I’ve always had an interest in drugs policy, but my concern about the impact of drugs, and our drug laws, reached new levels when I became an MP two years ago.
My constituency office is in a part of central Bristol where the effects of alcohol and other drugs are plain to see. On the worst days, the view from my office window is very upsetting. Several times I’ve found needles or comatose people on my office doorstep and had to call the emergency services.
I’ve heard from people in my constituency addicted to illegal and legal drugs and from parents exasperated at the lack of support for addicts. I’ve heard from those who use recreational drugs responsibly, and from many who want to see the legalisation and regulation of drugs – especially cannabis for medicinal use. People have told me about drug dealers causing problems in their neighbourhoods or having to keep their children from playing in certain parks, or even their own gardens, because of drug litter.
It’s why I agreed to take part in the groundbreaking BBC documentary series Drugsland. It allowed me time to analyse how drugs affect not just those using alcohol and other drugs, or their families and friends, but all of us. Throughout the filming process I’ve reflected on what I was learning and considered the implications for public policy.
I’ve met drug treatment specialists and people in treatment. I’ve been briefed by leading researchers and by clinicians developing testing facilities so people can find out what’s in the substance they intend to take. I’ve discussed drugs with policy makers in local and national government.
No consumption of any illicit or legal drug, including alcohol, is completely safe. In fact, alcohol is one of the most dangerous – to the people drinking it, and to others. But because many people will always want to consume alcohol or another drug at least occasionally, I want to focus on protecting people from harm and reducing risks. Taking part in this documentary has convinced me that our drug laws are contradictory and dangerous and not protecting anyone. It’s time for reform.
I appeared in episode four: The Fix and I’m very grateful for all the supportive comments I’ve received since the programme appeared online and was first broadcast on BBC1 on 19 December.