A new proposal announced by the UK government may lead to recreational drug users in England and Wales having their passports and driving licences seized. In addition, the proposal includes the initiative of having casual users of cocaine and cannabis pay fines and be required to attend drug courses.
According to the UK government, these strict measures may help to address the “scourge” of substance abuse in the country. Earlier in 2021, a report published by The Sunday Times demonstrated that all but one of 12 analyzed bathroom areas of the UK Parliament tested positive for traces of cocaine. Shortly afterwards, in December 2021, Boris Johnson had announced a new, 10-year strategy to curb drug use, which was heavily criticized by drug reform campaigners, along with the UK government’s proposed criminal sanction-led approach, while other countries have been implementing more progressive strategies, including cannabis legalization and decriminalization of illicit drugs.
The controversial proposal for new measures was published in a white paper entitled “Swift, Certain, Tough. New Consequences for Drug Possession.” The proposed new penalties for recreational drug use include the following:
- First-time offenders will be required to pay for and attend a drug awareness course.
- Failure to attend the course will result in having to pay an increased ‘Fixed Penalty Notice’ or potentially, in having to face prosecution.
- Second-time offenders would be given a caution, sent on a further drug awareness course, and would face a period of mandatory, random drug testing for a period of up to three months.
- Third-time offenders would likely be charged and upon conviction, as part of a civil court order, and could be subject to an exclusion order banning them from specific locations, such as nightclubs.
- Third-time offenders could be required to carry a drug tag monitoring their usage and have their passports and driving licences confiscated.
The proposal will undergo a 12-week public consultation.
“Drugs are a scourge across society. They devastate lives and tear communities apart. Drug misuse puts lives at risk, fuels criminality, and serious and violent crime, and also results in the grotesque exploitation of young, vulnerable people,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel. “In line with our strategy to tackle the harmful consequences of drugs, we aim to reverse the rising trend of substance use in society, to protect the public from the harm and violence of drug misuse,” she added.
However, critics have voiced concerns over the government’s approach to drug policy creating additional problems, including such measures being used to facilitate the removal of refused asylum seekers and other migrants.