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LauraGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 13-Oct-16 10:50:43

Should illegal drugs be decriminalised and regulated?

In the wake of her son's imprisonment for buying illegal drugs, Hope Humphreys, who campaigns with the organisation Anyone's Child, speaks out about UK drug laws and why she thinks they should be changed once and for all.

Hope Humphreys

Should illegal drugs be decriminalised and regulated?

Posted on: Thu 13-Oct-16 10:50:43


Lead photo

"These 'statistics' are people we know, people you may know. It has to stop."

Things happen. Our student son was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for taking his turn to get ecstasy and cannabis for his adult friends. Nick's son, who has mental problems, is unable to get the help he needs because he self-medicates with cannabis. Ami's husband was refused the prescription drugs he was addicted to and died of a heroin overdose. Anne-Marie's fifteen-year-old daughter died after taking very pure ecstasy. Rose and Jeremy's two sons died of heroin overdoses, and Ray's two sons died, together, after drinking after a football match and taking something they thought was ecstasy. These things happened. We are part of a group of people who want to stop them happening.

There's nothing particularly special about any of us. We were all getting on with our lives when we each had our personal bombs explode, changing us forever. We were brought together by Transform and are a campaigning group within it, called Anyone's Child: Families for Safer Drug Control. The name is especially apt. What happened to us could easily happen to you or your friends or relatives.

We were all getting on with our lives when we each had our personal bombs explode, changing us forever.

The main reason for these harrowing, tragic events are our drug laws. These laws aren't "fit for purpose". They were enacted because it was thought that they would end drug use and protect us all. These thoughts have been mistaken for decades now, yet they continue to be enforced.

Successive governments have chosen to treat drugs differently from other dangerous things. Their decision is that drugs are bad - end of story. If you use, share, produce or sell them, and get caught, you are in big trouble. Your punishment will be more damaging, more dangerous than the drugs themselves.

And it's getting worse. Last year, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were 2,248 deaths from illegal drugs in the UK, the highest ever recorded. Over 70,000 people were given criminal records for minor drug offences, and our prisons are overflowing with non-violent drug offenders. These 'statistics' are people we know, people you may know. It has to stop.

The Government must be forced to accept the fact that their drug laws have failed. Not only have they ruined lives with prison and criminal records, they kill our young for experimenting with illegal substances that they themselves have refused to control. Parents know children will be disobedient but the punishment should not be death.

We cannot let the Government get away with this carnage any longer. All drugs must be taken out of the hands of criminals, and controlled and regulated like every other dangerous substance and activity. It is not good enough just to sit back and hope. You may think your loved ones are okay and that you'd be very unlucky for them to get caught or die. You could be right, but these things did happen to us. We don't want them to happen to you.

Read more about Hope's story and learn about the network of families campaigning for safer drug control on the Anyone's Child website.

By Hope Humphreys

Twitter: @anyoneschild

GillT57 Thu 13-Oct-16 11:43:52

Completely agree with this statement. By forcing those who wish to experiment with recreational drugs into the hands of illegal sellers and producers, we are making the use of drugs even more dangerous than it should be. To put it simply; if my next door neighbours use illegal drugs that is not my concern, but if they burgle my house to fund the habit, it is my concern.This is not just something that happens to 'other people' or on sink estates, it is within all our lives, unless you are extremely fortunate ( or stick your head in the sand)

Anniebach Thu 13-Oct-16 11:45:07

I too agree

vampirequeen Thu 13-Oct-16 13:01:54

Making drugs legal would ensure the quality of the product and break the criminal gangs that rely on drug money to function. I'd like them to only be available at pharmacies though with a warning on the box just to remind people that they're a drug and not a sweet.

Cosafina Thu 13-Oct-16 13:22:17

I totally agree with this message too. I'm always hearing cries of "but if you legalise them, everyone will think it's OK to take drugs". Utter nonsense. The reason some people don't take drugs is not because they're illegal (which doesn't seem to have ever stopped anybody from taking them) but because they don't want to.
The "war" on drugs could be compared to Prohibition in the States - a complete waste of time that just allows criminal organisations to grow rich.
A friend of mine has recently written a memoir in which he recounts the tale of an American he met who had funded his way through college by buying cannabis in Mexico and selling it in the States to friends who wanted to buy it, or in jazz clubs. He said it was fine for years until the government started their War on Drugs, which only served to push the price higher - until organised crime got interested and started moving into the market. And they wanted to push harder drugs onto their smokers in order to create more demand, so at this point he left the business.
Legalise the drugs and not only can the government ensure the quality and dosage that is sold, but they'll be able to raise billions in the tax on them! You'd wipe out organised crime AND fund the NHS at a stroke!

starbird Thu 13-Oct-16 15:24:41

I also reluctantly agree. I heard a policeman talking on the radio, he said that as soon as they catch and imprison a drug gang, another steps into place, there are always several out there jostling for place as the top gang, and usually there are deaths of gang members until the next top gang is established, so he felt guilty knowing that everytime drug dealers are caught it led to more deaths and did nothing to stop the supply of drugs. There are so many dealers out there you simply cannot stop them.
The only problem with legalisation is that it will be difficult to protect young people and children - assuming that there would be a minimum age, there would still be those trying to make a living out of selling them to underage children to get them hooked, and then be regular cistomers until they are of age.

