The Scottish National Party has backed decriminalising the possession of drugs at a party conference in Aberdeen on the 13th of October.
A resolution was unanimously passed by delegates labelling current drug control legislation “not fit for purpose”.
Attendees also called for the devolution of powers to enable the “decriminalisation of possession and consumption of controlled drugs”.
Decriminalisation takes away the status of criminal law from those acts to which it is applied. With regard to drugs, it is usually used to refer to demand; acts of acquisition, possession and consumption.
Following decriminalisation, it still is illegal to possess, acquire or in certain cases import drugs, but those acts are no longer criminal offences. However, administrative sanctions can still be applied; these can be a fine, suspension of the driving or firearms licence, or just a warning.
Responding to the decision, David Liddell, CEO of Scottish Drugs Forum, said:
“We welcome the SNP support to implement a policy of decriminalisation.
“Decriminalisation would address several issues that cause unnecessary harm to people who use drugs and others. The clandestine nature of drug use can stop people seeking information and help from treatment and other professionals. People who regard their use as non- problematic are not open with health professionals, who could otherwise link their health issues with their drug use. People who are already experiencing harms present to services later and in the face of more serious harms than they might otherwise have had.
“Criminalisation clearly stigmatises people and has negative effects on people’s sense of self and identity. This, for some, leads to more marginalisation and more drug use.
“It seems wrong that policy now frames drug use as a health issue yet we regard people as criminals rather than people who would benefit from treatment.
“Decriminalisation would improve relations with police and allow police to focus on matters of greater public concern.
“We support the decriminalisation of possession as it would reduce harm. We have seen some positive movements in Scotland under existing law – the use of recorded police warnings for cannabis possession for example. These should now be extended to cover all drugs. Some police authorities in England have gone further under the current legislation than we have in Scotland. There are models there for how we could develop decriminalisation in Scotland now.
“These are encouraging signs – it is hugely significant that the Government party is now taking a lead in these matters.”