The Evolution of UK Drug Policy: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same?
In recent years, both domestically and internationally there has been a hive of activity in illicit drugs policy. Some of this has been in response to rapidly changing drug markets as the internet has become a prominent feature of the supply chain. We have also witnessed the emergence of significant markets for Novel Psychoactive Substances – so-called Legal Highs – and attempts to control these with the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 in the UK. In addition, there have been changes to the way that cannabis is regulated across the planet, most noteworthy in the US where currently four states have legalised marijuana for recreational use and many more offer cannabis to patients with impunity under the guise of medical marijuana. These developments have only resulted in marginal change to the general direction of UK drug policy’ who’s trajectory or evolution can be tracked via an analysis of successive Government drug strategies and associated documentation. This paper traces these back to 1995. It shows how there is a firm commitment to prohibition in UK drug policy and a continuing concern that most crime is somehow drug related. Whilst responses to the drug-crime link have evolved, the UK government remain steadfast in framing drug policy in this way and, as a consequence, seem out of step with much of the rest of the world. With a new drug strategy imminent, the paper concludes with some (informed) guesswork on what the future may hold.
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