In the fight against drugs the current system ‘does more harm than good’, say families

  • Families affected by drug use are in favour of drug legalisation.
  • 'Drugs need to be recognised as a health issue rather than a criminal and justice issue'
  • 'We need to win the emotional argument – we need to challenge the stigma'

A panel set up to examine the problem of drugs says that making drugs illegal only benefits criminals.

The Taking Drugs Seriously panel compares the current system to that of the Prohibition era in 1920s America where the ban of alcohol led to it becoming a profitable criminal enterprise. 

In a recent panel debate chaired by Jane Slater, of Transform Drug Policy Foundation and campaign manager for Anyone’s Child, said a radical rehink wasd needed on drug legalisation.

“We think drugs needs to be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal and justice issue.  We need to get the organised criminals out of the drugs market and the only way to do this is to legally control and regulate the markem,” she said. 

“And what this means is doctors, pharmacists and licenced retailers taking control and putting the organised criminals out of the market.”  

Ms Slater cited a pharmacy model as the best example where drugs could be licenced and prescribed and therefore manufacture and usage would be controlled. 

She explained that while Anyone’s Child recognises drugs can be dangerous, the current policy of prohibiting drugs is “an epic and catastrophic failure” causing more harm than the drugs themselves.    

Rosemary Humphries lost two sons, Roland and Jake, to drug use. She believes that fear of the law prevented Roland’s friends from calling for help when he died at a party aged 23.

And she says that her elder son Jake’s shame of his own arrest and criminal record for possession of cannabis, combined with the death of his younger brother, fuelled his own addiction. 

It would take Jake three more years to beat his addiction after his younger brother’s death.

Jake relapsed after seven clean years and died of an overdose aged 37. 

Rosemary said: “All this is why I joined Anyone’s Child, where families who have been harmed by our drug laws understand and support each other. 

“And why with these other families I campaign for legal regulation of drugs so that other parents will not suffer as we have done.”  

Ray Lakeman who lost two sons to drugs

Ray Lakeman spoke about the death of his two sons, Jacques, 20, and Torin, 19, who planned to spend the night at a pub in Bolton after watching Manchester United playing at home. 

They were found two days later, with the cause of their deaths a fatal overdose of MDMA purchased from the ‘dark web’. 

The inquest revealed that Jacques had six times the typical recreational amount of the drug in his system, while Torin’s was even higher. 

Ray said they believed they had bought safe drugs but they actually exceeded what is considered to be a ‘recreational’ dose. 

In the wake of their deaths Ray researched drug use and now believes that banning drugs does not stop them being used and there needs to be a better understanding of  why people use them.

Chris Brady, a harm reduction worker from The Loop, which provides testing at nightclubs and festivals, believes the government is missing an opportunity making drugs illegal and that what they do goes some way to helping protect young people.  

He said: “Our job is to say ‘Here are the facts.’  The decision you need to make is your own decision, but do it based on fact because in the market we’ve got now people aren’t taking drugs based on fact.  They’re taking drugs on hope, they hope that pill they bought is ok.  

However, The Loop will always emphasise that not taking drugs is always the safest option.  

Both Anyone’s Child and the families involved hope the conversation will spread, and encourage people to write to their MP.  Each year they attend parliament on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and their numbers have grown, as have the number of MPs willing to debate the issue.