Delegates of the nationalist and social-democratic Scottish National Party have voted for a motion to grant Scotland the legal power to decriminalize drug use. Scotland currently has policing and prosecution powers over drug offenses, but drug policy in the whole of the United Kingdom is controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act. The motion calls for the U.K. to grant the Scottish Parliament the power to create its own drug laws, so that it may consider “all options for harm reduction, including drug declassification, decriminalization and regulation.”
The motion does not immediately call for a change to the country's drug policy, but would have officials conduct a “comprehensive review of policy” focusing on “substance misuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal matter.” The motion would have the country's legislators work towards the goal of “lifting the stigma associated with addiction; remove barriers between police and communities and allow policy to reflect the values of our progressive society.”
The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland rose to 867 last year, over twice the death rate in the rest of the U.K., and possibly the highest drug-related death rate in all of Europe. Eighty-eight percent of these deaths were caused by opiates or opioids. Heroin or morphine were responsible for 765 of these deaths, and methadone for 362.
“We need to reform our drug policy because decades of the so called war on drugs has failed,” said National Council member Josh Mennie, who put the motion forward. “All the government has achieved from the war on drugs is criminalizing a generation of people who choose to use cannabis and perhaps other substances. We need a drug policy that closer reflects our progressive values and allows choice.”