drugs has been waged over several decades, with actual wars being fought around drugs in places like Afghanistan to police being combative against party goers.
The UN drug summit in 1971 (the same year the Substance Misuse Act came out in the UK), set out a frame work in which they wanted to eradicate drug use, from farm gate to end user, no one was to be spared. Policies and procedures were written into law across the face of the world that made it almost impossible to legally tolerate drug usage.
The frame work in which the UN laid out gave rise to a whole new legal and criminal involvement with managing drugs. Over the last 50 years people have been shining a light on how the polices have led to an increase in deaths, harms and disruption in communities that far outweighs the effects of the substances themselves. However, despite this the UK wishes to turn back the clock and go back to punishing the end user for their own behaviour with their health.
Addressing so-called ‘recreational’ drug use by too many in our society who, knowingly or otherwise, support a dangerous and exploitative market and whose behaviour is both criminal and anti-social. This means being smart and developing tougher and more meaningful consequences to help reduce demand and shift behaviour and attitudes in those sections of society where drug use is currently seen as acceptable.Secretary of State, UK 2021
How Harmful is Recreational Drug Use?
It’s a loaded question to answer, drugs like cannabis are non-toxic and although carry a risk for some in triggering off schizophrenia very little is known about this effect and it is exceptionally rare. Drugs like cocaine and heroin can be potentially very toxic and can have severe adverse reactions.
However, if we set aside harms towards the end user and expand on it, the harms from drugs such as cannabis and other softer non addictive drugs are linked to social harms. In recent “County Lines” drug raids across the UK there were a high number of children being used as slaves in the UK to help run criminal drug supplies in the UK.
This is where it begins to evolve into a political debate, if these drugs weren’t illegal they wouldn’t be cash-opportunity for organised criminals who may have a particularly penchant for dysfunctional antisocial behaviour. Drugs are in the hands of deviant subcultures because they are illegal. Although alcohol is often the main ingredient for child neglect, there isn’t a noteworthy presence of child slaves being forced to brew alcohol. Thus, the legal nature of alcohol indicates that we are willing to accept a harm reduction model for one particular problem and not another.
The UK does not have any parties that are political allies in reducing the impact of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The typical political polarizations do not really apply when it comes to parties in power. Although the Labour Party (1997- 2010), typically assumed as being left leaning / liberal, have enacted policies that criminalised over a million people for possession of cannabis. Labour party enforced a drag-net approach to drugs, where they riled up communities with a stop and search routine in predominantly black areas of London. This led to loads of young people in these communities being charged or cautioned by the law. Although the charges were light a criminal record in the UK bans you from working within law, security, education, leisure facilities, airports, health and also bans travel to certain countries.
You might think “Oh well, fuck ‘em”, and you’re certainly not alone with that style of thinking, but there is a reality that most people who sample drugs or are in possession of drugs at some point are just ordinary people. They certainly aren’t all addicts, they aren’t bad people, some of them probably will go on to become law makers, famously George Bush Jr, Barack Obama and David Cameron were known to take cocaine throughout their lives. Are we just willing to flush everyone who samples drugs down the toilet and forever ruin their potential?
If you consider you are a recreational drug user, you may way to give yourself a bit of cost-benefit analysis on risk and reward. Think carefully about your future and what you want out of life, the digital fingerprint is very strong these days and no doubt new technology will be used to persecute and punish you.
My own personal advice on dealing with any matters concerning legal issues with drugs is to seek professional help from those who are qualified and skilled in being able to help you.
Read the full report here: