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Health Groups Demand Drug Decriminalization To Protect The Public

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation

Leading public health bodies are calling for the decriminalization of possession and use of all illegal drugs.

Representing almost 10,000 public health professionals between them, The United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) said drugs should be treated as a medical issue instead of a criminal one.

“For too long, UK and global drugs strategies have pursued reductions in drug use as an end in itself, failing to recognise that harsh criminal sanctions have pushed vulnerable people in need of treatment to the margins of society, driving up harm to health and well-being even as overall use falls,” said Royal Society for Public Health chief executive Shirley Cramer.

The government’s drug policy is failing and not enough is being done on the education side to tackle drug abuse and addiction, said the RSPH and FPH Thursday. But the government insisted its approach was working with drug use falling over the past 10 years.

“The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people dependent on drugs through treatment and recovery,” said a spokesman for the Home Office.

“At the same time, we have to stop the supply of illegal drugs and tackle the organised crime behind the drugs trade.”

Titled “Taking A New Line On Drugs,” the report called for a “sea change in the approach” and that keeping drugs illegal didn’t deter use but did hamper chances for addicts who fall foul of the drug laws. (RELATED: Marijuana Is The Only Drug Americans Want Legalized)

The report did not call for drug legalization, saying drug dealers and producers should be prosecuted. “The time has come for a new approach, where we recognise that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue, and that those who misuse drugs are in need of treatment and support – not criminals in need of punishment,” said Cramer.

The Times newspaper endorsed the report’s findings and argued to its readers drugs should be decriminalized, making it the first United Kingdom newspaper to do so.

“Recreational drug use [in Portugal] has not soared, as critics of decriminalisation had feared. HIV infection rates have fallen and the use of so-called legal highs is, according to a study last year, lower than in any other European country,” said The Times.

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