Drug laws row erupts - join the debate

Join the debate: Should illegal drugs be decriminalised?

Join the debate: Should illegal drugs be decriminalised?

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CURRENT drug laws date back decades and those in favour of modernisation point out that society has changed since then - while dozens of new legal highs have been created.

Today we get the opposing views of two high profile big names in Sheffield - one is for and the other against a change in the law.

And there’s also a link to have your say in our latest online poll. We ask, should illegal drugs be decriminalised? To vote - CLICK HERE.

But first we take a look at the current situation.

At present, the state position is governed by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

A group called the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which is supported by major names including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Sir Richard Branson, claims drug use is soaring and that the war on drugs should end.

Other backers of the group include celebrities – including Dame Judi Dench, Julie Christie and Sting.

Troubled singer Amy Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse, has also called for changes to help improve drugs education.

The Misuse of Drugs Act classifies narcotics into classes A, B and C.

Under the law, it is an offence to possess a controlled substance, possess a controlled substance with intent to supply it, supply or offer to supply a controlled drug, or allow a house, flat or office to be used by people taking drugs

Drug trafficking attracts punishment including life imprisonment.

FOR:

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister has backed a controversial report supported by MPs and celebrities calling for a rethink on drug laws.

The Sheffield Hallam MP and Lib Dem leader said it is time the Government reconsidered laws he considers outdated.

Mr Clegg said: “Every year, 2,000 people are dying because of drugs, one in five children between 11 and 15 have tried drugs and many young people say it’s easier to get hold of drugs than alcohol or tobacco.

“The worst thing to do is to claim everything is all right with the current situation when it clearly is not.

“We have been waging war on drugs for 40 years using laws which are decades-old.

“In politics, as in life, you can’t keep on doing something that doesn’t work.

“You can’t keep repeating the same mistakes.”

“If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profits, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting more young people — you’d have to say you are losing and it’s time to do something different.

“I’m anti-drugs — it’s for that reason I’m pro reform.

“I was disappointed the Home Office ruled out an open-minded, level-headed look at all this before the ink had even dried on the committee report.

“I told the Prime Minister that this was a missed opportunity.

“He knows my views. He and I don’t agree on this.”

Mr Clegg’s comments follow a controversial report by MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Members have urged the Government to follow an approach used in Portugal where those found with small amounts of drugs are not always prosecuted.

He said: “We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese depenalised system.

“It had clearly reduced public concern about drug use in that country, and was supported by all political parties and the police.”

Colorado and Washington in the US have just relaxed their laws on drugs possession in line with Portugal.

Both states allow possession of small quantities for personal use although it remains against American federal law.

AGAINST:

David Blunkett, Former Home Secretary

FORMER Home Secretary David Blunkett believes Nick Clegg’s calls for a Royal Commission to consider a review on drugs laws is wrong.

The Brightside and Hillsborough Labour MP, who altered classification of cannabis from Class B to Class C in 2002 - a change which was later reversed - said that efforts should focus on resolving problems caused by drug use.

In response to Mr Clegg, Mr Blunkett said: “We can have all the Royal Commissions in the world but it’s on the ground, in working to treat, rehabilitate and provide recovery for substance misuse, which is so crucial. Diverting attention into an argument about legalising drugs does nothing to address the terrible problem faced by both families and individuals where drug abuse takes its toll on the wellbeing of so many people.

“While there is every reason to continue reviewing current policies and not least the outdated classification categories for drugs, the Deputy Prime Minster appears to have missed one crucial factor. Namely, that there’s been an enormous drop in the take up of drugs and, in particular, among young people under the age of 30.”

He added: “This has seen a drop in the use of cannabis, heroin and, to a lesser extent, crack cocaine and new chemical drugs.

“Education and information have already been achieving their goal, as has an enormous investment in treatment over the last ten years.”

When he downgraded the status of cannabis a decade ago, Mr Blunkett said: “All controlled drugs are harmful and will remain illegal. We must concentrate our efforts on the drugs that cause the most harm, while sending a credible message to young people. I will therefore ask parliament to reclassify cannabis from class B to class C.

“I have considered the recommendations of the home affairs committee, and the advice given to me by medical experts that the current classification of cannabis is disproportionate to the harm that it causes.

“It is important to remember cannabis is a harmful substance that still requires strict controls, hence its classification as a class C drug.”

Jacqui Smith, one of Mr Blunkett’s successors as Home Secretary, reclassified cannabis as class B due to concerns about use of the drug’s super-strength ‘skunk’ form.

CAMERON DEFENDS EXISTING POLICIES:

PRIME Minister David Cameron has rejected Nick Clegg’s call for a Royal Commission to review drug laws.

Mr Cameron said that while the Deputy Prime Minister is ‘entitled to his view’ he does not believe a change in the law is necessary.

The Prime Minister said: “I don’t think a Royal Commission is the answer and I don’t support the decriminalisation of any drugs that are currently illegal.

“Of course the Deputy Prime Minister is entirely entitled to take a view for the next election and beyond for his manifesto, wanting to go further, wanting a Royal Commission.

“In my view there’s always a danger, as someone said, that they can take minutes and last for years.”

“I don’t support decriminalisation. We have a policy which is working in Britain.

“Drugs use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference.

Labour leader and Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband said his party would ‘take a look’ at the Home Affairs Select Committee report recommending changes but that he and his party are against decriminalisation of any illegal drugs.

WHAT YOU’VE BEEN SAYING ON THE NET:

Thomas Dean: “Legal or illegal, people will still take them.

“Do we want a regulated market where the profits are used for social good, or an unregulated market where there is no control over the profits?

“If you want to help people get off drugs, do you think it would be easier if you legalised it and sold them with advice slips, or kindly asked for street corner dealers to hand out advice slips to their customers.”

Dave Brackenberry-Green: “The decriminalisation experiment of the last government failed because it didn’t go far enough.

“To protect users from the hazards of the black market, bad-quality substances, involvement in other crime and so on, there is only way to go; full legalisation, close regulation, free substance advice and an appropriate tax revenue to cover the costs.”

Chris Hicks: “Full legalisation? Only a Labour supporter could come out with such a daft statement.”

LS Sheffield

“How about we execute dealers and pushers like they do in China? I think that would be suitable reform.”

Frankie Howard: “Let’s start with what we should do, which every previous government has tried and failed because they haven’t got the stomach for it.

“When offenders are found with drugs, lock them up for a substantial time.

“Drugs breed crime. Dealers should lose all property and possessions on conviction.

“Make the penalty for possession, cultivation, distribution and conspiracy outweigh the money earned.”

Bytor: “Legislate, decriminalise, legalise. It’s the only way.”

Comrade Door

“It’s never been a war on drugs. It’s never been more than the occasional skirmish to score political points to make it look like the governments of all flavours are tough on drugs. They aren’t.

“Prohibition never works and it never has. Let’s take the profit out of illegal drugs.

“Get rid of the gang culture fuelled by drug money.

“Let people take drugs as they do alcohol and cigarettes, but let’s make it as anti-social and unacceptable to be stoned as it is to be drunk and violent.”

VOTE: Should ‘illegal’ drugs be decriminalised? TO VOTE CLICK HERE.

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