Response to the UK government's White Paper 'Swift, Certain, Tough: New Consequences for Drug Possession’

In summary, Release is fundamentally opposed to the proposals contained in the White Paper. The Government is guilty of ignoring the evidence of how we can reduce the harms of drugs and the harm caused by current drug policies. Criminalisation and punishment of drug possession offences does not deter use, a point that has been confirmed by the Home Office. However, criminalisation can have a negative impact on health, social and economic outcomes for individuals and their families. Moreover, the policing of drugs drives racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Two thirds of all stop and searches are for drugs, with Black people being subjected to drug searches at nine times the rate of white people despite being less likely to use controlled substances, and being less likely to be found in possession of drugs after such a police interaction. The proposals contained within the White Paper are predicated on expanding the policing of drugs, which will inevitably involve increasing police stop and search. At a time when community-police relations are so fundamentally damaged, these proposals are the opposite of what is needed.