Scottish government calls for decriminalisation of drugs for personal use

Scottish government calls for decriminalisation of drugs for personal use

Decriminalisation of all drugs for “personal supply” is one of a number of polices which the Scottish government is calling on the UK government to implement in a new paper on drug law reform.

The move would allow people found in possession of drugs to be treated and supported rather than criminalised and excluded. Decriminalisation would also mean that without a criminal record, people in recovery would have a better chance of employment.

The document has been published by the Scottish government outlining measures which could be implemented through further devolution, independence, or changes enacted immediately by the UK government to support the work being done within existing powers to reduce drug deaths.

Among the proposals are:

  • Decriminalisation of all drugs for personal supply progressed as part of a wider review of drug laws
  • Immediate legislative changes to allow us to fully and properly implement harm reduction measures such as supervised drug consumption facilities (rather than the current proposal being explored which is constrained by having to work within existing legislation), drug checking and increased access to the life saving drug naloxone.
  • a roadmap for further exploration of drug law reform, focused on evidence and the reduction of harm, including an update of the drug classification system to be based on harms caused

The proposals follow recommendations made by the Drug Deaths Taskforce in September 2021.

Minister for drugs policy Elena Whitham said: “These are ambitious and radical proposals, grounded in evidence, that will help save lives.

“We want to create a society where problematic drug use is treated as a health, not a criminal matter, reducing stigma and discrimination and enabling the person to recover and contribute positively to society. While we know these proposals will spark debate, they are in line with our public health approach and would further our national mission to improve and save lives.

“We are working hard within the powers we have to reduce drug deaths, and while there is more we need to do, our approach is simply at odds with the Westminster legislation we must operate within.

“These policies could be implemented by the Scottish government through the devolution of further, specific powers to Holyrood including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - or through independence. An immediate way for these policies to be enacted would be for the UK government to use its existing powers to change its drug laws.

“Scotland needs a caring, compassionate and human rights informed drugs policy, with public health and the reduction of harm as its underlying principles, and we are ready to work with the UK government to put into practice this progressive policy.”

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