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Scottish plan to decriminalize drugs gets cool reception

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a joint news conference with President Joe Biden at the White House on June 8. His spokesman said on Friday he would likely reject a Scottish proposal to legalize drugs. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during a joint news conference with President Joe Biden at the White House on June 8. His spokesman said on Friday he would likely reject a Scottish proposal to legalize drugs. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

July 7 (UPI) -- A spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday threw cold water on a Scottish proposal earlier in the day to decriminalize all drugs for personal use in exchange for a focus on recovery and treatment.

The Scottish government released its proposal calling for the decriminalization of drugs, making legislative changes to implement harm reduction and updating its drug classification system.

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"These are ambitious and radical proposals, grounded in evidence, that will help save lives," Scottish Drug Policy Minister Elena Whitham said in a statement Friday.

"We want to create a society where problematic drug use is treated as a health, not a criminal matter, reducing stigma and discrimination and enabling the person to recover and contribute positively to society.

"While we know these proposals will spark debate, they are in line with our public health approach and would further our national mission to improve and save lives."

Scotland's proposal comes a day after Sunak released a statement calling for immediate punishment for vandals and drug users, tougher punishment for criminals and increased testing for illegal drugs for those involved with the criminal justice system.

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When asked about the Scottish proposal, the spokesman for Sunak said the prime minister would most likely not be interested in pursuing it.

"No. Whilst I haven't seen those reports I think I'm confident enough to say that there are no plans to alter our tough stance on drugs," the spokesman said.

Under the Scottish government's proposal, its rules would allow people found in possession of drugs to be treated and supported rather than entering the criminal justice system. Supporters said that decriminalization gives people a better chance at recovery and employment.

Scottish National Party policy leader Toni Giugliano ripped Sunak's Conservative Party over its drug policies, claiming its positions have caused an increase in drug use in Britain.

"The UK government is in complete denial -- punitive, criminal justice responses to health problems don't work," he said. "The Tory war on drugs has failed. If they can't offer solutions to tackle the problem they should devolve the power to those in Scotland who can.

"Poverty, childhood adversity, violence and unaddressed trauma lie at the heart of Scotland's drug problem, but you won't hear the Tories talk about the root causes because for years their policies propagated that inequality."

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