DRUGS INQUIRY: Your views will help to shape policy on drugs
In the final part of our week-long series on your views on drugs, mercury crime correspondent Ciaran Fagan asks: what will happen in the future?
Readers' views will help shape the debate about the future of drugs policy in the UK, according to the MP who is leading a wide-ranging official inquiry.
The Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz, is conducting its investigation into drugs such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis and the new generation of so-called legal highs.
Nearly 4,500 votes have been cast in a Leicester Mercury poll this week on two of the biggest questions facing the committee – whether possession of cannabis be legalised and if highly addictive drugs, chiefly heroin, be decriminalised and offered to users by the state.
ENJOY YOUR EVE WITH FREE ENTRANCE & 20% OFF YOUR FOOD BILL WITH...View details
NEW LEBANESE HOME BUFFET EVERY DAY @ CEDARS LEBANESE REST £ 6.99 pp STARTING @ 11 AM TILL 16:00 PM
Terms: LIMITED VOUCHERS AVAILABLE BOOK IN ADVANCE ONLY & PRINT THIS VOUCHERS CALL NOW : 01162519057
Contact: 0116 2169184
Valid until: Saturday, May 25 2013
More than two-thirds of the 1,742 readers who voted on the decriminalisation question by yesterday afternoon were in favour of keeping addicts out of prison and instead stepping up efforts to get them on to treatment programmes.
The poll on whether possession of cannabis, currently a Class B drug, should be legalised has remained constant throughout the week, with more than 90 per cent of votes in favour of people being allowed to use it without fear of punishment.
However, as the Mercury reported yesterday, pro-cannabis organisations are active online and are perhaps likely to have encouraged supporters to register their votes in favour of legalisation.
The results of the survey will be fed back to the committee, Mr Vaz said.
He said yesterday: "This has been a very important initiative by the Leicester Mercury and I would like to see it repeated across other towns and cities.
"What has been particularly interesting is the number of votes cast in the Mercury's opinion poll.
"We cannot be sure how representative the results area, but there has certainly been a lot of people who want to engage in the debate and that is very important.
"I will be writing to regional newspaper editors to ask them to use this series as a template to test public opinion in their areas.
"With the information being fed back to us this would help the committee greatly."
Mr Vaz and members of the committee last week spent several days in Miami, in the United States and Bogota, Columbia – the latter the source of an estimated 70 per cent of the cocaine which reaches Europe.
Over the next few weeks, he and committee members will speak to drug-related organisations and charities, addicts and their families about their views.
He added: "What is clear is that we need to have a wider debate what drugs policy initiatives we should be considering.
"This is an international issue and, if we are going to deal with it, we will have to deal with it on a global level. That is certainly what people in South America have been telling us."
University of Leicester academic Tammy Ayres has taken the central questions which Mr Vaz's committee is investigating and turned them into an online opinion survey.
The survey can be completed by clicking here.
She said: "The debate on drug policy is warming up at the moment. There is a feeling that the prohibition approach has failed and people are looking for alternatives and that is why this debate is so important."
The Mercury's own survey will also remain open on the website.
HOW YOU CAN HAVE YOUR SAY
To take part in our online poll on the UK’s drugs laws click on the links below.
The questions are:
1 Should possession of drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, be decriminalised?
2 Should possession of cannabis be legalised?
The survey results will help inform a major inquiry into the country’s drugs laws, which is being carried out by the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is chaired by Leicester East MP Keith Vaz.
Alternatively, readers can contribute by answering the following questions and sending them to Mr Vaz.
In general, do you believe that the drug laws in this country are a) too liberal b) about right c) not liberal enough?
Which drugs do you believe are the most prevalent in Leicester?
Is drug-related crime such as burglary or shoplifting a problem in Leicester?
Do parents have enough
information about so-called legal highs?
Is the Government too slow to ban legal highs?
Is sufficient drug education provided in schools?
Do you believe ex-addicts should provide drug education in schools?
At what age do you believe drug education should begin in schools?
Do parents know how to discuss drug issues with their children?
Send your answers to Keith Vaz, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
ADD YOUR VOTE HERE
1. Should possession of drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine be decriminalised?
Click here to add your vote.
1. Should possession of cannabis be legalised?
Click here to add your vote.