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Drugs Policy in the UK

28 March 2009

The CWU Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) has, from its inception, been concerned about UK drugs policy, and the impact not just on young people, but on all age groups.

Ecstasy tablets

Although there is a stereotype that young people are more inclined to be involved in the use of the illegal drugs, statistics indicate that this is an issue that affects all of us - either as users, as people directly affected by drug related criminal activity, or as a friend or family member of someone in either of those two categories.

If the fact that the impact of illegal drug use in Britain affects us all is clear, it is also clear the policy of absolute prohibition does not seem to be making headway.

That is why the YAC has been concerned to find out more about drug policy and its impact and what can be done to improve matters. The issue was debated, first at Head Office in September 2005 then in a workshop session at the National Youth Education Event in October 2005; the following conclusion was reached during an open session at the 2005 Youth Conference.

"Conference believes that the current UK policy on drugs is ineffective. It is generating a range of problems such as mass criminalisation of young people and CWU members. Therefore we believe there should be a review of the current drug policy with no predetermined outcome, accompanied by a wide-ranging and informed education policy to enable greater debate. This review should be accompanied by a moratorium on the prosecutions for drug possession and adequate resources for rehabilitation available through the NHS as this would be cost-effective and bring benefits to the whole community".

The response the YAC has had to its work in this area so far has been overwhelmingly positive - not for a total abandonment of control and regulation of drugs, but that this is a highly relevant issue and there are real problems about the current UK drugs policy.

The YAC has been working closely with Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, a charity specialising in the effectiveness of drug policy. It is not the case that the NEC or the YAC necessarily agree with all of their views but, the experiences of our members make it clear that this is an issue that needs to be debated, and we can't have the debate without some facts. The CWU continues to believe that a debate on the future of the UK drugs policy is not only desirable but essential if we are to deal with the very real and troubling issues that it affects.

The Transform Drugs Policy Foundation have produced an historical Timeline, presented in tabular format, tracing the history of drug policy from 1800 to the present day. Included are the key legislative and cultural events from the past 200 years that have brought us to the current point in policy development, illuminating the development of the 'drug war' and the more recent emergence of the reform movement. The Timeline focuses on UK policy but also includes international developments at UN level in the US and around the world.

The Timeline runs up to the present day. Transform have taken the liberty of adding a section that runs from 2007 to 2026.