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Former government adviser says UK's drug policies causing 'systemic racism' in black communities

Scotland continues to have the worst drug rate in Europe, according to figures revealed earlier this year. Credit: Sky News

According to a former government adviser, the UK's drug policies are racist since they disproportionately damage black populations.

Lord Woolley, who formerly served as chief of the government's Race Disparity Unit, said drugs legislation enacted 50 years ago is still being exploited "as a vehicle of systematic racism."

The crossbench peer went on to say that the laws have failed to curb the use, supply, and harms linked with illegal substances, and that the Misuse of Drugs Act should be reviewed to see if it is still fit for purpose.

The government's approach to the issue "will continue to find a balance between restricting the hazardous chemicals that cause so much harm while allowing reasonable access to pharmaceuticals for legitimate purposes," according to a representative for the Home Office.

Lord Woolley believes that a review should take into account the accumulating evidence that decriminalizing drug users and legalizing drug supply regulation could be helpful.

The peer claims that present drug regulations fail "black populations in particular" in a paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Lord Woolley claims that the UK's drug regulations are "one of the most tangible and devastating ways in which black people suffer systemic racism."

Stop and search tactics, as well as strip searches, are described as "deep dehumanization" by him.

"You are stripped bare and have to crudely show that you have nothing hidden anywhere," the peer, who has undergone both of the above steps, stated.

"A sense of powerlessness and humiliation instills hatred and deep suspicion in not only law enforcement but also the authorities who sanction it."

According to the Office for National Statistics, drug-related deaths in England and Wales increased for the eighth year in a row in 2020.

Other statistics suggest that Scotland continues to have Europe's highest drug rate.

According to a representative for the Home Office, "Illegal substances wreak havoc on our communities and destroy lives.

"Our whole-system strategy, guided by Dame Carol Black's report, will reduce drug supply and demand by targeting criminals who traffic harmful and illegal narcotics while also tackling the conditions that generate demand.

"This strategy will continue to achieve a balance between restricting the hazardous substances that cause so much harm and allowing reasonable access to medications for legitimate purposes," says the report.

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