Top doctor joins calls for drug decriminalisation

The number of senior figures calling for drug legalisation is increasing
The number of senior figures calling for drug legalisation is increasing

By politics.co.uk staff

The movement for an end to drug decriminalisation won another senior supporter today when the president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) came out in support of reform.

The move comes a month after the chair of the Bar Council and the editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the UK's most well-respected medical publication, came out in support of decriminalisation.

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In a final email to 25,000 RCP members beforestepping down from the role, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said he felt like ending his tenure on a controversial note - and did so by backing the article on drug law reform written for the BMJ last month by Stephen Rolles of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation.

"There's a lot of evidence that the total prohibition of drugs, making them totally illicit and unavailable, has not been successful at reducing not only the health burden, but also the impact on crime," he told the Press Association.

"I'm trying to take a fresh look, as many people have done. There is a strong case for trying a different approach. I'm not saying we should make heroin available to everyone, but we should be treating it as a health issue rather than criminalising people."

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Many of the medical problems which developed from drug use were in fact the result of their prohibition, rather than the drug itself, the professor added.

"I see a lot of patients with the complications of opiate addiction from dirty needles, or from using drugs that are contaminated - and not from the use of heroin itself," he said.

He also cited the economic benefits of decriminalisation.

"In times of financial hardship, the closer to the drug user you invest your money the better value you get. It's more cost effective to try to treat people with drug problems than to close down poppy fields in disparate countries," he said.

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg publicly stated their support for drug law reform before entering frontbench politics, but activists are not expecting any significant reform of Britain's drug laws during the coalition administration.

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