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Are we decriminalising the possession of class A drugs?

By Holly Campion

Local politicians in Scotland have recently discussed the possibility of decriminalising the possession of Class A drugs for personal use. This means just like class B and class C drugs; police officers would have the option to give an individual a formal warning for the possession of such a drug and/or refer them to community resources to aid with drug misuse.

What are the argued pros and cons of a move like this?

Some may see this move as a gateway to approve the use of Class A drugs, whilst, what it may allow for is the reduction in criminalisation of drug addiction. If an individual is found in possession of a Class A drug - instead of automatically facing a fine or prison time for what could be an addiction, they will receive a formal warning and can access specialist help.

Criminalising drug use does not deter individuals who suffer with addiction. A large fine or a prison sentence is only going to worsen the issues of a drug addict as they will face further financial challenges. Many drug addicts would be dealing with financial issues due to them not being able to keep a high functioning level of work ethic to sustain employment, and due to the cost of Class A drugs. Unfortunately, if a drug addict is sentenced to prison, they will receive limited drug addiction therapy during custody and none upon release, which can lead to a viscous cycle for an addiction they cannot get control of by themselves.

Classification of drugs

We often hear the terms ‘Class A’ or ‘Class B’ drugs but understandably many don’t know what falls into each category and why. Below will outline the different ‘classes’ of illegal drugs. How the government and medical agencies classify drugs generally is based on what their perceived value is, along with how dangerous and harmful they are. Classifications of drugs include consideration to things like; the risk of the drug, the legal implications of using it, the effect the drug has, the likelihood for the substance to be abused, what this abuse will lead to, the impact this drug has on society. All of these are inter-linked.

Class A Drugs – Crack Cocaine, Cocaine, Ecstasy, MDMA, heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (cystral meth).

  • Possession of a Class A drug can result in up to 7 years in prison and/or a monetary fine.

  • Supply and/or production of a Class A drug can lead to a lifetime in prison and/or a monetary fine.

Class B Drugs – Cannabis, Codeine, ketamine, Ritalin, amphetamines, synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinone’s.

  • Possession of a Class B drug can result in to up to 5 years in prison and/or a monetary fine.

  • Supply and/or production of a Class B drug can lead to up to 14 years in prison and/or a monetary fine.

Class C Drugs – Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines, gamma hydroxybutyrate and pipeazines.

  • Possession of a Class B drug can result in up to 2 years in prison and/or a monetary fine but this does exclude anabolic steroids as it is not illegal to possess them for personal use.

  • Supply and/or production of a Class C drug can lead to up to 14 years in prison and/or a monetary fine.

Prosecuting those who are dealing and taking advantage

As previously mentioned, many will argue that decriminalising the possession of drugs is a gateway to legalising drug use, but it is important to distinguish between those who use drugs and those who produce and distribute them. By illegally producing or distributing class A drugs you are actively committing a crime which will contribute towards the harm of others.

Criminal activity is often defined by the negative impact the criminal act has on society and on individuals. Improper use of drugs has devastating impacts on society as it causes an increase in crime, particularly violent crimes. It is no secret that crimes relating to drug use, drug production and distribution result in gangland feuds and violent deaths. This can often be linked with the high monetary value of these drugs. Criminals can rely and depend on their income from drug related activities.

Distribution of drugs to individuals is taking advantage of those with an addiction and those poorly educated on the impacts these drugs can have on their physical and mental well-being.

Drug use in the criminal justice system

If the possession of Class A drugs results in imprisonment, it could mean that we are imprisoning people who have not necessarily engaged in a harmful criminal act, but those who have engaged in drug taking due to an addiction they are suffering from. Drug treatment in prison can be limited and time in prison can also expose individuals to other drug use and create an atmosphere where their only social connections are with people who are involved in the criminal world.

This kind of imprisonment is not a productive use of the government’s time and money. Especially, as after prison there can be very little supports for someone suffering with an addiction… so the cycle can start all over again.

Therefore, this proposed initiative would allow the government to prosecute the people causing harm to society and to individuals and ensure they can put time and resources into supporting those with a drug addiction, which will in turn result in less societal harm.


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