Hard drug use in the seaside town of Weymouth in Dorset is at epidemic levels. Thanks to our asinine drug laws, there is no radical, liberal approach to dealing with it.
At a community meeting on Tuesday entitled The War on Drugs has Failed in central Weymouth, some quite scary stories came out from the public in the Q&A at the end. People see open drug dealing outside Cafe #1 in the main shopping street in Weymouth. Go to Argos for your bedding and buy a rock of crack as you walk out.
Residents in the streets just behind the well dressed Esplanade reported how they fear going into their gardens for the dealing, shouting and antisocial behaviour going on. Needles are found in the street, ready to spike a kid playing football – a needle did spike a youngster making sandcastles on the beach not long ago (thankfully after six months of tests there were no blood-borne diseases given to him). Thanks to Austerity cutting council services to the bone, there aren’t the street cleaners to tackle this issue.
Buy anything you like without being busted, anywhere
Where are the police? While even for a Feed the Birds attack blog writer they are pretty damned good as police forces go with their high performing County Lines drugs team, thanks to Austerity cuts there are 200 fewer police on the streets than before the Conservative government got in in 2010. There’s not enough of them to properly manage the antisocial behaviour or to move people on from fixing in public places.
What about rehab? The NHS and drugs rehab teams haven’t been ignored by the penny-pinching budget slashers in government. There isn’t much help available if you get hooked on smack or crack.
Oh yes, homelessness has doubled in the last five years in the town. The right-wing imbeciles running the council then thought it wise to fine the destitute street sleepers for being destitute and begging. They might need £50 for a room that night but instead get a £1000 fine, or 20 nights’ accommodation worth of cash. As the convenor of the meeting, Green Party county councillor and local GP Jon Orrell said, “These people will have had terrible backgrounds and use heroin to anaesthetise their psychic pain”.
The War on Drugs has Failed in Weymouth
Orrell knows the score in Weymouth’s drugs scene. He is a GP in one of the most deprived districts of Weymouth (Weymouth being one of the most economically deprived towns in the UK, he’s working in one of the most deprived districts in the whole of the UK). Dr Orrell also does one day a week in a drugs rehab clinic. On Facebook I see him time and again calling for more sensible policies but he isn’t just a Facebook moaner like you and I – he sits on the Melcombe Regis Board that was set up between the council, public health, medical and housing professionals as well as the police to try to find some workable solutions to the problems associated with the severe poverty in the town.
In an ideal world, many on the Melcombe Regis Board would have cannabis legalised, provide prescription heroin to hard drug users and they would fix in safe injecting rooms. These policies have been proven to significantly dampen hard drug use and the antisocial behaviour that surrounds it. Orrell said to the meeting: “If we made it easier to get milder potency drugs like cannabis then it would ease the problem of higher potency drug use.” This has proven to be the case in other countries.
At another time in the meeting, he pointed out, “As law enforcement becomes more intense on drug use so the potency of drugs increases.” Essentially by being hard on all drugs you are making people turn to harder drugs. A bag of cannabis is an order of magnitude less potent than the same quantity of heroin but heroin is easier to carry in terms of £10 bags of smack being far smaller than £10 bags of weed. If it is smaller then it is easier to conceal from the authorities.
I asked Dr Orrell “What can be done in the existing legal framework to take a radical approach to drug use in Weymouth?”
He responded, “We’re a bit stuck. We wanted safe injecting rooms. They have tried to get them in Glasgow and Durham, but because the law is as it is we can’t do it. Safe injecting rooms would stop overdoses, stop needles being found in the streets and a whole range of other things.” Someone else in the audience responded to him the government claims that local authorities have the legal framework in place but he shot back with a dose of reality: local agencies felt that a safe injecting room would constitute ‘aiding and abetting’ the crime of drug dealing and use, and would, therefore, be illegal.
Orrell continued in his response to me, “I know the police chief in Durham encourages his police not to stop people for cannabis offences. I am not sure that is a universal view among the police. We need to change the law.”
Who wins in the current situation? The banks.
Someone else asked who wins from this impossible world where the most desperate in society are trapped in a cycle of hard drug abuse, imprisonment and despair. Citing the book Treasure Islands, Orrell suggested that since the banks in the City of London thrive on money laundering from major drug dealing enterprises. By some estimates around 10% – or 1% of the UK’s GDP – is from drug lords laundering their cash via London’s banks. The UN reported that the banks only survived the 2007 Credit Crunch thanks to drugs money.
What has this to do with a failing tourist town in Dorset? Successive governments have been in thrall to the banks. It is arguably in the government’s favour to keep the war on drugs going as drugs enrich their campaign donating friends and they then remain solvent enough to run general election campaigns.
We do like to point out that Theresa May is a drugs lord in owning 22% of GW Pharmaceuticals but successive Prime Ministers since the 1970’s have been turning a blind eye this corruption at the very top of society that results in the horrible situation residents (both drug using and non-drug using) of Weymouth experience every day. Time for change anyone?
Richard is a marijuana, water sports and electric vehicles writer based in Dorchester, Dorset. Living in Prince Charles model housing estate, Poundbury, he is an avowed republican, community and Labour Party activist. Visit his website at www.richardshrubb.com for more about what he does.