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Oregon just decriminalised cocaine - here's why I intend to do the same in Essex

November 10, 2020 8:07 PM
By Callum Robertson for Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner
Originally published by Essex Liberal Democrats

Oregon is a quiet and beautiful state in the North West of the USA, solidly Democrat leaning it has voted for Democratic Candidates in every Presidential Election since 1988, 2020 was no exception with it coming in strongly for Biden.

In many ways, it shares many characteristics with Essex. It is a mixture of urban and rural, with pockets of prosperity and deprivation. It also has a real sense of community, something it shares with us from Clacton to Chelmsford.

But as the USA went to the polls to do away with the ghastly President Trump in recent days, Oregon had another vote going on. The decision whether to decriminalise all drugs or continue with the previous policy.

Like Oregon, Essex has that on the ballot in May. With the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner up for election people here in Essex have a simple choice to make.

We can stick with the failed war on drugs which wastes 100's of police officers' time fighting an unwinnable battle.

OR

We can take a chance, stop arresting people for using drugs and use the massive saving in police time to focus on tackling crimes like domestic abuse, murder, and assault.

I am promising the latter. Taking a chance on the Liberal Democrats and I in the May elections is a chance to fight crime smartly as well as deliver a host of exciting reforms to how we deliver policing here in Essex.

This could be transformative in how we view drug policy in the UK. We could finally take a health based approach, saving millions in NHS funds. Not locking up people for drug use also has the knock on impact of reducing the prison population.

Being blunt, we can actually change lives for the better with this policy. We can cut costs, cut prison numbers and increase policing in our communities. For me, that is an all round winner.

Above this, it is the right thing to do. Drug policing disproportionately targets young black men, despite there being not evidence they are more likely to commit crime.

Defending the continuation of the war of drugs is frankly unconscionable given the impact on black communities and pressure on police resources.

So, like our American cousins in Oregon, we have a choice before us. Do we change our drug policies for the better, or do we continue to disproportionately target young black men on drug charges?

For the Liberal Democrats, the choice is crystal clear. We decriminalise all drugs, save money, lives and be the catalyst for change in the United Kingdom. That starts with voting Liberal Democrat in the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner election this May.