SueDonim Thu 13-Oct-16 16:56:20

The current approach isn't working so it's time to try something else. Taking illicit drugs out of the hands of gangs would remove a large swathe of criminal behaviour and, as Cosafina says, the govt could levy taxes on them.

JessM Thu 13-Oct-16 17:19:06

Prohibition did not work in the USA - it fuelled the rise of the Mafia.
People don't take drugs because of the thrill of illegality any more than they drink alcohol because it is a legal drug and therefore OK.
If cannabis, for instance, was sold in shops by knowledgable dealers then buyers would know whether they were going to get a mild relaxation or the much stronger hit you get from skunk. Just like they know how strong the different drinks are in a pub.

Lindaslater Thu 13-Oct-16 17:22:51

Now we need to get our elected officials to take notice. The general public needs to read this , too.

annodomini Thu 13-Oct-16 18:13:16

Portugal decriminalised drug use 14 years ago. Now The country has 3 overdose deaths per million citizens, compared to the EU average of 17.3. If our government made a study of their success, we could have much more sensible laws.

rubylady Thu 13-Oct-16 18:14:46

Gill Sink estates? Is that council estates? Where I brought up my two children, as a single parent, who have gone on to University and my daughter is now in a well paid Manager's position? Please don't tar everyone with the same brush unless you have been there yourself. There are some lovely people on council estates, willing to help, looking out for each other, kind, friendly people. Believe it or not, not every council estate tenant is on drugs or alcohol. Most are proud, respectable, hard working people.

Penstemmon Thu 13-Oct-16 18:33:38

ruby that term "sink" was used a lot about schools too. I have experience of different areas of council homes some of which were very desirable and others were not. Mu husband lived with his family on the top floor of a tower block. Sadly many councils created 'sink' estates by choosing to move families they considered 'problems' into one area..hence the local schools being known as 'sink' schools ie the ones where kids whose parents had not completed applications (for various reasons) or who had horrendous family difficulties to cope with often ended up. An unpleasant phrase but I hope nobody was meaning everyone living or raised in council properties are not respectable and decent folk.

Iam64 Thu 13-Oct-16 19:31:01

I agree with the suggestion that drugs should be legalised, tax and sold in outlets approved by the authorities.
I agree with those who say people don't avoid drugs because they're illegal. Drugs of every type are easily available in our schools, colleges and universities as well as in our local pubs. Many young people try various drugs but don't become addicted.
Taxes raised from the sale of various drugs should be put into treatment services which are being decimated by the 'austerity' approach of our government. Very short sighted and not cost effective as an approach to addiction and mental/physical health.

Luckylegs9 Fri 14-Oct-16 07:07:43

Completely disagree with legalising drugs. To say it's legal is to sanction it, what double standard messaging is that. Drugs kill, the majority do not take them, being aware of the dangers.more sympathy and help is required for those with mental health issues and severe pain. We are back tontgecsamecdilemma, not enough people out there to help. To be open with our children and have discussions so they are aware of any danger is paramount, but there are a lot of homes out there, you could be living in a mansion, where this doesn't happen. How are drugs getting in prisons, tackle that. Tackle the school with a none tolerance policy, if someone is found with it they should go on a drugs programme. I would have zero tolerance and maximum help and support.
Look what's happened with Gambling, advertised on TV as harmless fun, it is one of

the biggest addictions these days and more difficult to get away from than drugs,
families destroyed because of it.
Legalising anything just gives the green light to proceed.
You can have a family where the rest of them are find but one child will go on to drugs, gambling or thieving a lot depends with who they mix with, but to give the OK that these things are ok is in my opinion so wrong.

BlueBelle Fri 14-Oct-16 08:24:29

I m with you Luckylegs completely, the biggest drug of all, alcohol, is legal doesn't stop A&E being totally overrun with drink laden people taking over especially at weekend I m not suggesting banning alcohol but I think there needs to be stronger rules around selling, allowing and treatment and constant education

Absolutely agree how the hell do prisons and school end up with them in that definitely needs tackling

Education of adults, parents as well as children Remember children know more about drugs than we do

LullyDully Fri 14-Oct-16 08:41:48

Over ten years ago I went on a drugs course. The police talking took the stand of legalisation then .He said that it is possible to live on clean heroin and hold down a job. It is the awful cutting with other substances that make people so ill. Also the whole drug train is so violent and exploitative from farmers right up to the dealers.
However I am still fearful of legalisation as we do not know where it will lead. But nothing is working now except for ruined lives and rich thugs/ gangsters.

vampirequeen Fri 14-Oct-16 09:44:48

I don't like any drug including alcohol and tobacco but I know that there will always be some people who will use them even though all the evidence points to them being incredibly damaging to the human body. Legalised alcohol and tobacco means that those who use casually or are addicted are guaranteed to get pure goods. Both drugs have to meet stringent manufacturing standards.

