The long awaited Home Affairs Select Committee report into drugs legislation and policy will be publishedon Wednesday the 22nd May 2002.
After ten months of oral and written submissions, the report will offer a series of recomendations to Government on legal and policy issues.
However, anyone expecting a very radical report is liable to be disappointed. Similarly, anyone expecting to see a dramatic change in drug policy or law on the back of this report is also likely to be let down.
According to the rumours and leaks that have been made to date, the most likely suggestions to be made in this report include:
a) a proposal that cannabis be moved from Class B to Class C.
b) an exploration of the value of injecting rooms
c) more flexible prescribing regimes
d) more interventions for crack users
e) better, more systematic access to treatment.
In addition to this we may, if the Commitee were feeling bold, see the following more daring suggestions:
a) calls for a new offence of peer-supply, to differentiate between large scale supply for profit and low level supply,
b) call for Ecstasy and LSD to be reclassified to B
c) criticism of Section 8 of the MDA.
However, in his recent series of cosy fireside chats with Jeremy Paxman, Tony Blair made it clear that decriminalisation was not on the agenda. Despite the proximity of the Select Commitee report, the following exchange made it all to clear what the parameters on Government thinking are:
Are you having a wholesale re-think of your drugs policy?
No, but what we are doing is trying to make sure, in particular, that where people are engaged in crime, where they are persistent offenders that they get a choice, as quickly as we can, which is a choice either to take drug rehabilitation treatment or they are liable to go to custody, into prison. Already with these drug treatment testing orders, they have been very successful, about 5,500 to 6,000 of them. For example, there is a young man in Oxford that went on one of these drug treatment testing orders, vehicle crime in the city centre of Oxford was cut by 59% when he had the chance to go into residential rehabilitation rather than back out on the street again. I'm trying to look at now is to get to a situation where if somebody is up for bail and they are a persistent offender and they have a drug problem, then again it is made a measure of whether they should get bail or not as to whether they are prepared to accept drug treatment.
You are not considering decriminalising any drugs?
So it would seem that even if the Select Commitee report called for a declassification of cannabis, such a call would be rejected by the Prime Minister.
In many respects, the report, although keenly anticipated, is inconsiquential. Body after body has called for change. Some of these, such as the ACMD, have a statutory role in informing drug policy. They have, at various points, called for change on aspects of legislation and these have been disregarded. The Police Foundation Report was similarly disregarded. As a result there is little to suggest that the reccomendations from the Select Commitee will be given any greater weight than those that have gone before.
If, in your excitement, you wish to view the text of the report, it will be available from 10.00am on the 22nd of May at the following website.
Responses to the document will be described here as soon as possible after the launch.