\UMilestones in the development of British drug policy.\u


The first opium war between Britain and China as China tried to resist the continued sale of Indian opium in their country by British traders and Britain went to war to enforce the 'free trade' of the drugs throughout China.


The Pharmacy Act was passed. This prohibited the sale of morphine and opium derivatives through general stores and restricted it to pharmacists only.


The Indian Hemp Commission. This investigated the use of cannabis in the colonies, but found no major problem and recommended no legal sanctions.


The Pharmacy and Poisons Act was passed. This prohibited the sale of patent medicines, mainly containing opium, through general stores and restricted it to pharmacists only.


The Shanghai Opium Commission. This was a non-binding international agreement which aimed to curb British trafficking and restrict opiates to medical use.


The First Opium Convention (Hague Convention). This was an international treaty which committed signatories to restrict opiates to medical use only.


The Defence of the Realm Act (Regulation 40B). This prohibited the unauthorised possession of cocaine.


The Hague Convention ratified. As part of the treaty ending WW1 the convention was ratified and made mandatory.


The Dangerous Drugs Act. This made possession of cocaine and opiates illegal, unless prescribed by a doctor.


The Geneva Convention. This was an international treaty which extended the Dangerous Drugs Act to include cannabis and coca leaves.


The Departmental Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction (also known as
  • The Rolleston Committee
  • ). This committee concluded that prescription of heroin and morphine for addiction was a 'legitimate medical treatment'. It set the tone for the medicalisation of the UK response to drugs at the same time that the USA was adopting a criminalising strategy. The Rolleston Committee findings influence the 'British System' to this day.


    UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. This was an international treaty which consolidated and extended all earlier drug conventions.


    Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) Act. This brought amphetamines (and later LSD) under the control of drug laws in Britain.


    The Interdepartmental Committee on Drug Addiction (also known as The Brain Committee). This echoed the findings of the Rolleston Committee and concluded 'the addict should be regarded as a sick person, and not as a criminal', and recommended that special drug treatment clinics be set up rather than just relying on family doctors.


    The Dangerous Drugs Act was passed. This implemented the findings of the Brain Committee.


    The Medicines Act was passed. This tightened up control on the manufacture and supply of medicinal products, mainly drugs.


    The Wootton Report. This was a report from an official advisory body to the UK Government. It recommended that no-one should be imprisoned for possession of cannabis and that penalties should be reduced. This advice was ignored by the British government.


    The UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. This convention extended international controls to include synthetic drugs such as amphetamines and LSD.


    The Misuse of Drugs Act was passed. This consolidated earlier legislation with the stated aim of preventing the unauthorised use of drugs 'capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem'. Drugs were divided into three categories and penalties defined. A new government Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was established.


    The Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act was passed. This controlled the sales and supply of solvents to those under 18 years of age.


    The Drug Trafficking Offences Act was passed. This allowed for the seizure of assets and income from convicted drug suppliers and their families, relatives and friends. The burden of proof was shifted so that income has be to proven not to have come from drug-related crime.


    The UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. This is an international agreement which increased sanctions and powers in respect of seizure and confiscation of assets, extradition, and other cross-border law enforcement cooperation.


    A report from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs ACMD on "AIDS and Drug Misuse" established that ".. AIDS is a greater threat than drug misuse .." and that measures to reduce the risks off drug misusers becoming infected with HIV should take priority. This report confirmed the importance of the so-called harm minimisation approach which involves services such as needle exchange schemes.


    The government launches a Drug Prevention Initiative DPI to encourage joint working at a local level on innovative drug prevention schemes involving local communities.


    A cross departmental strategy for government called "Tackling Drugs Together" is launched.


    The new Labour government appoints an anti-drugs co-ordinator dubbed the "Drugs Tsar" by the media. His job is to lead and co-ordinate the efforts of police, customs, education, treatment and rehabilitation services in their responses to drug problems. A support unit - the UKADCU - is established in Whitehall to support his work. A ten year strategy is announced - "Tackling Drugs to build a better Britain".


    Drug Testing and Treatment Orders (DTTOs) piloted to be rolled out nationally from October 2000. These empower courts to make an order requiring the offender to undergo treatment for drug misuse. The offender's consent is needed but as they are usually offered as an alternative to imprisonment there is a degree of coercion. Arrest Referral schemes were also established in police stations with a national roll out target of 2002. These aim to reduce drug related crime by encouraging drug using arrestees to take up treament or other programmes of help.