This is Glasgow's Ewan Hoyle's compelling speech proposing a new, evidence based drugs policy. If implemented this will save lives and free up money spent on pointless prosecutions to spend on real help for people. This motion passed, after a high quality debate, with just a handful of votes against. I'm going to print the whole thing for you to read. The passing of the motion has to be seen as the start of the process, not the end. This needs to be implemented as soon as possible I was incredibly proud of Conference on Sunday and particularly of Ewan.
For too long drug policy has been a no-go area for politicians, and
there is a simple one word explanation for why: Cowardice. Cowardice
plain and simple.
I have talked to Liberal Democrat representatives from councillors to
the most senior members of the parliamentary parties and the first
thing they ask is “How do we sell this to The Sun? How do we sell this
to the Daily Mail?” I'll have just described policies that could
massively decrease crime, bring young girls working the streets back
to their families, take dealers out of communities so that the kids
growing up there have a fighting chance at success. And the default
position of politicians is “Nah, can't be done. The press will crucify
I really don't know what disappoints me more. The lack of the moral
instinct to say what needs to be said to help communities stay healthy
and safe, or the politicians' complete lack of faith in their ability
to communicate important ideas effectively.
And it is vital that we communicate these ideas. The War on Drugs is
not working, but it is essential that we keep fighting. Drugs are
harmful. They can take young people to places that are every parent's
worst nightmare. Insanity, disease, destitution, prostitution, death.
We have to keep fighting in the best way we can to stop more young
people from all walks of life slipping into lives of misery and early
graves. But we are still fighting a massive 21st century drug problem
with 20th century weapons.
So how should we fight the war on drugs? In countries like Portugal
and Switzerland they saw their drug problems getting rapidly worse.
But instead of resorting to tough rhetoric and knee-jerk policies,
they cut cowardly politicians out of the loop and asked experts in
medicine, sociology, psychology and law to recommend how they could
best address the problem. When those experts came back saying that
drug use and addiction were medical issues and not issues of morality
or criminality, the politicians accepted their recommendations. Public
and political reaction was divided at first, but when the results
started to become clear, the public and politicians accepted that a
better way had been found.
The drug problems of these countries have never even come near to the
problems we face in the UK in 2011. But politicians are too scared to
question the status quo and they ignore the expert advice from the
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs which challenges it.
Legal regulation is one policy that experts find it hard to recommend,
for to follow such recommendations would be to defy the UN drug
conventions: Well-intentioned documents that nonetheless seriously
undermine the 3 pillars of the UN's work: peace and security,
development, and human rights.
The illegal drug market in the UK is estimated to be worth around £6Bn
each year, it isn't taxed, and the vast majority of the profits go
into the hands of organised criminal gangs, This includes millions of
pounds for the Taleban in Afghanistan with which they can purchase the
bullets and bombs that murder our brave soldiers.
We have to stop enriching criminals. In the wake of the riots
commentators bemoaned the lack of authority figures in deprived
estates. But there are authority figures. They have fancy cars,
expensive jewellery and a defiant masculinity that the kids can't help
but be attracted to. The cash-in-hand jobs in the drug business that
they provide mean many kids simply don't need to engage with the rest
of society in order to succeed.
We could undermine these criminal idols if we removed their control of
the drug trade and placed it into the careful hands of the state. This
motion calls for models of cannabis regulation to be investigated. I
personally favour sale from pharmacies. If we want to send a message
that cannabis is harmful – and we should - how better to do so than
through a health professional at the point of intended purchase. No
pharmacist is going to suggest a customer progress to the use of
heroin or crack, and no pharmacist would sell to a child. With the
illegal cannabis dealers we have at the moment we do not have that
It is important to remember that this motion is not calling for a
radical leap in policy. It merely requests a level-headed examination
of the weapons that are available to us for our new 21st century war
on drugs. Have no doubt. There are better ways to restrict the ability
of drugs to do harm. Ways which do not themselves harm individuals and
the communities in which they live. How much courage does it take to
ask for expert help in identifying them?
Trust in politicians is at an all time low so I think this is a good
time for politicians to reflect on just what their job is. Surely it
is to identify, support and communicate policy that will improve the
lives of their constituents. Rather than take the easy route to a few
swing votes, it is time politicians looked voters in the eye and
attempted to explain complex concepts. If they see us striving always
to do the right thing rather than the popular thing then the trust
will return and the votes will follow.
This is not a party political issue.
To demonstrate Chris Mullin wrote this in his diary when he was Labour
chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2002 “Is it possible to
have a mature discussion about any difficult issue in this country?
Instead of wobbling around in the middle of the road, attracting flak
from all sides, wouldn't it be nice to do the right thing for once and
tell Rupert Murdoch, Paul Dacre, Conrad Black et al. to fu...” (cough)
well you get the idea
And with that in mind I want Nick Clegg to walk into David Cameron's
office, lay this motion on his desk and say this is part of what is
needed to get this country out of a serious hole. Cameron knows this
is the right path. He was on that same Select Committee in 2002 and
shared Chris Mullin's conclusions, but there is one thing that will
give him pause for thought.
Cowardice. Cowardice plain and simple.
In closing I would like to dedicate this motion to Tom Alderton, whose
passion and bravery in telling his story first inspired me to set off
on the road that has lead me here. Tim Farron had Cathy Come Home (as
inspiration for getting active in politics). I had the documentary:
Killer in a Small Town. I would also like to apologise to all those
families that have been afflicted by insanity, illness, destitution,
prostitution and death since I set off on this road for not getting to
this stage sooner, and to all those who will be afflicted in the
future should my words today not have had sufficient power to bring