The Daily Mail has spoken.
The great tradition when new reports on drug policy are produced is to see what the blessed Daily Mail thinks. Last time round the Mail claimed the UK Drug Policy Commission's final report said using cannabis was comparable to eating junk food when it naturally said nothing of the kind. If anything, the Mail has today misrepresented the Home Affairs Select Committee's ninth report on drugs to an even greater extent: it takes the committee's recommendation that ministers visit Portugal, where possession has been decriminalised, and implies this means the government's considering legalising "heroine and crack". Getting quite so many distortions into one headline takes real talent.
As was inevitable then, this latest report has been dismissed by those wielding actual power. It doesn't matter whether or not Jeremy Browne is prepared to go and visit Portugal, a no doubt very agreeable junket should he delay his journey until midway through next year, as David Cameron has already decided we don't need a royal commission into drug policy. According to him, the current policy is working swimmingly as drug use amongst the population is at its lowest rate since 1996. The same message has also come from the Home Office, which claimed quite incredibly that current laws "draw on the best available evidence". As lies go, this ranks up there with the best produced by the Mail, considering that the HO have completely ignored the last two recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to keep cannabis in Class C and downgrade MDMA to Class B respectively.
We've had so many similar reports produced now, all recommending more or less the same things, all recognising that prohibition has failed miserably and that we have to move from criminalisation towards decriminalisation that it's apparent we need a major, front line politician unafraid to take on the tabloid press in order to make progress. Some, amazingly, thought David Cameron might be that politician, seeing as he served on the HASC prior to becoming leader of the Conservatives. More realistically, it needs to be someone in opposition who can set out their stance and then claim a mandate for change should their party win the election. The problem with this is that, if anything, the post-Brownite wing of Labour tends to be more authoritarian on drugs than even the Tories. Could this be the perfect next campaign for Stella Creasy?