A broad coalition of scientists, politicians and celebrities have called on the Government to join global efforts to end the failed ‘war on drugs’ and commit to an urgent review of the UK’s drug laws.
In an open letter published in The Times newspaper, public figures including Sir Richard Branson, Sting, Russell Brand, Dame Joan Bakewell and Sir Ian Gilmore, former president of the Royal College of Physicians, highlight the £3bn spent by the taxpayer on a drug policy which they claim, “does little to address the root causes of addiction and pointlessly criminalises people”.
The initiative, led by Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, has attracted cross party backing in Parliament from Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee (Labour), Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park (Conservative), Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge (Liberal Democrat) and Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West (Labour).
The Times letter comes as foreign ministers from Latin America gather to discuss a new drug policy report described as ‘game changing’ at a summit of the Organisation of American States in Guatemala.
The letter to The Times states:
“Worldwide there is growing recognition that the “war on drugs” has failed – having cost billions of dollars and caused tens of thousands of deaths.
“In the UK, scientists, politicians, lawyers and police increasingly agree that we need to review existing policy, which costs taxpayers £3 billion a year but does little to address the root causes of addiction and pointlessly criminalises people.
“By agreeing to an independent review to determine whether the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is effective or good value for money, the Government can prove its willingness to acknowledge failures within existing policy – and join in the global effort towards an alternative strategy based on evidence.”
Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and Portslade, said:
“I am calling for evidence-based policy when it comes to drugs. We need to push our emotions and prejudices to the side and go with what works. What we have now is simply not working.”
The full list of signatories:
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion
Sir Richard Branson, Global Commission on Drug Policy
Keith Vaz, MP for Leicester East, Home Affairs Select Committee
Dame Joan Bakewell
Professor David Nutt, Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs
Sir Ian Gilmore, former President of Royal College of Physicians
Dame Ruth Runciman, UK Drug Policy Commission
Mike Trace, International Drug Policy Consortium
Russell Brand, actor and comedian
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park
Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge
Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West
Niamh Eastwood, Release
Danny Kushlick, Transform