Home Office Drug Strategy Consultation
All over the BBC this morning is the story that addicts may have their benefits withdrawn if they refuse treatment. This, apparently, is a proposal included in the Home Office’s new Drug Strategy consultation document.
Where is this document? It’s not on the Home Office website. That’s a bit strange for something that purports to be about consulting with the public isn’t it?
I had to phone the Home Office press office to get a copy. I shouldn’t have to be doing this for the government but you can download it here:
Theresa May and James Brokenshire, the ministers responsible for this, should remember that they are not in office to preserve the status quo or cook up policies between themselves based on the misinformation that the Home Office currently promotes. Their first responsiblity after their duty to the Queen is to the public. Consultation is not something they should pay lip service to, nor is it something they can pick or choose. It should determine their actions.
As part of this consultation, the Home Office should take into account the tens of thousands of people who have used the Your Freedom website to call for relaxation in the drug laws and particularly the legalisation of cannabis.
I urge everybody with any interest in the drugs issue to download, complete and return the consultation document. It’s presented as a Q&A form. I also suggest that you keep a copy and send a copy to your MP. Regrettably the Home Office doesn’t have a good record on keeping track of what the public says to it. It loses a lot of things.
On the face of it, I support the idea that if you’re a heroin, cocaine, alcohol or prescription drug addict and you’re offered treatment but refuse it then you shouldn’t be able to live on benefits. That seems entirely just. The danger is that just as current drug laws drive addicts to crime and prostitution so will this. This is progress though. There has to be personal responsibility but also some flexibility to ensure this doesn’t become another self-defeating policy. Most important of all, possession of drugs for personal use and/or social supply must be taken out of the criminal law.
The other headline grabbing proposal is that the government should be able to impose a temporary 12 month ban on “new substances”. This is designed to tackle the danger of “legal highs” – a danger mainly of the government’s own making because of its policy of prohibition. There is a real glimmer of hope and intelligence here though because “Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people”. I applaud this. It shows that it is possible to get common sense from the Home Office. There is hope yet!
As I go to press (oh, alright, as my finger hovers over the “publish” button), the consultation document has become available on the Home Office website. A little tardy but better late than never.
You can respond to this consultation until 30th September 2010. Make sure you do.
Written by Peter Reynolds
August 20, 2010 at 11:48 am
Tagged with addict, alcohol, BBC, benefits, cannabis, cocaine, crime, Drug Strategy Consultation Document, drugs policy, government, heroin, Home Office, James Brokenshire, legal high, legalisation, lip service, misinformation, personal use, prohibition, prostitution, self-defeating policy, social supply, Theresa May, treatment, Your Freedom
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