The Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) – the national membership body for Scotland’s charities and voluntary organisations – is lobbying for drugs laws to be devolved, asking for Scotland to be given the power to decriminalise cannabis.
The group has formally asked the Smith Commission, which was set up to fast-track further powers to Scotland, to move control of the Misuse Of Drugs Act north of the Border.
The move has been backed by Addaction Scotland, one the largest drug and alcohol treatment charities in the UK. Andrew Horne, director of operations at Addaction, said: “Now is an opportune time for Scotland to have a conversation about drug policy.
“There is no reason why Scotland should not take responsibility for its own drug laws and move to a system which treats drugs as a health issue as opposed to a criminal justice one.”
Ruchir Shah, SCVO’s policy manager, said: “Many voluntary organisations want Scotland to have powers over the control of illegal drugs. Tackling substance abuse could then be tailored more closely to Scotland’s particular challenges and needs.”
A move to decriminalise cannabis could see Scotland adopting a more liberal regime like that being rolled out across some states in America.
SNP MSP Christine Grahame, chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, has welcomed discussion about drug laws, saying: “If we are going to tackle drug issues we need the full range of powers. In many cases we would endeavour to be compatible with the rest of the UK – especially in terms of enforcement – but that does not mean we can’t lead the way, as with the ban on smoking in public places.
“I am not an expert and would want to speak to people who are before making up my mind. But I think that it would be worth having a debate on decriminalising cannabis.”