Melanie Phillips makes three allegations about the UK Drug Policy Commission in her 22 May Spectator Blog, “Britain’s Drug Wars”.
First is that we are a “bunch of self appointed busybodies of no status or authority whatsoever”. As a charity we may be self-appointed but a quick look at our web-site would have shown that our Commissioners are people of significant stature and reputation in their respective fields.
Second is that we are “intent on bringing about the legalisation of drugs”. This is an absolute travesty and a wilful misrepresentation of our work which is aimed at supporting a more informed public and political debate about addressing issues of drug policy and practice in the UK through the use of sound evidence. An examination of our recently published evidence review “Reducing Drug Use & Reducing Reoffending” would have shown any rookie journalist that the Commission could in no way be accused of being closet “legalisers”. Its first conclusion was that the principle of using criminal justice system-based interventions to encourage engagement with treatment is supported by the international and much domestic evidence.
Finally she asks why the UKDPC research is “not being opened up to public scrutiny like other research?”. There is no secret or conspiracy in the work we are doing-it is all publicly accessible through our web site (including our submission to the ACMD about cannabis reclassification). We are currently working on four major pieces of work: shortly we will be publishing a review of the international evidence for the effectiveness of efforts to tackle drug markets and distribution networks in the UK. This has led on to new work to consider how the benefits of enforcement activity can be optimised to reduce drug related harms. Other work is looking at building a consensus amongst those engaged with drug treatment about the central importance of recovery. We also have two other areas of activity, one looking at getting problem drug users (back) into employment with a special focus on employers needs, and another examining the support provided by families of addicts during recovery and their own support needs.
The revolution we seek is not the legalisation of drugs. Rather it is the objective that politicians, the media and the public will increasingly use science and the evidence base to have a more informed dialogue about drug policy. Our contribution to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs meeting was not a formal submission of evidence as suggested but an update on our work programme so the Council could take it into consideration where relevant in the wide range of valuable work they undertake.
Dame Ruth Runciman
Chair UK Drug Policy Commission
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated April 19, 2008