The Scottish Police Federation, representing rank-and-file officers, has called for an urgent review of drug laws in Great Britain. Meeting in Peebles for its annual conference, members of the federation voted unanimously to petition the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair to establish a royal commission to review the effectiveness of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, the basis for current British drug policy. The law is "ineffective and outdated," the federation said.
Under the act, Britain has some of Europe's toughest drug penalties, but that has not stopped the isles from having some of the highest drug use levels in Europe. Scottish police expressed particular concern about the spread of drug use out of urban centers such as Edinburgh and Glasgow into rural areas in recent years. According to federation chairman Morrie Flowers, the call for an urgent review of the law reflects not only growing concern about the spread of drug use, but also a growing change in officers' views toward how best to deal with the drug problem.
"Many officers believe the 33-year-old act is not only outdated, but dangerous and harmful, both to addicts and to recreational drug users, as it focuses on locking up small-time offenders whilst inadvertently granting the monopoly of drug supply to high-ranking criminals," said Flowers in remarks reported by the newspaper the Scotsman. "Anti-drug groups regularly point to the fact that under the act, the use of illegal substances has widened and more people are currently in prison because of drugs, or suffering and dying than ever before. To many officers, it is clear that outright prohibition under the act has been staggeringly unsuccessful, although most officers fall short of outright legalization. What we are calling for here is a review to update the act and make it more relevant to the drug problems we are seeing on the streets everyday."
According to official figures, drug dealing arrests in Scotland increased 17% between 2000 and last year, with that increase jumping to 35% in certain rural areas. Scottish concern about drug use and dealing is also tied to public fear of youth crime, and the Scottish Police Federation has criticized Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell for offering "knee-jerk reactions" to the problem instead of addressing root causes. Drug prohibition is one of those root causes, Scottish police suggested.