Families bereaved by the deaths of people from drugs are taking the case for legalisation to the UK parliament. It coincides with the international Support. Don’t Punish day of action over the government’s toxic ‘war on drugs’ policies. Campaign Anyone’s Child is coordinating the push to get MPs to change their minds.
Anyone’s Child: lobbying parliament
The campaign Anyone’s Child was launched by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. It works with families who wish to change current drug laws in the UK and worldwide. The goal is to bring about a just and effective system of legal regulation for all drugs. Many families involved in the campaign have had children or relatives who died because of drugs or drug overdoses. So, on Tuesday 27 June, Anyone’s Child will be holding its seventh annual lobby of parliament:
The annual lobby of Parliament is about hope and seeing progress before your eyes. Join us outside Westminster on 27th June!
Get all the information here: https://t.co/oNKGk9knxe
📅 27th June
⏰ 12 PM pic.twitter.com/Ddo1Ub1iqP
— Anyone's Child (@anyoneschild) June 15, 2023
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It takes place at College Green. Anyone’s Child said in a press release that:
There will be a striking memorial of 4,517 hand-made forget-me-not flowers outside parliament for lives lost to drugs in the UK in 2021.
The thrust of the debate [around legalising drugs is] making recreational drugs legal would be best… what goes into them can be regulated, as can the dosage; people can seek professional advice more openly, and environments in which people take drugs can be made safer.
Anyone’s Child argues, however, that the current system has:
handed the market to organised crime groups, rather than the government. And these people don’t ask for ID, don’t care about who they sell to, and don’t care about what the drugs contain.
So, people will once again lobby MPs to bring about change.
Drugs: ruining lives because of the law, not in spite of it
Anne-Marie Cockburn is an Anyone’s Child Campaigner who lost her daughter to an accidental MDMA overdose. She said in a press release:
As I stand by my 15 year-old daughter’s grave, what more evidence do I need that things must change? Had Martha taken something that was legally regulated, she would have read the recommended dosage, this would have helped her make a more informed choice, and I believe she would have returned home to me safely that day.
Alison Bedford Russell also lost a child, this time to non-prescription drugs. She’s also an Anyone’s Child Campaigner. Alison said:
I am attending because my son died of a preventable condition: he was a person with mental health issues who used unregulated, non-prescription drugs. Current UK drug policy has resulted in escalating deaths and misery. I would like to persuade politicians from all parties to collaborate and address the urgent need to regulate the drugs market and revise the current very harmful UK drugs laws.
Of course, it will be an uphill struggle to get some politicians to change their minds. Moreover, some MPs have vested interests already in the system as it stands. For example, the financial secretary to the Treasury is Victoria Atkins. As the Canary previously reported in 2018, her husband used to be a boss at British Sugar – which at the time was also growing cannabis for use in epilepsy medication. The point is that it’s OK for some politicians to profit from the law as it currently stands.
Support. Don’t Punish
All this is a global problem too – hence the Support. Don’t Punish campaign:
Today is the #SupportDontPunish Day of Action and people are marking it worldwide!
Our lobby of Parliament tomorrow is part of this, calling for drug policy based on health and human rights. This movement is about real lives and real families 💛 pic.twitter.com/ltv3pmTIeG
— Anyone's Child (@anyoneschild) June 26, 2023
Its main day of action is 26 June. The campaign says on its website that it’s:
a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of communities targeted by the “war on drugs” and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.
A bigger issue with the war on drugs is that it has always been systemically racist, too. As Ann Fordham wrote for the International Drug Policy Consortium, in 2019:
a group of UN experts on people of African descent noted that “the war on drugs has operated more effectively as a system of racial control than as a mechanism for combating the use and trafficking of narcotics”. Drug law enforcement has led to mass incarceration, arbitrary arrests and detention and devastating police brutality, the burden of which has fallen disproportionately on people of colour across the globe.
So, not only in the UK but globally too, people are calling for change. Anyone’s Child is asking people to contact their MPs. There is an email template available here. Whatever the outcome of 27 June’s lobby, it’s clear that politicians’ toxic war on drugs has failed – and a new approach is needed.
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