Europe: Scottish Parliament Think-Tank Calls for Prescription Heroin, Safe Injection Sites, Legalized Marijuana

A think-tank established by the Scottish parliament and tasked with looking at new approaches to drug policy has issued a report calling for radical changes in the way Scotland deals with the damage of drug and alcohol use. Parliament asked the think-tank, the Scottish Futures Forum, to determine how the country could cut the damage in half by 2025.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/urquhart-castle-wikimedia.jpg
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, Scotland (photo from Sam Fentress via Wikimedia)
The forum's report, Approaches to Drugs and Alcohol in Scotland: A Question of Architecture, landed like a stink-bomb in the middle of the ongoing Scottish debate over drug policy, which in recent months has been dominated by calls for a renewed "tough" approach to drug use and trafficking. It recommended that all substance use, including legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, should be subsumed under a single policy dominated by a public health approach and was harshly critical of over-reliance on the criminal justice system to reduce the harms caused by substance use.

"Historically, we have seen, in particular, drug use mainly as a justice issue," the report noted. "This is mistaken and alcohol and drugs should be seen predominantly as a health, lifestyle and social issue to be considered along with smoking, obesity and other lifestyle challenges. The current level of enforcement activity tackling low level use of illegal drugs may not be the most effective deployment of enforcement resources and is likely to fail in reducing drug and alcohol related damage by half by 2025. It should be recognized that sending people to prison for low-level alcohol and drug-related crime is unproductive and probably unsustainable."

Instead of current policies, Scotland should shift to evidence-based policies emphasizing a public health approach, the forum said. Such policies would include consideration of safe injection sites to reduce the spread of infectious disease, prescribing of heroin to addicts, and the taxation and regulation of marijuana. More resources should go to prevention and treatment of substance abuse, as opposed to law enforcement, the forum said.

The Scottish government was not pleased, and a spokesman ruled out any quick establishment of safe injection sites. "There are complex legal and ethical issues around consumption rooms that cannot be easily resolved," the spokesman said. As for prescribing heroin, Scotland will "wait and see" how pilot programs in England are working out, he said.

Scottish Conservatives were appalled, with Tory leader Annabel Goldie calling safe injection sites "shooting galleries" and saying they and marijuana legalization were ideas out of the past.

But Liberal Democrats were more open. Their spokeswoman, Margaret Smith, said: "Drugs misuse is a global problem and if other countries have developed new and radical solutions, then it is sensible to consider them for use in Scotland."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Can an old scott go?

I failed at enrolling in Naomi right here at home.With A Harper government in Ottawa,the only thing an addict can look forward to is more of the same.I know I have relations there.I worked for over 30 years for a program here and was unable to access the one that we had.This will eventually be the best way to deal with heroin addiction.It's cheaper,more cost efficient,reduces crime and allows addicts to find and maintain employment.This is every heroin addicts dream.I wish them the very best of luck in putting their program together .

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