Labour members launch new campaign calling for change in UK drug policy

Today (July 10th) in parliament, Labour members will come together to launch the Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform.

The Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform seeks to provide a forum for Labour members to debate and shape the UK’s drug policy[i]. The event invitation states “there are no policy prescriptions, only a belief that the status quo isn’t working.”[ii]

The launch event, chaired by Labour MPs Jeff Smith and Thangam Debbonaire, will see drug policy reform campaigners, experts and interested Labour members discuss ideas for the party to consider following a historic month in drug policy both in the UK and internationally. 

On June 19th, Canada became the first G7 country to legalise and regulate cannabis. On the same day, the Home Secretary commissioned a review into the laws governing medical cannabis in the UK.

Avon and Somerset Police took a landmark decision to allow The Loop to set up the UK’s first city centre drug safety testing service in Bristol, and the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner in the West Midlands David Jamieson unveiled an eight point plan to reduce the harm, cost and crime of drugs to society, by taking a public health-based approach.

These announcements follow closely several public statements from policing and health bodies making the case the criminal justice and public health case for reform in the UK[iii].

Commenting ahead of the launch, Jeff said:

“Drug policy in the UK is failing the people Labour exists to represent.

This Government’s approach is lining the pockets of organised criminals while forcing taxpayers to live with the costs associated with drug abuse and preventing vulnerable users from getting the support they need.

This year we’ve seen progressive drug policies implemented across Europe, and at a local level here in the UK, but now it’s time for national leadership on this issue. 

I’m looking forward to hearing from Labour members about how our party can seize this agenda and make the progressive case for reform of our outdated drug laws.”

Thangam Debbonaire said:

"Every day in Bristol, I see the harms caused by our current drug laws, including the misery of street drug dealing, exploitation of young people and intimidation of bystanders.

I am open-minded about the solutions – but I am sure that we need change, for everyone’s sake."

David Jamieson, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands, said:

Despite the good work being done by many, collectively our drug policy is failing. In my area of the West Midlands, half of all burglary, theft, shoplifting and robbery is committed by people suffering from serious addiction to heroin and crack cocaine. 

Every three days here somebody dies from drug poisoning, while organised criminals are profiting from this misery. This failure means the public put up with more crime, public services are put under more strain, and not enough is done to reduce the harm of those suffering from addiction.  

By changing our collective approach we can stop paying the price for failure and use some of that funding to support our under pressure public services.

Professor Fiona Measham, Professor of Criminology, University of Durham and Director of The Loop, said:

“The UK has become the drug overdose capital of Europe, with the number of drug-related deaths rising to record levels each year.

At The Loop we provide vital harm reduction services in festivals, nightclubs and city centres, with strong support from local police forces and local authorities, but to protect people on a larger scale we would like to see national leadership on this issue.

As the Government continues to bury its head in the sand on drug policy, Labour can and should be at the forefront of this agenda." 

Artin Giles, Chair, London Young Labour said:

“The UK's prohibitive and paternalistic drug policy has to change, and Labour should be at the forefront of this debate.  

The current policy is causing pain and misery to countless families across the world - whether that be children suffering from epilepsy or migrants living at the mercy of cartels in Mexico and the many more victims of the failed "war on drugs". 

This campaign is the start of a conversation within our party which is long overdue. “ 


Pierre-Yves Gallety