Think twice about smoking a doobie while traveling in the U.K. People in England and Wales could be subject to stricter punishments, including risking losing their passports or driver’s licenses under new rules recently proposed. But some people are worried it’s a thinly-veiled attack on the middle class.
The White Paper document—titled “Swift, Certain, Tough New consequences for drug possession”—was published by the Home Office in July. People charged with drug-related crimes could risk losing their passports and driver’s licenses as the U.K. government ramps up efforts to “tackle the scourge of substance abuse in society.” The Home Office is the government department responsible for immigration, security, and law & order.
Offenders in England and Wales would be subject to a “three strikes”-style system. The system breaks up offenses into three tiers. The Telegraph reports that it’s going to impact the nation’s middle class the most—leading to bans from nightclubs over random drug convictions. And that’s just the beginning: losing a driver’s license and a passport could come next.
The three-strikes system in general is a sentencing structure designed to deter crime faster, but is decried by advocacy groups.
First, anyone caught with illegal drugs would be forced to pay for and attend a drug awareness course, and if they fail to comply, they would receive an increased fixed penalty notice or face prosecution. Second-time offenders would be cautioned, ordered to attend an additional drug awareness course, and face mandatory, random drug testing for a period of up to three months.
People charged with drugs for a third time would be likely to be charged, and upon conviction as part of a civil court order, could be subject to an exclusion order banning them from nightclubs and entertainment venues, and they could have their passports or drivers’ licenses confiscated.
The White Paper explains that drugs cause “enormous harm to children and young people, impacting on their health and their ability to work and learn,” and doesn’t make the distinction between cannabis and drugs.
“Drug misuse puts lives at risk, fuels criminality and serious and violent crime, and also results in the grotesque exploitation of young, vulnerable people,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel. “We are cracking down on drug use with tougher consequences for so-called recreational drug users who will face the consequences of their actions through sanctions, including fines and conditions to attend rehabilitation courses, while drug offenders could have their passports and driving licenses confiscated.”
The MP continued, “In line with our strategy to tackle the harmful consequences of drugs, we aim to reverse the rising trend of substance use in society to protect the public from the harm and violence of drug misuse.”
The legislation will subsequently go through a 12-week consultation period, taking place about seven months after the government published its 10-year drug strategy.
Researchers found a 72% increase in deaths related to drug poisoning and about 2% increase in “frequent drug users” between 2011 to 2020, being defined as having taken any drug more than once in a month in the past year, according to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales.
It’s quite the stretch of imagination for a country that commonly consumes cannabis. Private doctors who are on the General Medical Council’s specialist register can legally prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use.
According to polling from an industry group, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), one fifth of British adults have tried CBD flower or oil and 58% of respondents overall believe it has health benefits.
Even the U.K. government became a part owner in a CBD company after its emergency loan system was changed.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.