Politics Magazine

“Shooting Galleries”: Coming Here?

Posted on the 18 April 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

Brighton and Hove Council is seriously considering the implementation of a range of policies proposed by its independent Drugs Commission, including drug consumption rooms where addicts are provided with a hygienic environment and medical attention and are free from prosecution. The legality of the concept isn’t altogether clear, but Sussex Police have welcomed the report.

It is good to see that one community is taking a pragmatic approach to the reduction of harm caused by drugs. As I have said before, a zero tolerance approach is counterproductive and controlled legalisation of some soft drugs will go a lot further towards reducing consumption and protecting the health of those who will inevitably continue. Obviously Brighton and Hove cannot write the law, but they can try to introduce ‘shooting galleries’. As a city which has a long-running drugs problem, it is entitled to explore innovative means of tackling it- but it will cause a dramatic legal fight with the central Government.

There are a number of potential roots of Brighton and Hove’s drugs problem, be it the scattered pockets of poverty; the long standing bohemian community; the large student population; or the concentration of socially disadvantaged groups. Probably, the answer is a combination of all three. Local officials in Brighton and Hove will be familiar with these, the fact that the death rate from drug addiction is the 9th highest in Britain, and that the electorate in the area will be open-minded about solutions. The Government, as we all know, is dominated by people who have lived heavily sheltered lives and are more concerned about fitting facts to their ideology. We can therefore expect this to reach the High Court, and possibly new legislation whatever the outcome of a legal fight.

However, I don’t expect that Labour would be any better in this regard. All the major political parties are in competition to be the toughest on drug addicts, with Gordon Brown going as far as to sack an independent advisor to the Government for daring to suggest legalisation of cannabis. Of the mistakes Labour has now admitted, they haven’t conceded this. Why so? Because being seen to be ‘soft’ on crime is unpopular, and so rational consideration has been excluded from the political side of the debate.

If the Democrats can legalise certain drugs in the generally conservative US and show it pays dividends, then social liberals can do the same in Britain. There’s a lot to do beforehand, though.

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