In a bid to jump-start a campaign to move Britain toward more sensible drug policies, the drug reform advocacy group Release is posting advertisements saying "Nice People Take Drugs" on the sides of passenger buses. It is time to shift the debate, the group says.
Although Britain down-scheduled marijuana from Class B to Class C in 2004, the Labor government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown returned it to Class B last year. Britain remains mired in a marijuana panic, with tabloid newspapers trumpeting skunk scare stories and the British constabulary busting pot growers on a more than daily basis. In addition to pot, Britons also enjoy their heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, reporting high use levels of all three drugs. The country's heroin users are thought to account for a high proportion of property crimes. But the British government has remained immune to a rising chorus of calls for a more effective drug policy.
"Politicians are afraid to take on a subject that governments have totally failed to bring under control," Release noted. "Breaking the taboo on drugs is the first step to reducing the harm that they can cause. We must shift the perception that drug users are 'bad' and that all drug use is 'evil'. Over one third of the adult population of England and Wales have used illegal drugs. By far the greatest risk to the majority of these people is criminalization and stigmatization. A focus on banning substances and arresting those who experiment with them has been at the expense of the absence of a robust and comprehensive public health campaign. Release believes there are more effective ways to manage drug use, ways that would make drugs much less dangerous and critically, less available to children."
It is time for a new approach, the group said. "Nice People Take Drugs" will advance that effort by beginning to counter the decades of propaganda that caricature and demonize drug users. "It will challenge politicians who use their ineffective 'tough on drugs' stance for political expedience. It will start a debate about the kind of drug policy that this country wants to see. The UK does not want drug laws that benefit massive drug cartels and are convenient for politicians, but ones that deal sensibly and maturely with drugs and make our society a safer place for our children."
If nice people take drugs, what does that make the people who want to throw those nice people in jail?