Thursday, 20 Jan 2022

‘Overwhelming evidence’ Boris urged to go further with drug treatment funding by Tory MP

Germany considers the legalisation of recreational cannabis

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On December 6, the UK Government announced the largest-ever increase in funding for drug treatment with an injection of £780 million into the system, specifically for the treatment sector. The Government said the “money will go towards improving access to treatment and increasing the capacity of services, helping to reverse the upward trend in drug use and level up by tackling this major driver of crime, which we know disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable and poorest communities”. They added that this increase will bring “total spending on drug enforcement and treatment to more than £3 billion over the next three years”.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “We’re investing a record amount into treatment services with money to break the cycle of drug use and to support communities by cutting the drug use which drives crime.

“Treatment services are just one part of the comprehensive strategy which includes helping people back to work, into permanent housing, and cracking down on supply.”

Responding to the news, Conservative MP and chair of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group, told Express.co.uk that recent government funding announcements for drug treatment in the UK were “welcome” but needed additional measures to be truly effective.

He said: “We welcome the new drugs strategy’s announcement of the largest ever increase in funding for treatment and support services.

“These services had previously suffered sustained cuts over decades and investing in rebuilding them marks a historic turning point in the national approach to tackling drug-related problems.”

He qualified this praise by saying: “But it is likely that this will not be the only new direction to consider if the UK is to realise the full potential to build back better this investment confers.

“How the operations of the new drugs unit build on the strategy’s pledge to boost drug treatment services will determine what the future holds.

“There is overwhelmingly extensive evidence from around the world that supports the UK Government’s commendable decision to upscale drug-related health and social care.

“This paves the way for further evidence-based decision-making, developing the UK’s capacity for effective responses to drugs.”

The Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group also released data that showed the increasing unpopularity, even among Conservative MPs, of current drug laws.

Mr Blunt commented: “Fifty years on from its passing into law, our 2021 polling data reveals that 79 percent of MPs from all parties believe that it is time to update the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, based on the best evidence available today.

“The British public are already ready for a fresh approach.

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“Our nationwide polling in 2019 found that just 7 percent think that current drug policy has been successful at reducing the harm done by drug abuse, while over half believe that drug use is best seen as a health issue dealt with by healthcare professionals focused on reducing harm.”

Mr Blunt continued: “A conversation about updating UK drug policies in pursuit of better outcomes on cannabis for the British public is long overdue, not least for the 1.4 million people yet to benefit from the initial policy changes that were supposed to underwrite legal access to medical cannabis in 2018.”

The Government legalised the use of medical cannabis in November 2018 after a number of high-profile cases in which children suffering from severe epilepsy were shown to benefit from medical cannabis.

Prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines have been permitted since this date, issued by doctors who “agree that their patients could benefit from this treatment”.

In a European first, Malta legalised cannabis and its cultivation for personal use of up to seven grams and four plants last week.

Prime Minister Robert Abela said last month: “We are legislating to address a problem and taking the harm reduction approach by regulating the sector, so that people do not have to resort to the black market to purchase cannabis.”

Various other European countries have taken similar steps that fall short of full legalisation in recent years, with the new ruling coalition in Germany publicising plans to legalise recreational use last month.

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