LETTER: Drug users need help not prosecution

Scales of justice
Scales of justice

It’s with dismay that I read about a man prosecuted by magistrates for possession of half a gram of cocaine while in a Chesterfield nightclub.

This sentence is mechanically delivered by magistrates’ courts all over our country. It serves only to criminalise people for drug possession.

Drug users need handing over to a ministry of health, not a court of law. Users need engagement via highly effective dissuasion panels, consisting of healthcare professionals, to enable them to turn their lives around if needed, not handing over to the criminal justice system to be given a criminal record.

The Department of Health, rather than the Home Office, should be in charge of drug policy, where reducing demand and minimising harm are questions of public debate. This will enable police resources to hone in on dealers.

I realise that this cultural shift in thinking concerns you. After all, common sense suggests that if the threat of punishment hangs over something people will be less willing to do it. Right? Not so. The very notion of prosecution for personal use is, in fact counter-intuitive. Over a decade of drug reform in Portugal has proven this.

I don’t want a society where we discriminate between an individual’s right to turn around their lives, dependent on their choice of drug, by marginalising and stigmatising them through prosecution and jail, denying opportunity.

So let’s pull our heads from the sand because like women’s rights, racial equality and LGBT rights, drug reformation is coming. It’s just a matter of when.

Alan Maris