All the main UK political parties have now published their manifestos, setting out their stalls ahead of the general election on 7 May. Understandably, the economy, health and education tend to receive most attention, but with historic reforms taking place around the world, there’s every chance that drug policy will become a vote-deciding issue for many people in the coming years. So we’ve gone through the parties’ manifestos to find out their positions on drug policy. Some parties have written a lot more on their plans than others, hence the difference in level of detail seen below.
The Labour Party (Read manifesto [PDF] – p. 52)
“We know drug addiction continues to be a major cause of crime. We will ensure drug treatment services focus on the root causes of addiction, with proper integration between health, police and local authorities in the commissioning of treatment. And we will ban the sale and distribution of dangerous psychoactive substances, so called ‘legal highs’.”
The Green Party (Read manifesto [PDF] – p. 33)
- treat drug addiction as a health problem rather than a crime, making drugs policy the responsibility of the Department of Health in order to ensure that resources are targeted at supporting, not punishing, drug users.
- Adopt an evidence-based approach to the step-by-step regulation, starting with cannabis, of the drugs currently banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act as well as ‘legal highs’, with a view to introducing a system that reduces harms and brings the market under state control as a potential tax revenue generator. A Royal Commission or similar body would be established to review currently controlled drug classifications, within a legalised environment of drug use.”
The Conservative Party (Read manifesto [PDF] – p. 58, 59 and 78)
“We reformed drug treatment so that abstinence and full recovery is the goal, instead of the routine maintenance of people’s addictions with substitute drugs.”
“[W]e will introduce widespread random testing of drug use in jails, new body scanners, greater use of mobile phone blocking technology and a new strategy to tackle corruption in prisons.”
“We will work with our partners to address threats to UK security, including the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, pandemic diseases, the illegal drugs trade, piracy and organised crime.”
The Liberal Democrats (Read manifesto [PDF] – p. 123, 125 and 126)
“We will provide experts in courts and police stations to identify where mental health or a drug problem is behind an offender’s behaviour so they can be dealt with in a way that is appropriate. We will pilot US-style drug and alcohol courts.”
“9.8 An effective approach to reducing drug harm
"For too long the debate about effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs has been distorted by political prejudice. Around the world, countries are trialling new approaches that are reducing drug harm, improving lives, reducing addiction and saving taxpayers’ money. In the UK we have made good progress on treatment but we continue to give 80,000 people a year a criminal record for drug possession, blighting their employment chances, and we still imprison 1,000 people a year for personal possession when they are not charged with dealing or any other offence.
- Adopt the approach used in Portugal where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.
- As a first step towards reforming the system, legislate to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead.
- Continue to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.
- Establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay in relation to public health and criminal activity.
- Legislate to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public. w Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.
- Put the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy."
UKIP (Read manifesto [PDF] – p. 55)
“We will not decriminalise illegal drugs, however we will focus on ensuring drug suppliers, not their victims, face the full force of the law.”
Plaid Cymru (Read manifesto [PDF] – p. 42)
"A key aspect of our action to make communities safer will be more drug rehabilitation places and programmes, education about drugs and alcohol in every school in Wales and better amenities for young people in their communities."