New strategy could look at drug sentences policy

THE States could consider health promotion activities, including minimum unit pricing for alcohol, a law to ban smoking in vehicles, and regulating e-cigarettes, over the next few years.

Health & Social Care president Deputy Al Brouard. (29764652)
Health & Social Care president Deputy Al Brouard. (29764652)

A newly-published Combined Substance Use Strategy brings together the island’s drug and alcohol and tobacco strategies in a move to treat substance use primarily as a health issue.

The long-awaited report also hints at reconsidering policy on the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

Public Health has reviewed how other jurisdictions treat this drug possession from a health-orientated approach, and considered alternative approaches to possession offences.

‘Alternative and non-punitive approaches to drug possession offences are compatible with international drug control conventions, and contemporary international drug policy norms,’ it said in the report.

‘There are a number of well-described models that have been delivered internationally, and as more countries are adopting these approaches there are good opportunities for learning.’

The report said that shifting responsibility for the Bailiwick Drug and Alcohol Strategy to Health ‘reflects a growing acceptance that reducing supply alone is not sufficient to tackle the drug problem’ and emphasises the need for a ‘balanced approach to tackle the harms caused by drugs, supporting people through treatment and recovery, and considering harms to the individual and the community through criminal acts’.

Many third sector partners are being lined up to take a stake in this work over the next four years of the plan.

Dr Nicola Brink, the director of Public Health, whose team carried out much of the research, said: ‘The strategy was developed using the findings from the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment on Substance Use, which highlighted that substance use is influenced by broad social and economic factors.

‘The three focus areas of the strategy will help to address these issues and improve the lives of those who use substances, and their families.’

Deputy Al Brouard, the president of Health & Social Care, highlighted the importance of the report.

‘The impact of the Covid pandemic has focused the need to consider health and well-being across the islands of the Bailiwick and the Combined Substance Use Strategy will be a key contributor in helping us emerge from the pandemic both healthier and stronger.’

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