Suella Braverman suppressed a report on decriminalisation (Picture: UK Government)

The Tories—and Labour—reacted with horror last week when the Scottish government said it wanted to decriminalise the possession of all drugs for personal use. Within an hour Downing Street dismissed the calls to overhaul or devolve the legislation, which is reserved to Westminster.

Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said ministers had “no plans to alter our tough stance on drugs”. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor was no better.  “I do not think this sounds like a good policy. I find it quite stunning that this would be a priority for the Scottish government”.

Does Reeves not know that Scotland has the highest drug‑related death rate in Western Europe—three times the rate of the United Kingdom as a whole?  The repressive  “war on drugs” is a total failure.

Last year there were almost 1,100 drug-related deaths in Scotland, according to government figures. But the Home Office has blocked action to attempt to tackle this. It stopped last year’s effort to set up consumption and treatment centres in town centres.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has suppressed a report supporting decriminalisation from her own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Its secret recommendations are now dubbed a “confidential conversation with ministers”.

Portugal decriminalised personal drug possession in 2001. Since then drug-related deaths in the state have remained below the EU average. Also the proportion of prisoners sentenced for drugs has fallen from 40 to 15 percent.

Mexico, Germany and Italy decriminalised drug possession too. Drug policy is laced through with myths and bigotry. Alcohol,  which harms many people’s health, fills aisles at every supermarket.

More Americans, roughly 55 million, now use cannabis than smoke tobacco. People take drugs because they enjoy them or as a means of escape from desperate circumstances or for a combination of reasons. 

They are common, normal—and yet illegal.  And that gives cops a way to crackdown and criminalise those they regard as their enemies—particularly black people.

The police leave alone the drug users in parliament, the boardrooms or the posh dinner party. But they target young people on the streets for stop and searches. 

Any opposition party worth the name would be demanding decriminalisation—at least—and more resources to help people who want treatment. Labour’s stance is another sign of its cowardice.

The drug laws should go, and the Scottish proposals, which are a small step forward, should be defended.

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