In February this year the GSD publicly announced an innovative part of its drug policy for the upcoming manifesto. That is the need to recognise addiction as a real illness and to approach quantities for personal use primarily with education, awareness and support and only when that fails, with criminal procedures, whilst at the same time coming down harder on those who import and distribute drugs in our community.
It has taken the Government nearly a year to get the drugs surveys it announced last year’s budget off the ground. Despite this delay the GSD welcome this. It is hoped that the surveys will provide a deeper understanding of the underlying issues which see people resort to drugs.
Shadow Minister for Drugs, Alcohol, Addictions and Rehabilitation Lawrence Llamas MP explained back in February that “We need to better understand why there has been an increase in users. Is it simply that people are searching for a sense of satisfaction and find comfort when taking drugs, or is it a first world problem fruit of financially comfortable societies? Is use due to economic, social or domestic factors? All these play a role in how individuals have come to use drugs.”
Today Mr Llamas said “You often hear older generations reminisce of their young days and how they had fun without the need to get “wasted”. Unfortunately the causal use and abuse of drugs seems prevalent today and affects people of varying social backgrounds. This cuts across society. We must accept that is part and parcel of where we are today, however, how we confront it is entirely up to us – we must act urgently and radically.
The decriminalisation of drugs is not the right approach for our community. Decriminalising drugs would, in my view, have negative repercussions as those individuals who may have rejected drugs for fear of criminal repercussions may now be easily convinced to accept it.
Our community needs legislative reform now. We need to offer persons an alternative to the current criminal system, but we cannot allow them to go scot-free either, otherwise we must ask ourselves what are we leading them into?
I already announced that it is GSD policy that where persons caught with small personal amounts for their own consumption can opt to take up alternative pathways such as: mandatory support group meetings, participation in specialised educational classes and/or
(depending on the severity and recurrence of the person) undertaking community service should this happen. This would avoid persons being branded with a criminal record whilst learning about life in a more effective way, and if persons do not wish to take up the alternative educational and meaningful pathway laid with opportunities and support, the only resort left would be the traditional pathway through the criminal justice system. Our more innovative policy would seek to avoid that by ensuring that casual abusers or addicts are given alternative paths to rehabilitate and reinsert themselves into society without the heavy stigma of the consequences of criminal penalties.”