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NCJ Number: 203318 Find in a Library
Title: Out of Harm's Way? Illicit Drug Use, Medicalization and the Law
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:43  Issue:4  Dated:Autumn 2003  Pages:772-796
Author(s): Michael Shiner
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 25
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: This article develops a social classification of illicit drug use and compares it with existing medico-legal classifications, with reference to British drug policy.
Abstract: The legal classification established by Britain's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has provided the basis for British drug policy for over 30 years. In October 2001, however, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, announced that he intended to downgrade the legal classification of cannabis so that its possession would no longer be an arrestable offense. This decision was based largely on the findings of an independent inquiry that the law on cannabis "criminalizes large numbers of otherwise law-abiding, many young, people to the detriment of their futures" and "produces more harm than it prevents" (Police Foundation, 2000:7). This rationale is significant for drug policies in general. Although less harmful drugs tend to have higher prevalence rates, a similar pattern is evident between harmfulness and the intensity with which illicit substances are used. This is important, because the way in which people use particular illicit drugs may limit the potential for harm and, by extension, the existing rationale for legal deterrents. Moderation and desistance after a brief period of experimentation is the way in which many young adults manage the risks of harm associated with drugs. Moderation and desistance are more pronounced in relation to the hallucinants, reflecting the greater degree of harm associated with these substances. Although the desistance rate for cocaine apparently is relatively low, this reflects its position as a late feature of users' careers rather than intense levels of use. The social patterns of drug use reinforce recent calls for a shift away from enforcement-led approaches to drug policies. This should include downgrading the legal classification of cannabis, ecstasy, and LSD. Reclassification of drugs to reduce punitive sanctions for their use should be extended to include magic mushrooms and perhaps cocaine. 8 tables, 1 figure, and 60 references
Main Term(s): Drug use
Index Term(s): Drug laws; Drug Policy; Drug use; Foreign drug law enforcement; Foreign laws; Social conditions
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