Myths and misconceptions
about drug laws
UK Misuse of Drugs Act and UN drug Conventions
- Drug laws classify drugs.
Drug laws classify people involved with drugs - possessors, suppliers producers and export/importers (for non-medical purposes) and medical/scientific professionals (for medical/scientific purposes). Relevance: human rights are affected.
- The general aim of drug laws is to prohibit possession, supply, production and import/export and this is unchangeable.
The general aim is to protect society from drug risks. The general aim must be clearly related to the public interest. Prohibition is a method of achieving that aim, as is licensing. Prohibition is the 'means' to achieve the 'end' of public protection. Relevance: prohibition can be replaced by licensing if that method of achieving the general aim is believed to be more effective.
- Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are not drugs.
All children in the UK are taught that they are drugs, in accordance with the United Nations' definition of drugs. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, statutory advisers to Government, also identifies them as drugs. Their international counter-part is the World Health Organisation which also identifies them as drugs. The International Classification of Diseases also recognises no distinction between health problems for drugs with different legal status.
- Drug laws do not cover alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
Drug laws cover all drugs, including those not yet discovered or synthesised. No drugs are specifically excluded. The ACMD or WHO have a legal duty to advise on drugs that should be considered for control.
- Drugs classified as illegal are more harmful than drugs classified as legal.
The ACMD have described alcohol and tobacco as "two of the most harmful psychoactive drugs". WHO's Global Burden of Disease 2000 stated that tobacco causes 8.8% of global deaths, alcohol 3.2% and illicit drugs 0.4%.
- Drug laws clearly intend to treat equally harmful drugs - and those involved with them - unequally.
Drug laws do not give any such indication of unequal treatment.
- UK drug laws must comply with UN drug Conventions.
The Misuse of Drugs Act does not incorporate UN drug Conventions into UK law so those Conventions have no affect. Government has ratified the Conventions but Parliament chose not to incorporate them, deciding instead that UK drug laws should "provide for changes to be made in the classification in the light of new scientific knowledge".