On the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the SNP has pledged support for the all-party campaign to reform drugs laws – including decriminalisation – and renewed calls for immediate action on drug consumption rooms.
The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) was designed to prevent drug use and reduce harm but since it came into effect there has been a dramatic rise in drug use, addiction and deaths in the UK.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform met today to discuss the issues and how to reform UK drug policy to address the current failings of the Act.
In March, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard (pictured) published his Private Members’ Bill, which outlines the legislative details of a series of reforms including decriminalising possession of small amounts of restricted drugs for personal use and ensuring that overdose prevention facilities – also known as drug consumption rooms – can operate legally.
It would also see excessive drug use treated as a health emergency instead of a criminal matter.
The Bill has cross-party backing and is supported by a range of organisations including Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Release, and the Scottish Drug Forum.
The legislative changes in it are based on evidence gathered by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in 2019 from those affected by drug use, academics, service providers and others with significant expertise in this area.
Commenting, Tommy Sheppard MP said:
“While the SNP Scottish Government is stepping up with £250 million of funding to tackle the drug deaths emergency in Scotland, and SNP MPs are leading the campaign for drug reform in Westminster, the UK government continues to bury its head in the sand, hoping the problem will go away.
“That is wrong and will solve nothing.
“The Misuse of Drugs Act is outdated and not fit for purpose.
“A law intended to combat drug use has seen it rise.
“With record deaths and organised crime rampant it is time to look at wider reform of UK drugs policy and I am pleased to support the all-party campaign to do just that.
“However, that will take time.
“There are steps we can take now that will save lives and take us in a new direction.
“My Bill lays the ground-work for the UK government to make quick and easy legislative changes that would immediately help tackle the issue and save lives.
“They barely have to lift a finger but so far they have refused to do even that.
“People are dying while the UK government continues to criminalise and stigmatise some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“It must stop, and it must stop now.
“It is clear that public opinion on this issue is changing.
“This bill has cross-party support, including from some in the Conservative Party, and backing from organisations across the UK.
“On the 50th Anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act, I am urging the UK government to heed our calls and take seriously our proposals to legalise drug consumption rooms and decriminalise drug use.”