The UK Drugs Stategy Is In Limbo.
Who is to be the new drugs minister?
No word yet from David Cameron. I have been calling the Home Office every day since the election and the answer is always the same – ‘no appointment has been made, it is expected within the coming days’.
Responsibility for the drugs strategy rests with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention. At least it did throughout the last Parliament. That gave us the horror of arch-prohibitionist James Brokenshire, followed by Baroness Browning, then the Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, followed by Norman Baker, the man who broke the mould and resigned because of Theresa May’s opposition to evidence and common sense. Lynne Featherstone succeeded him and continued to support reform. The Liberal Democrat’s intelligent and progressive drugs policy was incorporated into its election manifesto, sadly defeated by an electorate terrorised by the prospect of a Labour/SNP victory.
Why is this vital role still not decided? Perhaps responsibility for drugs is to be allocated elsewhere? Probably too much to hope that it will go the Department of Health but there were encouraging noises from the civil service just before the election, suggesting that the costs of enforcing drug possession charges were too high and decriminalisation should be considered.
This decision, when it comes, will speak volumes about the new government. The signs are not good with Cameron launching the most horrendous attacks on liberty and British values, threatening to crack down on the freedom of speech and thought for which thousands of British heroes have fought and died over many years.
So this is a crucial decision. On it will depend the development of CLEAR’s future strategy. What is certain is that we must re-adjust to communicate effectively with Tory ministers. We are well placed to do that, more so than any other UK drugs policy reform group because our strategy is already one of engagement, not protest. We need to be talking about public expenditure savings, new tax revenues, individual liberty. Now more than ever the failed politics of protest and human rights will not work.
Immediately after the election came calls from the stoner groups for protests and direct action. A ridiculous and futile demo has been arranged for 30th May “FUCK YOUR DRUG WAR – PROTEST“. Make no mistake, these ideas are idiotic, misguided, counterproductive, offensive, exactly what the campaign does not need.
The choice of which minister gets to look after the drugs strategy is hugely important. Watch this space.