The illegal drugs are not only addictive but are cut with who knows what in order to increase the amount of product that can be sold on the streets. The user has no idea of the quality or what other substance they may be inhaling/injecting.

Due to them being illegal drugs are a very lucrative business which, of course, attracts criminals who are willing to use any method to maintain their cash cow. The police are fighting a losing battle as, if they break one gang, there will always be another waiting to take over.

I think we should legalise drugs but only make them available at a pharmacy (I think tobacco should only be available there too). People will still be able to access it but they would have to make an extra effort and be up front with a pharmacist about what they're buying. Addicts will still be able to get their fix in a much safer environment. Social users may be put off by the fact they have be open about what they're buying but if they're not at least both they and the addicts will be buying regulated products.

GillT57 Fri 14-Oct-16 10:40:32

Rubylady I did not mean any offence to anyone who has lived or been raised on a council estate, and I am sorry if I offended, but that was not my point. My point was that many people hide their heads in the sand, and think that drugs and addiction only happen to other people, people out of their social circle. As we all know too well, drug addiction is no respecter of class/group/income as the high profile cases such as Jamie Blandford illustrate. The difference is that Blandford, as a person of immense wealth, was obviously able to purchase good quality drugs which did not kill him.

grannypiper Fri 14-Oct-16 11:19:49

Drugs do such awful damage to body and in case of the brain it happens very quickly, why on earth would we legalise them ? we have all but outlawed cigs, we would be idiots to allow heroin. Nobody jumps on people in the streets an injects them with heroin, viduals choose to use it

BlueBelle Fri 14-Oct-16 11:32:08

The thing is legalising drugs will NOT take them off the streets, cigarettes are legal but it doesn't stop people bringing in hundreds of thousands of illegal cigs from overseas and many particularly east Europe are not regulated in the same way as ours and when tested carry even more cxxx

Can you really see your local drug addicts queuing at their pharmacy when the chap down the road will bring it to your door and they will be stronger and still cut with all sorts but give you a better hit These people are not thinking logically or they wouldn't be on them in the first place, they are not 'mainstream,follow the rules' people they will still go underground to get them off 'their own'

Ana Fri 14-Oct-16 11:38:13

Cigarettes have not been 'outlawed', it's perfectly legal to buy them and smoke them (although places where one can do so are limited). I don't see how there can be any comparison with heroin.

There's a market for smuggled ciarettes simply because they're so expensive to buy leally in this country.

Carolpaint Sun 16-Oct-16 16:59:03

Would prefer cannabis be used at football matches and alcohol banned. Pre 1970 heroin was prescribed for addicts, mainly jazz musicians, artists etc, then the UK got the wonderful idea to emulate the American model of prohibition always with the pressure of giving up, the illegal market cuts it with many substances damaging to our bodies and runners are on many city corners poised to supply. Past research revealed with clean heroin our body system stays relatively healthy for many years of use and the user continues to work but using alcohol the damage is to every body system, especially to women our toleration is far lower, it is very sad to nurse a 32 year old woman with brain damage from alcohol. Would prefer that drugs are brought under regulation, laws designed for purity and strength and frameworks to protect minors. Cheltenham used to have quite a drug problem, when I expressed surprise was informed that the rich gentry would come for the weekend, their dealers would travel down too and what they had left over was distributed to any locals. A probation officer told me that it is often who your parents are that determine sentences, think about it.

notanan Sun 16-Oct-16 18:27:45

Drugs do such awful damage to body and in case of the brain it happens very quickly, why on earth would we legalise them ?

Drugs do those things anyway
people still take them
drugs being illegal isn't stopping people from taking them
it is lining the pockets of people trafficers and abusers though

I don't know the answer, but drugs being illegal doesn't mean people don't take 'em. It does mean that they're funding terrorists and people trafficers and gangsters though

its like the abortion referendum going on over in Ireland right now, whether you agree or disagree with abortions in general, the fact that they're illegal in ireland hasn't meant that people don't have them!

Anya Sun 16-Oct-16 18:33:04


notanan Sun 16-Oct-16 18:34:04

Can you really see your local drug addicts queuing at their pharmacy when the chap down the road will bring it to your door and they will be stronger

Depends on what part of the addiction cycle they're at.
At rock bottom, no, they won't get the legal stuff and will go to dirty squats, but not all addicts look like that! When they're trying to reduce and get better, yes I think they'll avoid the dealers and the dirty squats and go for the pharmacy

And not every heroin addict is hopeless and homeless, some are "functional"

But it's not just about the steriotype heroin addict, what about entire work places where everyone is on cocaine? I have friends in the financial sector and their dealers are their manager at work! they do it in the office and they meet their targets then they all go out after work and do some more.

Drug users don't all look the same, they're not all scraping round the streets for spare change and robbing car stereos to get their drugs

So yes I do think many subgroups would use the cleaner route