Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Clamour grows around the world to rethink drugs policy- 14 January

There is growing momentum around the world to re-examine the idea that all drugs should be against the law.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 14 January

Clamour grows around the world to rethink drugs policy

By William Stewart

There is growing momentum around the world to re-examine the idea that all drugs should be against the law.

In November the US states of Washington and Colorado both voted in referendums for marijuana to be legalised, and now President Obama is under pressure to decide what his government should do about it. Asked last week what he thought, the president avoided answering, saying only that he had “bigger fish to fry”.

And in the UK, politicians from all political parties today put pressure on the Government to re-examine the country’s illegal drugs policy publishing a report that called for “de-criminalisation” of some drugs.

De-criminalisation is not the same as legalisation as the drugs remain illegal even though those breaking the law by possessing them may no longer be punished.

The report argues that criminal sanctions, such as sending drug addicts to prison, do nothing to counter drug addiction. Campaigners say it is much more sensible to regulate and control the supply of drugs – and what they contain – because it will never be possible to stamp the whole trade out.

They argue that drug addicts should be treated as having a medical condition, not as criminals. Countries that have partially de-criminalised drugs include Holland – which has become famous for its liberal approach to marijuana – and Portugal, where the number of drug users has fallen since adopting this approach. New Zealand is also considering options for reform.

Today’s report in the UK, produced by a group of members of the House of Lords, report says: "Some young people will always want to experiment and they are at real risk if they can only buy the less harmful drugs from the same dealers who are trying to push the most harmful ones.”

This came just a week after a group of British MPs called on ministers to hold a major public inquiry – a Royal Commission – to consider de-criminalising illegal drugs.

However many politicians around the world strongly object. A spokesman for David Cameron said today: "The Prime Minister's very strong, clear view is that the approach we currently have is the right one and is working."


  • What are the arguments for and against the decriminalisation of drugs?
  • If the government were to follow the advice of this report, what factors should determine which drugs remain illegal and which are decriminalised?
  • How much do you know about the risks associated with taking drugs? Where could you find out more information?
  • If some drugs were decriminalised, how do you think the government should spend the money which might be saved on convictions?

Related resources

Drugs and Alcohol collection

  • Take a look at TES’ collection of teaching resources examining current laws on drugs, their effects and peer pressure.

How drugs affect others

  • A PowerPoint based activity exploring how drugs affect other people and issues such as legislation.

Religion and drugs

  • A great series of PowerPoint based lesson plans to examine the issue of religion and drug use.

Teachers TV: Drugs misuse

  • A video from Teachers TV looking at different aspects of drug use in which young people share their experiences.

Further news resources

First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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