A motion calling for YUSU to back an evidence based drugs policy is to go to referendum. The University of York Liberal Democrats have proposed the motion which is one of four YUSU referenda to be voted on later this term.
If students vote in favour of the referendum then YUSU will have to call for the government to introduce a panel to review the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and reinvest any resources released into effective education, treatment and rehabilitation programmes.
YUSU would also have to lobby for high-quality, evidence-based medical, psychological and social services for those affected by drugs problems, including widespread availability of heroin maintenance clinics.
Controversially this type of drugs policy could mean some substances are decriminalised.
The aim of the motion is to send a statement from the student body that will help “invigorate a sensible debate” on drug laws and show Parliament there is support for reform, according to the Liberal Democrats.
The motion comes at a time when there is a review of drugs policy being carried out by the Home Affairs Select Committee, and is also part of a long-standing campaign run by Liberal Youth. It also follows policy passed by Liberal Democrat Party members at their Conference in Birmingham in Autumn 2011 which made similar calls.
The motion will be discussed at the Referendum debate on the 27th November, and will be voted on in weeks eight and nine.
Those in favour believe that YUSU should call for government policy on drugs to be decided on the basis of “real scientific evidence and not on public perception.”
They argue a scientifically grounded appraisal of the “genuine degrees” of harmfulness between narcotics is needed, and serious consideration of the case for decriminalisation of certain substances following this.
Madeleine Spink, Chair of the University of York Liberal Democrats, commented on her party’s motion: “The debate on drug legislation has been going on for a long time, and the arguments against this country’s current ‘war on drugs’ are already being won by scientists and parliamentarians, such as Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.”
She added: “As the government are currently looking at reforming drugs policy, it’s important that we use every forum possible to send a strong message that the current blanket prohibition causes problems by criminalising individuals.”
Cadan ap Tomos, UYLD’s Press and Publicity Officer, added: “It is important that this debate focuses on recognising that drugs are an issue of health, not morality. There are many drugs currently classified as illegal that scientific research shows aren’t nearly as dangerous as alcohol. It’s about time government policy was based on solid scientific evidence, not taken from the headlines of British tabloids.”
However some members of other York political parties have said they are going to fight for a No vote on the motion. Tom Morgan, Treasurer of the University of York Labour Party said: “The current drugs policy is by no means perfect but this recommendation is flawed. It is too big a risk to have a policy that might lead to the legislation of some substances. The fact is the legalisation of illegal narcotics would lead to an unsustainable NHS which is the best thing that has ever happened to this country, and that is not fair on our hard working doctors and nurses.”
Other motions to be voted on will be “Should YUSU replace the position of Entertainments Officer with a College Events Coordinator?” and “Should YUSU improve its faith representation?” The subject of portering has come up yet again with the motion “Should YUSU lobby for 24 hour portering in every college?”
Motions are up for amendment until Tuesday before the campaigns begin.