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    Dr Russell Newcombe

    The 1919 Treaty of Versailles led to several countries implementing drug laws prohibiting the unauthorised production, supply and possession of heroin, morphine, opium and cocaine. In the UK, the first national drugs ban of this kind was the 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act, and this was followed by several more such drug laws over the following century (for instance, cannabis was added in 1928, and hundreds of drugs were added by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. However, drug possession is a victimless crime, and unhealthy behaviour is an issue for medical/health services and should never have been made a criminal offence.

    The United Nations Drug Conventions (notably 1961, 1971 and 1988) are in urgent need of overhaul and modernising, as are the UK’s drug laws. But instead of seeing drug possession laws repealed in the 21st century, the UK implemented the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, prohibiting people from possessing with intent to supply and from importing any substance which has a psychoactive effect (as well as banning the production and supply of any such substances) – subject to a prison sentence of up to seven years. This is a gross infringement of human rights and an insidious move toward state control of the individual’s body and mind. At the same time, the second decade of the 21st century has been witness to a surge of organisations campaigning for the decriminalisation of personal possession and use of drugs, including WHO, the American Civil Liberties Union, and several international pressure groups (notably INPUD, Transform and Harm Reduction International). Drug prohibition is hugely expensive and there is conclusive evidence of it ineffectiveness for more than a century. It’s well past time for the UN drugs conventions to be repealed and for legal regulation of drugs to be explored, researched and enacted worldwide.

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About the author

Daryl Worthington

Daryl Worthington

Daryl has a Bachelor’s degree in History from Royal Holloway University of London. He has always had a strong interest in writing, particularly about history, politics, the environment or culture. Originally from London, he currently lives in Riga, Latvia. Alongside history he has a strong interest in environmental and political issues. He enjoys travelling, slowly learning how to speak Latvian and exploring the country’s distinct culture. His other passion is music. He has worked as a writer on the subject, as well as being a musician himself. Daryl is interested in cultural, social and political history. He is fascinated by the role of cultural objects, whether novels, visual arts, events, music or even a past society’s reading of history, as means to reflect on times and people. His particular period of interest is modern history and he is keenly interested in the relationship between mainstream and counter cultures.

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