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‘Systemic racism’ experienced by black communities through UK’s drug laws, says ex-govt adviser

Written by on 29/09/2021

The UK’s laws on drugs are racist as they disproportionately harm black communities, a former adviser to the government has said.

Lord Woolley, who previously chaired the government’s Race Disparity Unit, said drugs legislation introduced 50 years ago continues to be used “as a tool of systemic racism”.

The crossbench peer added that the laws have failed to reduce the use, supply and harms associated with illegal drugs and is calling for a review on whether the Misuse of Drugs Act is fit for purpose.

Lord Woolley
Image: Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Lord Woolley says current UK drugs laws fail ‘black communities in particular’

A Home Office spokesperson said the government’s approach to the matter “will continue to strike a balance between controlling the harmful substances that cause so much harm whilst enabling appropriate access to drugs for legitimate purposes”.

Lord Woolley says a review must consider the growing evidence that decriminalising people who take drugs and legally regulating drug supplies could be beneficial.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the peer says current drugs laws fail “black communities in particular”.

Lord Woolley says the UK’s laws on drugs are “one of the most tangible and damaging means through which systemic racism is experienced in black communities”.

More on Home Office

He goes on to describe stop and search tactics and strip searches as “profound dehumanisation”.

The peer, who has experienced both of the above measures himself, said: “You are stripped bare and have to crudely show that you have nothing hidden anywhere.

“The sense of being both powerless and humiliated instils anger and deep distrust in not only law enforcement but also the authorities that sanction it.”

It comes as drug-related deaths in England and Wales rose for the eighth year in a row in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Other figures show Scotland continues to have the worst drug rate in Europe.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Illegal drugs blight our communities and ruin lives.

“Our whole system approach, informed by Dame Carol Black’s review, will drive down drug supply and demand by cracking down on the criminals pushing dangerous and illegal drugs whilst at the same time addressing the issues that fuel demand.

“This approach will continue to strike a balance between controlling the harmful substances that cause so much harm whilst enabling appropriate access to drugs for legitimate purposes.”

 Sky News

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