While other countries are abandoning a failed ‘war on drugs’, in its final days the Johnson administration is doubling down

21 Jul 2022

Despite the irrepressible love that Boris Johnson’s government has shown for illegal parties, it is now taking the opportunity to tighten drug laws on its way out of the door. There is perhaps no more fitting tribute to the hypocrisy of this government than the latest drugs proposal from the Home Office.

“Swift, Certain, Tough: New consequences for drug possession” is a word-salad of a white paper and a last-gasp attempt to codify the Johnson government’s preoccupation with punishing “middle-class coke-heads” and recreational drug users. The only certainty is that the prime minister and home secretary behind the paper will have been evicted from office by the time it progresses through the legislative process.

But we shouldn’t downplay the significance of this attempt to penalise drug users. This style of punitive politics has become increasingly characteristic of the British state, at the same time as our politicians are failing to find answers to the big economic and constitutional questions of the day. While countries such as Georgia, Germany, Uruguay and the US have all been moving away from the failed “war on drugs” strategy forged in the 1970s, which sought to prohibit drugs and criminalise drug users, the Johnson administration has spent much time trying to breathe new life into these discredited policies.

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