The UK Government believes that it is justified in taking away your freedom and your livelihood on the basis of (in their own words) "historical and cultural precedents".
In October 2006 the Government officially admitted:
"alcohol and tobacco account for more health problems and deaths than illicit drugs [...] The distinction between legal and illegal substances is not unequivocally based on pharmacology, economic or risk benefit analysis. It is also based in large part on historical and cultural precedents". (Cm 6941, "The Government Reply to the Fifth Report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Session 2005-6 HC 1031: Drug classification: making a hash of it?")
Despite this startling admission, the Government has refused an urgently needed evidence based review of the drug classification system and ignored its independent advisory panel on issues such as the classification of cannabis and ecstasy, persistently favouring "historical and cultural precedents" over scientific evidence. As absurd as it may sound there are currently thousands of people languishing in UK jails, their families torn apart, careers lost and livelihoods destroyed because of "historical and cultural precedents", the same discriminatory reasons why blacks were segregated in the US, women were denied the vote and homosexuals were imprisoned.
The belief that some drugs are "evil" is pervasive, yet strangely absent when it comes to other equally or more harmful drugs approved of by the majority such as the drugs alcohol and tobacco. To put things into perspective, according to the UK National Office of Statistics, in 2005 there were 6,627 alcohol related deaths and 86,500 tobacco related deaths, compared for example with 58 ecstasy related deaths, and zero for cannabis, LSD or psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Despite the figures it is ecstasy and cannabis, and not alcohol or tobacco which are referred to as "killer drugs" whilst a person sharing an ecstasy pill with a friend is committing a crime carrying a potential life sentence for "supplying a Class A drug". Although some argue that the disparity in the number of deaths which we quote is due to the fact that alcohol and tobacco are more widely used because of their legal status, this is not the case. In a factsheet on drug related deaths issued in September 1996, the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence compared the annual mortality rates for four different types of drugs, the reported mortality rates (as a percentage of total users for each type of drug) were 1.5% to 3% for opiate users, 0.9% for tobacco users, 0.5% for alcohol users, and 0.0002% for ecstasy users.
Further supporting what we already knew, in March 2007, scientists, including members of the UK Parliament's top advisory committee on drug classification, published a rigorous assessment of the social and individual harm caused by 20 substances in a report entitled "Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse". The report rated most "illicit" drugs as far less harmful than the drugs alcohol and tobacco and called for an urgent review of the drug classification system which was deemed arbitrary.
Not unlike other forms of discrimination which in the past were enforced by law and tolerated by society, users of controlled drugs are the victims of an extreme, but tacitly accepted discrimination. The term "prohibitionist" when used to refer to those who support the prohibition of (some) drugs is inaccurate – so-called "prohibitionists" do not want the drugs they prefer, alcohol and tobacco, prohibited, they only want other people's drugs prohibited, even when the evidence shows that the drugs preferred by others are less harmful. "Prohibitionists" therefore actually want unequal treatment, or discrimination on the basis of drug preference. We call this "drug discrimination" – drugs which evidence suggests are less harmful are more tightly controlled than drugs which evidence suggests are more harmful, ignoring science in favour of "historical and cultural precedents".
Additionally, the misclassification of various substances sends out incorrect signals about their relative harm; for example magic mushrooms for which there are virtually no recorded deaths are in the same Class as heroin and users are subject to the same criminal sanctions regardless of evidence suggesting that they are not even remotely equally harmful. Will the young person who has tried magic mushrooms with no adverse effects trust the Government's warnings on heroin?
In January 2006 the then UK Home Secretary Charles Clark had made the following promise:
"… I will in the next few weeks publish a consultation paper with suggestions for a review of the drug classification system, on the basis of which I will make proposals in due course… one needs to proceed on the basis of evidence… I want to emphasise to the House the importance of evidence and research on this subject."
Yet the promised consultation paper never materialised and in October 2006 the new Home Secretary John Reid announced that the Government would not be proceeding with the review. The Government has since persistently ignored mounting evidence that the drug classification system is arbitrary, going as far as to fire the head of its independent advisory body for stating what the evidence clearly shows when this conflicted with Government policy. (Update: After a three year battle, the Drug Equality Alliance has succeeded in forcing the Home Office to disclose this previously suppressed consultation paper with suggestions for a review of the drug classification system, you can read more about this here).
We believe that the Government's decision not to fulfil on their previously promised evidence based review is irrational and contrary to the policy of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which seeks to use education, health and police power measures to prevent, minimise or eliminate risks that might result from activities with dangerous or otherwise harmful "drugs which are being or appear [...] likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears [...] capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem".
In conclusion, it is our view that the Government is currently administering the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 arbitrarily, contrary to the purpose of the Act, contrary to the original wishes of Parliament, in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore illegally.
The Drug Equality Alliance (DEA) is committed to holding the Government accountable for its maladministration of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and we are currently supporting a number of legal challenges (see our cases page). In doing so we are speaking out for the countless millions who suffer the denial of equal rights and equal protection with respect to their drug of choice. We aim to catalyse a paradigm shift towards evidence based administration of drug law and towards a system which secures equal rights and equal protection for all those who who produce, commerce, possess and consume "dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs".
The Drug Equality Alliance was inspired by the legal arguments of Casey Hardison, currently serving a 20 year sentence in the UK for producing LSD, DMT and 2C-B (drugs which the evidence shows are less harmful to individuals and society than the drugs alcohol and tobacco). The length of Casey's sentence epitomises the draconian nature of UK drug laws, especially when contrasted with the 15 years which can be expected for an "average" murder and the 5 years which can be anticipated for a rape where there are no aggravating factors. Casey is working with the Drug Equality Alliance to further develop the legal arguments which we are currently deploying.
The Drug Equality Alliance accepts members who are prepared to make some donations or contributions to the cause. We wish to disseminate our ideas and do not protect our intellectual property although we ask you to consult us before using any of our materials.
Please start by educating yourself on the issue of "drug equality" by reading the information on this website and if you are able to, please make a donation. We accept PayPal and bank transfers. All funds raised go towards covering some of the costs involved in supporting our legal challenges.
You can also join our Facebook pages and interact with us and other supporters: