Is it time to decriminalise drug use ?

This was the community safety question of the month for February and posed on the Our Place social media platforms. It received the least amount of responses of all the previous questions asked and the results did surprise me: with 54% saying No, 33% Yes and 12.5% offering a mixture of views from favouring the legalisation of cannabis only and one person being totally opposed too any decriminalised use of drugs. This issue is very topical and the recent release of Scotland’s death rate through drug use was both very worrying and encouraged a wide range of responses or suggestions as to how matters might be improved. This off course shadows our fatality rates associated with alcohol which is legal to consume depending on your age yet there is no corresponding public demands for prohibition.

I have been attending a few webinars and presentations facilitated by an organisation called Home page – Recovering Justice they offer a radical rethink and strongly suggest that the Misuse of Drugs Act is of no use, it infringes human rights and hampers agencies from responding effectively to the harm caused by the use of drugs to individuals, families and the wider community. I heard solicitors, Police officers and workers from the health services and drugs agencies recount a catalogue of disasters and negative actions created through arresting and convicting problematic drug users for the possession of controlled drugs. When we begin to view dependency as a health matter and intervention as being about recovery and supporting individuals to deal with trauma in their lives then arrest and imprisonment is clearly not working.

This is a very different perspective to the views expressed in our main stream media:

Not a perspective that you hear very often

As the community safety engager I am very aware about the levels of concern that exists in Camelon and Tamfourhill about substance use and many of its associated behaviours. The Community safety survey found that 75% of respondents were greatly or fairly concerned about drug dealing and this was in the main associated with class A drugs. My focus group sessions also identified anger and disappointment that drug use continued to be so blatant on the local streets and that drug users and their behaviours had an extremely negative impact upon the safety of local people. At a time when Government policy is moving towards treating this matter as a health problem and moving away from it being a criminal and policing matter, then it is clear from the community safety survey, the recent question of the month and my focus group sessions that the community is maybe not ready to accept or support the decriminalisation of drugs.

The interim Community safety strategy that I am compiling at the moment will take account of the community views and needs however it will need to also be set within the context of developing Scottish Government Policy and the approaches of the local drugs agencies and other statutory bodies like the police. I am working towards outcomes which will put Recovery at the centre of the local strategy but also activities which will build better community cohesion and provide opportunities for those individuals that are on the road to recovery to make a positive and constructive contribution to their local community. We should try and remember that we are all part of a community and it is through our support networks and positivity that we can make the difference to somebodies recovery journey and reduce the stigmatisation of those who have become dependent upon certain substances.

In the coming weeks in the community safety blog I am going to showcase some of the contributions made by our local drugs agencies’, I will endeavour to give some members of the recovery community a voice and I hope that colleagues from partner agencies will also write up some short narratives about their work and how they can all contribute to making Camelon and Tamfourhill a safer and happier place to live.

I found this overwhelming

Transform Drug Policy Foundation

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