During recent months I have carried out a survey amongst my constituents for their views on the possible future decriminalisation of illegal drugs such as cannabis.
From the early responses it has been clear that amongst the public there continues to be a great deal of uncertainty about the subject but four out of five local folk favoured some degree of decriminalisation including the possible use of cannabis for medical purposes.
People seem to be coming to the understanding that the continuing drugs problem is one of demand rather than supply.
Here in Westminster we see the multitude of problems that surround drug usage and addiction especially in Soho and Covent Garden. We recognise that the police are working with charities and medical groups dealing with addicts in a war on drugs but they are swamped by the expansion in drug-taking and many of their efforts are doomed to failure. We have to accept that all too often displacement of the problem is their main achievement.
Until our energies are directed at understanding and then reversing the desire from young people for drugs the failure of the last forty years to control the explosion in drug-taking will continue.
Drug dependence ruins many lives though we need to recognise that smoking less-addictive substances like marijuana or taking ecstasy tablets are seen as part of a general lifestyle choice for many young people and as a rite of passage into adulthood.
Large-scale decriminalisation of drugs is entirely unrealistic at this time. The health dangers of highly addictive narcotics should not be underestimated including the impact on the human immune system. I am against the wholesale legalisation of cannabis but nevertheless it seems to me important that there is a non-partisan political debate about this issue. I sense that the recent survey results from this constituency point in the same direction.
Currently the rule of law is being flouted and though I confess that I do not have all the answers this situation is intolerable and worsening, providing young people with the wrong message about obeying the law.
I have never really understood the appeal of drug-taking and discussion of this subject, failing to take account of the importance of rehabilitation, is completely exasperating. The sad truth that has to be accepted is that the impact of drug taking on our society is growing and in almost all senses it is negative.
Many mature people who experimented with drugs in their youth see the subject as over-dramatised while today’s young users, who sense that they will never succumb to any addiction, regard the overbearing need to control drug use as old people meddling in things they don’t understand.
But then – unlike community leaders keen to promote the interests of central London residents – they don’t have to wade through the tomes of crime statistics directly related to drug misuse nor deal with the lives laid waste by narcotics.
However much we regulate the supply of illegal narcotics, the only way to reverse its culture of criminality and squalor lies with changing fundamentally the mindset of those who choose to use such drugs in the first place and then become dependent on them.