Why I am opposed to tomorrow’s debate in Parliament about drugs

This morning I was asked for a quote for a briefing being prepared for MP’s by the Centre for Social Justice in preparation for a debate in Parliament tomorrow (31st October).  This is what I said:

“The levels of alcohol-related problems, from anti-social behaviour and domestic violence to liver disease and deaths, have increased massively since the relaxation of licensing laws. Anyone advocating a relaxation of the drug laws should really look at the evidence of what happens when harmful substances are made more easily available. Consumption will increase and increase.

“Rather than joining the race to have Europe’s most tolerant drug laws, we should have the ambition to become the number one country for recovery in Europe.”

With hindsight, I think I should have used the word “liberal” rather than “tolerant”.

Whenever someone calls for such a debate, and when the phrase “evidence-based” is used as often as it is being used in the run-up to this debate, it usually is shorthand for decriminalisation, if not legalisation.

In sponsoring this debate, I believe that my own MP, Caroline Lucas, is honourable and well-intentioned.  But I think she is wrong.  As with similar ‘debates’ the focus tends to be on decriminalisation, not on treatment and recovery.  I guess I would have a more positive attitude for debates such as these if those advocating them started by being clear about the harm drugs cause (forget the criminal justice aspect for a moment), how drugs are a negative reality in our society, that abstinence is the overwhelming ambition, that abstinence-based treatment has been shown to work.

I would have loved Caroline to have sponsored and promoted a debate about the need for adequate funding of abstinence-based treatment and the need for non-prescribing treatment for young people. I like Caroline a great deal, I enjoy her company, I admire and respect her, I think (along with David Lepper) she is probably the best constituency MP I have ever had. I am, however, sad that we seem to have this fault line between us.

(A couple of weeks ago I was the target of a co-ordinated campaign of abuse for expressing similar views in responding to a statement from another local MP. The evidence I got from that experience is that many of those who will support Caroline Lucas in this debate (although certainly not Caroline herself) are not interested in debate, rather they resort to intimidation and bullying. In my case it hasn’t worked.)

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4 thoughts on “Why I am opposed to tomorrow’s debate in Parliament about drugs

  1. I don’t drink any more and my youthful exploration of drugs is a long way back in the murk of time. My own abstinence is partly through witnessing the effects of drugs and alcohol on our clients, but I understand how many of them have suffered trauma and conditions that make oblivion an attractive choice. The “cure” becomes the disease.

    A couple of years back the Wellcome Institute had an enlightening exhibition called High Society which described the universal compulsion throughout human history to get out of it. The essential difference between modern western use and other cultures has been the urge to use substances as an escape rather than a ritualised and boundried experience.

    Given this norm and the youthful compulsion to be contrary and experiment, I feel that whilst wholly supporting abstinence based recovery, we should be acknowledging what will always be there and keeping people away from the criminal elements who thrive on the current situation. I think as well we must be careful to separate prohibition and decriminalisation as different debates.

    Ultimately social justice, full freedom of expression and fulfilling lives push this will to oblivion out of the picture and I have seen people breaking free from habit and physical and emotional collapse into bright and hopeful futures and I am proud to work for an organisation that contributes to this.

    • As always, Mark, thanks for your comment and your honesty. Whatever we do, unless we allow children free access to drugs, there will always be criminal elements who thrive with those for whom drugs are not available (14, 15, 16 year olds). I agree prohibition and decriminalisation are different debates, but one is proposed as a lead in for the other.

  2. > The evidence I got from that experience is that many of those who will support Caroline Lucas in this debate (although certainly not Caroline herself) are not interested in debate, rather they resort to intimidation and bullying. In my case it hasn’t worked.

    And yet it is you that is saying that you’re opposed to the debate entirely. You have provided absolutely no evidence for your position, and seemingly have no intention on doing so.

    You want to just prevent the debate entirely, and criticize people who then criticize you for that.

  3. I oppose the debate because of the premise. But unlike the trolls who targeted me, trying to intimidate and badger me into silence, I put forward a particular view which some agree with, and others (like you) oppose. That’s debate.

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