By Simon Woolley / BMJ
UK drug policy is a mess. As Carol Black’s review showed in detail, the UK’s consumption of illegal drugs is growing across all sectors of society and our treatment system is near collapse. Our drug related death rate is one of the highest in Europe, and the availability of drugs remains stubbornly high despite both covid-19 and regular much publicised drug busts.
Current drug policy fails everybody. But it fails black communities in particular. Black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than their white counterparts, and nine times more likely when the reason given is suspected drug possession. And this is despite white people reporting higher rates of drug consumption.
Suspicion of drug possession—often merely the claim that an officer can smell cannabis in the vicinity of the target—is the most common reason for searches by far. Black people are also much more likely to be arrested, charged, and imprisoned for drug offences.3 In 2017, black people were eight times more likely to be prosecuted for drug offences and nine times more likely to be sent to prison than white people.