DDN June 2017 DDN July2017 - Page 5

read the full stories, and more, online www.drinkanddrugsnews.com LIB DEMS PROMISE LEGAL CANNABIS MARKET THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS have made a manifesto commitment to decriminalise the possession of illegal drugs for personal use and introduce a ‘legal, regulated’ market for cannabis. The latter would ‘break the grip’ of criminal gangs and raise £1bn in annual tax revenues, says their manifesto document, which also pledges to repeal the controversial Psychoactive Substances Act. Anyone arrested for possession of drugs for personal use would either be diverted into treatment and education as part of a ‘health-based approach’ or be subject to ‘civil penalties’, says Change Britain’s future, with the authorities concentrating instead on those who import, deal or manufacture illegal drugs. The Psychoactive Substances Act would be repealed as it has ‘driven the sale of formerly legal highs underground’, while the departmental lead on drug policy would be moved from the Home Office to the Department of Health. The party would also introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, it says, ‘subject to the final outcome of the legal challenge in Scotland’. The proposed regulated cannabis market would ‘introduce limits on potency’ and allow cannabis to be sold via licensed outlets to people over 18, the document states. The party previously commissioned an expert panel chaired by Transform’s Steve Rolles to produce a report looking at how such a market could work in practice (DDN, April 2016, page 4), and last month Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Norman Lamb wrote in DDN that the war on drugs was ‘a completely stupid approach’ (DDN, May, page 10). ‘The war on drugs has been a catastrophic failure,’ says the party’s manifesto. ‘Every year, billions flow to organised crime while we needlessly prosecute and imprison thousands of people, blighting their employment and life chances, and doing nothing to address the impact of drugs on their health.’ While the Lib Dems also state they would replace police and crime commissioners (PCCs) – ‘elected at great expense in elections with very low turnout’ – with accountable police boards made up of local councillors, the Conservatives’ manifesto says that they would widen the role of PCCs to include having them sit on local health the proposed regulated cannabis market would ‘introduce limits on potency’ and allow cannabis to be sold via licensed outlets to people over 18. and wellbeing boards to enable ‘better co-ordination of crime prevention with local drug and alcohol and mental health services’. Perhaps predictably the Conservative document, Forward together, largely approaches the issue of substance misuse from a law and order perspective, stating that the party would create a national community sentencing framework to include measures such as ‘curfews and orders that tackle drug and alcohol abuse’, as current community punishments ‘do not do enough to prevent crime and break the cycle of persistent offending’. However, it also pledges to address the issue of racial disparity in police stop and searches, saying that the Conservatives would ‘legislate to mandate changes in police practices if “stop and search” does not become more targeted and “stop to arrest” ratios do not improve’. Labour’s manifesto, For the many not the few, promises to ‘implement a strategy for the children of alcoholics based on recommendations drawn up by independent experts’ and states that prison ‘should never be a substitute for failing mental health services, or the withdrawal of funding from drug treatment centres’, but otherwise contains little on drug policy issues. ‘Labour should be the party that shouts the loudest about the need for drug reform,’ said treatment adviser at the Volteface think tank, Paul North. ‘Their political ideology should see drug reform as an opportunity to stand out from the rest of the field.’ Manifestos at www.libdems.org.uk, www.conservatives.com, www.labour.org.uk ‘there can be real consequen c es to over stating evi d - ence or implying certainty when there isn’t any.’ CLare MurPHy www.drinkanddrugsnews.com PREGNANT PAUSE TELLING WOMEN that small quantities of alcohol during pregnancy can cause irreparable damage to a developing foetus causes need - less anxiety and has ‘no basis in evidence’, according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). Although the chief medical officer’s advice to pregnant women was revised last year to avoiding alcohol altogether (DDN, February 2016, page 4), there is ‘no robust evidence’ that isolated episodes of binge drinking – including before a pregnancy POOR DEAL POORER PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO SUFFER alcohol-related ill-health than the better off even when drinking similar amounts, according to a study published in The Lancet. ‘Low socioeconomic status was associated consistently with strikingly raised alcohol- attributable harms, including after adjustment for weekly consumption, binge drinking, BMI, and smoking,’ says the resea rch, which is based on a sample of more than 50,000 people. Socioeconomic status as an effect modifier of alcohol consumption and harm at www.thelancet.com PURITY PROBLEMS INCREASES IN DRUG PURITY have led to a 50 per cent rise in A&E admissions for UK cocaine users since 2015, according to this year’s Global drug survey. The survey also reveals increased use levels for ketamine, nitrous oxide and LSD, as well as more people reporting buying drugs from the ‘dark web’. 'This year’s study shows that increased drug purity is leading to a surge in admissions to A&E departments across the UK,’ said report author Dr Adam Winstock. ‘We need to educate users about purity levels and the impact that they have on their bodies,’ www.globaldrugsurvey.com ‘opium production could be up by more than 40 per cent.’ WEIGHTY ISSUES THE AREA UNDER POPPY CULTIVATION in Afghanistan is expanding, according to UNODC’s latest survey. The total cultivation area in 2016 increased by 10 per cent on the previous year, meaning that potential opium production could be up by more than 40 per cent – to as much as 4,800 tons. Afghanistan opium survey report at www.unodc.org is confirmed – causes long-term damage, says BPAS. ‘There can be real consequences to overstating evidence or implying certainty when there isn’t any,’ said director of external affairs Clare Murphy. ‘Doing so can cause women needless anxiety and alarm – some - times to the point that they consider ending an unplanned but not unwanted pregnancy because of fears they have caused irreparable harm. But just as importantly, it assumes women cannot be trusted to understand risk, and when it comes to alcohol, the difference between low and heavy consumption.’ June 2017 | drinkanddrugsnews | 5