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Update - drugs policy

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Thursday 18 October 2012

Home Department response to Guernsey Press enquiries concerning drugs policy

Guernsey Press enquiry:
Who decides what the policy is relating to illegal drugs in Guernsey?
How often is the matter reviewed?
When was it last reviewed?

Home Department response:
The local Misuse of Drugs Advisory Group (MDAG) Group was set up at the beginning of 2010. It is a committee made up of representatives of the law enforcement agencies, clinical staff, public health advisers  and legal advisers from St James Chambers to share information on the local issues, revenue advice and information from UK and other sources on the evolving drug scene, the response of the UK and other jurisdictions to these changes, and advise HSSD and the Home dept on changes in legislation needed to meet these challenges or changes. This may be by adding new drugs to the schedules, changing the level of penalties for offences etc.

Any recommendations will be discussed by the relevant Political Boards and if legislative changes are needed the decision making process will sit ultimately with States of Deliberation

Guernsey Press enquiry:
I would like to have somebody appropriate commenting on the UKDPC [United Kingdom Drug Policy Commission] study.
Would the recommendations be considered for implementation here or even be discussed?
What does whoever comments think of them?
Would they be appropriate for Guernsey?
I would welcome any other points that you might wish to raise.

Home Department response:
Currently the Drug & Alcohol Strategy (DAS) is under review and in the new year, will be preparing the first draft of its new strategy for 2015 so it is always helpful when new reports such as the UKDPC can be considered.

However we need to put it into context and consider whether our local misuse of drugs challenges are in accordance with the report's findings. We should then consult our own community (as we did when the UK re-classified Cannabis as a class C drug and later re-classified it back to a class B) before making a decision on the next steps. Using our own evidence base is fundamental to the success of our Strategy enabling us to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our drug and alcohol users.

The DAS has a very active and joined up response to the threat posed to the local drug and alcohol scene and in our view ahead of the game compared with some other jurisdictions.

We have over 25 agencies that meet regularly and work together as the operational DAS Action Group who then report to the Bailiwick Chief Officers Strategic Group via the DAS Coordinator. This then feeds into the Social Policy Plan where the politicians will make the decisions that ultimately end up as recommendations for the States of Deliberation

One of the initiatives which the report touches on is education in schools. Guernsey has a very different approach to the UK as they have a dedicated Drug Education Worker from Drug Concern who delivers lessons to every year group as part of the PSHE curriculum. This means they get factual up-to-date information from an "expert" who is dealing with drug and alcohol issues all the time. This offers much more credibility to the programme, can be altered according to the any changes to the local drug scene and more importantly the students engage really well with outside agencies attending the schools on a regular basis. It is also a familiar face they can approach if they need any further advice or support or information.

Drug and Alcohol Strategy Coordinator comment on the UK Drug Policy Commission study published 15 October 2012

Andrea Nightingale, Drug and Alcohol Strategy Coordinator, said:

"Decriminalisation has been discussed at length over a number of years and many reports have been published which has caused vigorous debate by many.  The UKDPC study is just another piece of evidence, which along with information from the UK Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs and other sources such as the Drug Stream within the British Irish Council we can use to assist in legislative direction and various other parts of our strategy to manage drug abuse, and the harm it causes not only to the individual but to the community of Guernsey"

There will no doubt be much discussion and consultation over the coming months with the local agencies who deal with the issue of drug use and misuse. All credible reports related to the threat posed by controlled drugs which often give a wide range of opinions about the levels of those risk will be examined carefully and informed decisions will be made.

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