We will not oppose this statutory instrument. In fact, we welcome the proposed amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Revising the generic definition of synthetic cannabinoids will mean that compounds never intended to be controlled will no longer be controlled, while those most likely to be misused and cause harm will be. That said, we must ensure that neither this change to drug policy nor any other adds to the problems that we already face in controlling the use of drugs.
The Government’s approach to drugs since they took office in 2010 has been ideological and plagued by irresponsible cuts. The UK now has the highest recorded level of mortality from drugs misuse since records began. Under this Government, the UK has become the drug overdose capital of Europe.
There is nothing more important than preserving the life of our citizens, but the current woeful approach to drugs fails to do that, so it must be time to consider different approaches, based on what would most effectively reduce harm, such as overdose prevention units, commonly known as drug consumption rooms—places that take people off the streets, and provide them with a safe environment, clean needles and somewhere that they can engage with treatment to combat their addiction. Labour supports piloting such schemes.
There is also the use of cannabis oil for medical purposes. Last October, there appeared to a breakthrough on this, when the Home Office brought in new legislation to allow expert doctors to issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines, if they believe that such treatment could benefit their patient. However, as we have learned from recent high-profile cases, there appears to be some confusion around the Home Office guidelines when it comes to bringing the substance into the UK. We need assurances from the Government that any changes they are making to drugs policy will be fully implemented, clear in how they will be delivered and effective immediately.
Opposition Members recognise that there needs to be a complete shift of emphasis, understanding and effectiveness in the UK drugs policy and we would be looking to establish a suitable forum, such as a royal or a parliamentary commission, to identify what works and what we need to do to make our drugs policy efficient. So, although we support the order and welcome the changes as positive advances in drugs policy, there is still a long way to go in the bigger picture of drug control and legislation.