Britain's drugs laws need total overhaul says Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Britain's drugs laws have failed over the last 50 years and should be totally reformed with an emphasis on treating addicts rather than punishing them according to a senior Suffolk MP.
But Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter fears much-needed change may be delayed because ministers and other politicians are too worried about being portrayed as being "soft on drugs" by some sections of the media and the electorate.
He said the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which brought in most of the legislation on illegal drugs in force today, had been a total failure.
"The only people that have benefitted from this have been the drug dealers and those running county lines gangs," he said.
The number of heroin addicts in Britain had risen from 10,000 in 1971 to a quarter of a million now and the number of drink or drug-related deaths had risen by 7,000%.
Dr Poulter said: "I don't have all the answers, but I do know the current laws aren't working. I have personally changed my mind on this over the last 10 to 15 years. I used to think that you had to come down hard on drugs users - but since I have been working in that field in hospital I have seen how pointless the current legislation is."
He is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on drug policy reform - and said its members backed a wide-ranging inquiry into how society should deal with the problem.
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Dr Poulter said: "We need a Royal Commission to look at all aspects of the legislation - at present the only people who benefit are the dealers who are making money and running county lines gangs."
Many MPs would privately admit that the current drugs laws are not working - but they are not prepared to express their concerns because of fears that they would be seen as "soft on drugs."
And many senior police officers are also concerned that having to try to enforce drugs laws prevented them from doing other important work. Their response to tackling the drugs industry often led them into conflict with minority ethnic groups leaving them exposed to claims of racism.
Dr Poulter said: "There has to be a better way of dealing with addiction and treating those who need help. I don't know what the answer is, but I know we need to look hard at finding it."