Many politicians will be only too happy to take the praise if we ever manage to improve on the appalling number of drug related deaths in Scotland but if we are ever to achieve that we need to stop the blame game, stick to the facts and make the changes that will effect an improvement. Then we can all claim we were responsible for the improvements. As it is, we should all be admitting that we are responsible for the failings. Only then can we rip the political machinations out of the process. Recognise the actions required to bring about change for the common good and implement that change. Then we can pat ourselves on the back and indulge in our own self importance. We have tried and failed to open a Drug Consumption Room in Glasgow. DCRs (sometimes known as Safe Drug Consumption Rooms or Overdose Prevention Facilities) have saved lives in every country that they have been established. They have reduced crime and been cost effective in treating problematic drug use. And yet in the U.K. we still refuse to licence them. I would have hoped that at the very least the U.K. government would have recognised that DCRs are worthy of investigation and that running a pilot project would be worthwhile. It is almost two years since I clashed with the Home Office over their lack of knowledge on the effectiveness and the availability of DCRs globally, but I truly hope that what appears to be a softening of their resistance is genuine and that they have finally taken onboard the evidence accrued from foreign shores. But it mustn’t end there. GPs require training so they can comfortably prescribe medical cannabis. Companies need incentives to develop medical cannabis products that can be dispensed, and the law needs changed to protect people from prosecution. Decriminalisation will remove the stigma and reduce the pressure on law enforcement agencies, but we need to invest in rehabilitation centres and provide shelter. Homelessness, poverty and abuse are the drivers that fuel problematic drug use. We must address them if we are to create an environment for the wider solution. If political parties can get together and get behind these proposals, all of which have been successful in other countries, then we can improve the situation and drive down the death rate. We can reduce the harm and we can free up the police force to fight crime. We will save both the NHS and the criminal justice system money and time and we will have created a society where problematic drug use is recognised and treated as a health issue. In the coming weeks I am visiting Jericho House in Greenock to hear first hand the lived experience of the the service users and I am hosting a briefing for MPs at Westminster by the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation and other organisations involved in reform and rehabilitation. A New Year offers renewed hope and if we work together then maybe this can be the year that we finally drag the U.K. drug policy out of the dark ages.
Ronnie Cowan MP
Vice-chair of APPG on drug policy reform