MPs forced to look at drug laws
By Greg de Hoedt
A Downing Street online petition calling for an Impact Assessment on the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has finally reached its target of 100,000 signatories.
The petition, put forward by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, calls for an Impact Assessment to see if the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA71) is cost effective and value for money. In times of austerity can we afford policies that are failing? Is anyone checking to see if the current system has been too pricey for what it has delivered?
“Drug related harms and the costs to society remain high in Britain, with a growing consensus that the current enforcement led approach is not working. In recent months the independent UK Drugs Policy Commission has highlighted the fact that Government is spending around £3 billion a year on a policy that is often self-defeating; and the Home Affairs Select Committee has concluded Government action is needed “now, more than ever” to consider all the alternatives to our failing drug laws and learn from countries that have adopted a more evidence based approach.”
The petition had only reached 50,000 signatures in its last week before the deadline and it was looking like it was doomed to fail. However, in the last few days, before the petition was due to close, a staggering 60,000+ people signed, passing it through the required 100,000 threshold. This means a backbench committee of MPs will have to look at the issue and decide whether it should be discussed in Parliament.
The rise in numbers in the last week can be attributed in part to widespread sharing on social media and celebrity endorsement from Russell Brand and the website Avaaz.
Caroline Lucas said: “The Misuse of Drugs Act is hopelessly out of date. It has never been reviewed, or undergone a cost-benefit analysis. In England and Wales alone, an estimated £3billion a year is spent fighting the war on drugs, to little effect. Over half of the people in prison are thought to have serious drug problems, and yet we continue to fail to treat drug addiction as the serious health problem it is.
“I’m absolutely delighted that so many people have sent a clear message to the Government that we need a fresh approach. Today we have achieved an enormous step towards an evidence-based drugs strategy.”
NORML UK congratulates Caroline Lucas and everyone who signed it for the success with the important petition.
Reaching the target for this e-petition was important, not only to get it reviewed by MPs but to send a broader message that there is a great calling for this issue to be discussed in the UK. If it had failed it would have been evidence to those against law reform that we do not need an Impact Assessment.
We need to support the MPs that are prepared to stand up and support cannabis law reform. It is our hope the success of this petition will encourage more MPs to support Caroline Lucas in her campaign to fight for sensible drug policies.
Petitioning played a huge part in the US states that now have recreational and medical cannabis laws. Although we do not have voter ballot initiatives in the UK, the success of this e-petition shows we can influence lawmakers to at least debate the issue.
The petition at time of publishing this article had just passed 115,600, so that’s past the necessary 100k, however, if you have not yet signed, you can still do so online at Downing Street’s official web site; the more the merrier. According to the web site of No 10, only four open petitions listed have passed the 100k threshold.