17:31 GMT25 January 2020
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    As drug deaths become more of a problem for the UK's major towns and cities while tolerance for substances such as cannabis has rapidly increased among European and US state governments, the future of the war on drugs has increasingly come into question.

    According to Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, speaking to The Sunday Times, a Labour government could see the establishment of a "royal commission" to reassess the nation's drug laws.

    The purpose of the body would be to "review independently all drugs legislation" on a case-by-case basis to address issues in relation to public health. Therefore, potentially any drug could be decriminalised if doing so were accepted as beneficial by the commission.

    “There is nothing more important than preserving the life of our citizens. Our current approach to drugs is simply not doing that," Diane Abbott said on Sunday.

    Ms Abbot went on to say that overdose prevention clinics, which are state-run facilities where those afflicted with addiction can safely receive treatment akin to the Swiss model, would also be considered.

    Labour MP David Lammy sent out a tweet saying he was "pleased to see Labour commit to an evidence-based approach on drug reform.”

    He added: “The war on drugs is funding gangs, fuelling crime, giving children easy access on social media and disproportionately criminalising working class young men.”

    ​Dr Gemma Ahearne from the University of Leeds, who is researching Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) in Liverpool for Liverpool John Moores University, has echoed the statements from the Labour Party in the Liverpool Echo, saying: "As a criminologist I can say that the main problems facing heroin consumers are stigma and the law. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 requires radical reform, it is not working."

    Portugal decriminalised all drugs including heroin in 2001 and has seen a reduction in HIV diagnoses attributed to injecting. However, Portuguese HIV rates from injection still remain above the European average at 2.85 cases per million and the reduction of harm from drug use could be attributed to the general improvement in the quality of medical services in the country.

    These statements come amid a rising drug problem in the UK's major cities, with drug deaths soaring to the highest level on record in 2018 according to the Office of National Statistics, with heroin being the primary cause.

    Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during the weekly question time debate in Parliament in London, Britain, September 4, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video.
    Parliament TV/Reuters
    Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during the weekly question time debate in Parliament in London, Britain, September 4, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video.

    Corbyn for Cannabis?

    While desire for drug decriminalisation has been a rising trend in Europe, the US, and Canada in recent years, a bill advocating for the decriminalising of cannabis as far back as the year 2000 was presented but failed to gain support from the wider parliamentary party. The bill, which was sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn along with 13 other Labour MPs, including now Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abott, read:

    "That this House recognises that the cannabis battle in the war against drugs is being lost; that cannabis is neither more damaging than tobacco, nor more addictive than alcohol, and that it is no more the portal to harder drugs than a half of bitter to rampant alcoholism…"


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    United Kingdom, United States, heroin, drug deaths, drug addiction, Portugal, decriminalization, drugs
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