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UK: Recreational users of cocaine and cannabis could lose passports as Home Office proposes tougher penalties
Tuesday 19 Jul 2022
Recreational users of illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis could be fined or forced to pay for a drug awareness course, the Home Office has announced.
People who do not comply with the penalties risk losing their passports and driving licences as the Government ramps up efforts to “tackle the scourge of substance abuse in society”.
Under the proposed plans, first-time offenders in England and Wales would be subject to a ‘three strikes’-style deterrent.
Anyone caught with illegal drugs would be made to pay for and attend a drug awareness course. Those that fail to comply would receive an increased fixed penalty notice or face prosecution.
Drug users caught for a second time would be cautioned, ordered to attend another drug awareness course, and face a period of mandatory, random drug testing for a period of up to three months.
Finally, people found with illicit substances on a third occasion 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 could have their passports or driving licences confiscated.
Currently, punishments for possession of cannabis, a Class B drug, range from an on-the-spot fine to up to five years in prison, while possession for Class A drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy can carry an unlimited fine, up to seven years in prison or both.
In a White Paper titled “Swift, Certain, Tough. New Consequences for Drug Possession”, repeat offenders could be given a drug tag to monitor their usage; their passports and driving licences could also be confiscated.
The Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Drug misuse puts lives at risk, fuels criminality and serious and violent crime, and also results in the grotesque exploitation of young, vulnerable people.
“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 licences confiscated.
“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 proposals are now subject to a 12-week consultation period and come seven months after the government published its 10-year drug strategy.
Between 2011 to 2020, there was a 72 per cent increase in deaths related to drug poisoning and about two per cent identified as frequent drug users, 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.
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