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UK drug laws are racist, former government adviser says


Britain’s drug laws are racist and disproportionately harm black communities, a former government adviser has argued.

Lord Simon Woolley said drug legislation introduced 50 years ago has failed to reduce the use, supply and harms associated with illegal drugs and continues to be used “as a tool of racism systemic “.

Lord Woolley, an interbank peer who previously chaired the government’s Racial Disparities Unit advisory group, is calling for a review of whether the drug abuse law is fit for purpose, half a century later.

This must take into account the growing evidence that decriminalizing people who use drugs and legally regulating the drug supply could be beneficial, he said.

Writing in the BMJ, he said the current policy is failing everyone, and black communities in particular.

He said: “Drug prohibition is racist in its DNA and in its impact on our society today.

“It is rooted in a series of attacks, in the US, UK and elsewhere, against non-white communities and the substances they were associated with, whether or not they took these drugs in large numbers. “

Drug-related deaths in England and Wales increased for the eighth consecutive year in 2020 and remain at their highest level in more than a quarter of a century, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Separate figures for Scotland show the country continues to have the worst drug death rate in Europe.

Lord Woolley has said that a punitive drug policy is “one of the most tangible and damaging ways in which systemic racism is experienced in black communities”.

Describing the “profound dehumanization” of stop and search tactics and strip searches, which he has both experienced, he said: “You are laid bare and have to show crudely that you have nothing hidden. nowhere.

“The feeling of being both powerless and humiliated arouses anger and deep mistrust not only towards law enforcement, but also towards the authorities who sanction them. “

He calls on health professionals to speak out on the need for reform.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “Illegal drugs are destroying our communities and ruining lives.

“Our entire systems approach, informed by Dame Carol Black’s review, will reduce drug supply and demand by cracking down on criminals who sell dangerous and illegal drugs while addressing the issues that fuel demand.” .

“This approach will continue to strike a balance between controlling the harmful substances that cause so much harm while allowing appropriate access to medicines for legitimate purposes. “