Letter to Greenock Telegraph [11/01/2021]

While agreeing with the premise of MC Barry’s letter in the Greenock Telegraph (6th January 2021), that ‘more resources are required to tackle drug problems’ and ‘This is a complex problem rooted in poverty’ I can’t agree with his claims that it’s entirely the fault of the current SNP government. The increase in drug related deaths, the increase in criminal prosecutions and incarceration, the increase in violent crimes related to the control of production and sale of illegal drugs can be traced back to the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. Prior to that the ‘British system’ looked upon misuse of drugs as a health-related issue. When we made it a matter for the criminal justice system we marginalised and ostracised people who are self-medicating. We drove them into the arms of criminal gangs, and they have been paying the price ever seen. This is a U.K. wide Bill that helps to fuel a worldwide problem. The Scottish Government has acknowledged that it has made mistakes and recently has taken action to address the known issues.

However, if the U.K. parliament was to decriminalise personal drug possession then the role of our law enforcement agencies would change dramatically. Early intervention would be easier and non-judgemental. Diversion to health services would become the norm. The U.K. government could change the law to legalise Drug Consumption Rooms. They could reschedule cannabis and permit the import of medical cannabis. The scandal has been ongoing for over 50 years and it won’t be changed overnight and while I acknowledge mistakes have been made in Scotland, what we need is cross party support for change, not political point scoring. At Westminster, I am Vice-chair of the All-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform and that is where progress will be made. Individuals parties will have internal pressure groups to influence their own party thinking but only by working together will we solve the problems that has been doing damage to our community for decades.

Ronnie Cowan MP

20 Crawfurd Street, Greenock