In defence of the decriminalisation of drug possession in the UK

Authors

Alex Stevens, Niamh Eastwood and Kirstie Douse

Published

March 24, 2024

Abstract

In this review article, we develop the case for the decriminalisation of drug possession in the UK by describing our ‘modest proposal’ to repeal the relevant sections of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its advantages. We defend this proposal against possible critiques from both conservative and radical positions. On the conservative side, these criticisms include that it would increase drug use and harm and that it would be illegal under international law. From the more radical position, we anticipate the criticisms that decriminalisation of possession would leave the harm associated with illegal drug supply to continue, that it would leave in place restrictions on the rights to use drugs, that it would forego the possible tax income from a legally regulated market, and that the drug laws would continue to act as tools of social control. In response, we argue that decriminalisation offers a feasible first step towards reducing the harm of drug control which would not increase drug-related harm.

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