With the publication of their “Breaking the Cycle” report, the Home Affairs Select Committee has thrown its weight behind the reverse case – the case for increasing demand and, in time, for the legalisation of all drugs in the UK, writes CPS Addiction expert Kathy Gyngell.
Far from ‘Breaking the Cycle’ of drugs, were the recommendations of the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on drug policy to be followed, they would extend it. Its analysis of the drugs problem is as confused as the brain of Russell Brand - the celebrity former drug addict the Committee chose to let loose on their proceedings – and as misinformed as his thinking.
The predictability of the report’s bias and omissions does not make it any the less shocking, nor the BBC’s subsequent uncritical reportage of it any the less shameful.
From the outset of this enquiry Chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz, presumptively set its terms of reference to follow the recommendations of a drugs legalisation lobby - one lavishly financed by George Soros and Richard Branson - as I reported on this blog at the time.
Despite Mr Vaz’s protestations and denial in response to my questioning, the influence of this self-appointed Global Commission on Drugs Policy is all too apparent in the report. Firstly the report’s two main recommendations transparently derive from their liberalisation agenda. If that were not bad enough it became clear that its launch was timed to coincide with the Global Commission’s own launch of their global TV and You Tube viral propaganda campaign called ‘Breaking the Taboo.’ A coincidence methinks, too far. Both launches conveniently had ‘Breaking’ in their titles.
Mark Easton’s, the BBC’s Home Affair’s Editor’s, disingenuous report on the BBC’s TV News (10.12.12) at 6pm and 10pm brought it to light – for me anyway. He seemed entirely unperturbed. Yet the independence of the Parliamentary Select committee was being abused - one way or another. Instead of remarking on this Mr Easton added his helpful editorial hand to the promotion of drug use on the back of a Parliamentary Report. He included a goodly propaganda clip of Branson and the celebrity supporters who star in this viral. The Global Commission must have been delighted. Free BBC advertisements and to the naïve viewer it gave not just a parliamentary, but a BBC, imprimatur too.
Mr Vaz is not naive. Attaching the HASC drugs policy enquiry to such a powerful lobby brings the independence of parliamentary Select Committee system as a whole into disrepute.
The BBC’s editorial standards do not emerge well. None of their reporters, from Mark Easton downwards, chose to probe the committee’s recommendation to down classify Cannabis to C status. Yet this decision was taken without reference to any of the scientific evidence presented to the committee, whether relating to psychosis, cancer, motivation or IQ, or to the casting vote of its chairman and his unexplained U turn since his keen support for B status in 2008.
The devastating catalogue of the scientific evidence of cannabis harms submitted by the charity Cannabis Skunk Sense warranted no mention at all. Nor were the rising numbers of cannabis users seeking treatment mentioned in the report deemed relevant. Nor was the evidence presented about the strength of the cannabis that now dominates the UK market.
The BBC also uncritically fell for the Report’s Portuguese ‘de penalisation’ red herring too. Yet as drugs consultant (and former coordinator of London’s prison drug treatment) Huseyin Djemil, pointed out to Anne Diamond on Radio Berkshire, ‘we are more like the Portuguese than the Portuguese.’ As he says we don’t convict that much and we divert most addicts into treatment already – albeit into a rotten methadone treatment that maintains addiction. No wonder most addicts are unaffected by the threat of conviction – as the addict on the BBC’s own news website so coolly stated.
But neither HASC nor the BBC were interested in the sentencing statistics presented to them by Peter Hitchens – official statistics released through parliamentary questions. The truth is that analysis of our drugs problem is more complex than they’d have us believe.
It is unsurprising then that the irony of otherwise sensible people advocating the decriminalisation of a drug 20 times more cancerous than tobacco at the very time the law is being tightened on cigarette sales (through display bans, public smoking bans and plain packs) does not occur to them.
Finally, what must have been a last minute addition to the report – an uncritical reference to the recent Washington and Colorado votes on cannabis legalisation - added nothing to its standing. It only confirmed the prime driver of the report – an eagerness to keep the legalisation debate alive.
This is what their call for a Royal Commission to revisit the 1971 drugs act is code for: a means of keeping these views in the public domain for another two years.
Unable to win their argument straightforwardly, the tactic is to find a backdoor way of keeping it in the headlines along with the repetition - sadly uncritically adopted by Philip Johnston in the Telegraph today - that the law lags behind public opinion. The law might lag behind liberal metropolitan opinion, opinion which gets more than its fair share of broadsheet pages, but not behind public opinion. 52% of people think that no drug should be legalised against 8% who think all drugs should be legalised. 45% of people think that no drug should be decriminalised against 11 per cent who think all drugs should be decriminalised, according to a recent You Gov poll. The majority of people think that either measure would lead to more people using drugs.
So David Cameron was right to stamp on the suggestion of a Royal Commission. It would have been an unjustifiable waste of time and money in this time of triple dip recession and economic austerity.
Sadly though, HASC’s key recommendations cast doubt on and damage the credibility of their few sensible suggestions - the greater need for expert abstinence based residential rehabilitation, for drug testing on arrival in and departure from prisons and for keeping drugs out of prisons.
The premise for such practical reform is the significant overall decline in drug use (by over 30 per cent since the late nineties here and by 75% in the last 25 years in the US). There is no reason why this trend should not continue. But the key to this, to ameliorating the drug problem further, is to work on reducing demand.
It is not rocket science. Reducing demand for drugs through controls and prevention will do most to help the problem here at home and most to reduce the scale of the international market and problem. That is President Santos of Columbia’s analysis.
But with the publication of their “Breaking the Cycle” report the Home Affairs Select Committee has thrown its weight behind the reverse case – the case for increasing demand which drugs liberalisation inevitably will lead to and possibly, in time, for the legalisation of all drugs in the UK.
They have chosen to ignore the evidence and push uncritically for the greatest and riskiest change in drug policy (a minefield for the next generation) and contribution to the international drug problem that the UK has seen in the last fifty years.
This is not cool.