PCC attends Home Affairs Select Committee to talk about tackling drugs
Last week I attended the Home Affairs Select Committee to talk about tackling drugs and drug-related crimes, both in my capacity as Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and as Joint Lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), Addiction and Substance Misuse Portfolio. I’d like to share with you what I discussed with the committee.
Firstly, we talked about Project ADDER, (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recover). Project ADDER is a national scheme which focuses on coordinated law enforcement activity, alongside expanded diversionary programmes (such as Out of Court Disposal orders), using the criminal justice system to divert people away from drug-related offending. I shared with the committee the success the APCC has seen from the 13 pilot schemes across the UK. The pilots have seen over 10,000 arrests, 600 disruptions of organised crime gangs and meaningful engagement with over 13,400 people with drug problems through outreach.
Where funding has occurred for the schemes to be piloted the PCCs across the country have demonstrated the effectiveness of bringing together enforcement, treatment and recovery. However, I also put to the board that I felt certain geographical areas had missed out. Including Bournemouth, which is listed in the Government’s drug strategy as having the ninth highest opioid and crack cocaine use, yet unfortunately, we have not received ADDER funding, VRU funding, or been included in the first tranche of the Governments ‘From Harm to Hope’ strategy.
I shared with the committee, how in Dorset we were using what funding and resources we do have to try and mirror Project ADDER, but more funding will be needed to extend the program nationally. One of the biggest successes of Project ADDER is the cross-partner working involved. Local drug partnerships are a game-changer and vital to moving forward in the war on drugs. It is my view that the Government’s ‘From Harm to Hope’ strategy builds on this idea of local drug strategy partnerships and will make a big difference to the work we are doing.
Finally, we spoke about the decriminalisation of drugs such as cannabis. There are a number of concerns when it comes to this idea, with regards to public health and law enforcement. From a crime perspective, I made clear my view that decriminalisation will not make life easier. In California, for example the black market is reported to have increased since cannabis was legalised1 – the drug dealers have not just simply disappeared. In terms of public health, Portugal2, Scotland3 and the USA4 have all seen an increase in their cannabis-related psychosis hospitalisations. There is also emerging data showing increases in other health issues such as cancer and birth defects in those states in America, that have adopted legalisation5&6. Some experts suggest it is similar to thalidomide in this regard7.
In my view, all evidence needs to be taken into account and a risk adverse stance taken – it may be that a stronger classification making cannabis a Class A drug is the right approach instead. What is clear in my mind is that there is enough data evidence that we should not water down the stance on what I refer to as ‘illegal gateway’ drugs.
There are a plethora of resources we can use to tackle the issue of drugs across the country, but in my opinion, decriminalisation is not one of them.
It starts with tough enforcement on the dealers who use violence and exploit our young and vulnerable. Since being in office I have pushed for a regional approach to tackling drugs and drug related crime and as a result, we now have with Operation Scorpion putting a ring of steel round the South West to deter drug traffic coming in. I am particularly pleased that Dorset Police also now has in place Operation Viper to take the fight against this trade into our communities here in Dorset to directly tackle county lines and this too is showing success in taking drugs off our streets, arresting individuals, removing weapons and safeguarding vulnerable individuals.
We need to create a toolbox of interventions that can be tailored to the individual. Escalating penalties such as loss of a driving license may be needed to change behaviour in a middle-class cocaine user, but not necessarily for a young person using illegal gateway drugs. The way we tackle drug use needs to be tailored to the circumstances and should include effective rehabilitation, increased education and awareness, and diversion to name a few resources.
I will continue to ensure we are tough on dealers and make the case for better awareness, education and diversion relating to illegal drugs and, as I did earlier this week, I will also continue to make the case for better funding to help tackle this issue. This is one of the toughest challenges facing our future and the society that we want to build in Dorset – we must be prepared to stand firm and look at all measures to address it.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner
- Leonard, Tom (2022) ‘Why does Sadiq Khan want to legalise marijuana after catastrophe in America’ The Daily Mail, 12th May 2022: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10811119/Why-does-Sadiq-Khan-want-legalise-marijuana-catastrophe-America-asks-TOM-LEONARD.html
- The Times (2022) ‘The Times view on the risks of cannabis: Dangerous Skunk’ The Times, 7th January 2022: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-times-view-on-the-risks-of-cannabis-dangerous-skunk-xd7cv037h#:~:text=The%20evidence%20of%20the%20mental,odds%20of%20a%20psychotic%20episode.
- Howarth, Mark and Boyle, Janet (2022) ‘We do need to worry about young people: Doctors reveal surge in psychosis linked to cannabis’ The Sunday Post, 30th January 2022: https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/the-eye-has-been-taken-off-the-ball-with-cannabis-we-do-need-to-worry-about-young-people/
- Moran, L., Tsang, E., Ongur, D., Hsu, J. and Choi, M. (2022) ‘Geographical variation in hospitalization for psychosis associated with cannabis use and cannabis legalization in the United States: Submit to: Psychiatry Research’ Psychiatry Research, Vol 308: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178122000014
- Reece, Albert and Husle, Gary (2022) ‘Geotemporospatial and causal inference epidemiological analysis of US survey and overview of cannabis, cannabidiol and cannabinoid genotoxicity in relation to congenital anomalies 2001–2015’ BMC Pediatrics, Vol 22: 47 https://bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12887-021-02996-3.pdf
- Reece, Albert and Husle, Gary (2022) ‘Epidemiological association of cannabinoid- and drug- exposures and sociodemographic factors with limb reduction defects across USA 1989–2016: A geotemporospatial study’ Spatial and Spatio-temporal Eide, Vol 41: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877584522000041?via%3Dihub
- Reece, Albert (2021) We The People Radio Records, 12th December 2021: http://www.wethepeopleradiorecords.com/20211212/we_the_people_