Release, the UK centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law, has responded to the new UK Coalition Government’s public consultation on the Drug Strategy 2010. The strategy focuses heavily on ‘drug free’ outcomes and fails to highlight the importance of harm reduction within the drug treatment field. Many of the policy proposals are already contained within the National Treatment Agency’s Business Plan for 2010/11 and have been approved by ministers without public consultation (published 6 August 2010). It is important to highlight that the policy proposals contained within the Consultation Paper do not appear to be underpinned by any evidence that supports the policy direction that is clearly being taken. This lack of evidence is central as to why this consultation process is not sufficient. Release is particularly concerned about the consultation process, namely, the failure to adhere to the Cabinet Office’s Code of Practice on Consultations.

Further to this a ‘race equality impact assessment’, which is required by law, has not formed part of the process. Release provides eleven legal surgeries in some of the poorest communities in London, advising nearly 1700 clients a year. Government policies have a direct impact on the individuals they see and the wider communities they work in and often that impact can be negative. They are concerned that some of the policies contained in te Consultation Paper could have significant negative consequences for individuals and families affected by drug use and for the wider public by failing to consider the impact of such policies. This response highlights those concerns and encourages the UK Government to consider alternatives to the current system including decriminalisation and regulation.

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