The debate over the UK’s drug policy is back on.
This time it’s a far more nuanced and polarised debate than the ‘Great Repeal’ debate in the mid-2000s, which saw a backlash against reform as ‘prohibitionism’.
This time around, the focus is on drug-related harms, not health risks.
There’s no consensus among politicians, the public and experts on the subject, but a poll of more than 3,000 adults published on Sunday suggests that drug use is a relatively low priority for voters.
The public overwhelmingly believe that drug policy should focus on helping the poor, rather than criminalising the use of drugs.
And while the drug crisis has led to a dramatic increase in arrests, convictions and prison sentences, only around 40% of respondents said drug use should be considered a crime in the country, compared with 85% in 2013.
Ahead of the referendum, drug policy experts have urged caution, calling for a new approach, not just of decriminalising and regulating the drugs, but also of tackling the social and economic costs of drugs and the social stigma that surrounds the use.
The drug policy debate has also been framed as one of the country’s economic problems, rather like the UK Independence Party’s “Brexit” campaign.
The British Medical Association has warned that drug testing will be an effective way to reduce use, while drug policy advocates argue that a shift towards a more holistic approach to drug use will be beneficial.
“This is not a matter of ‘the drug war’ or ‘the war on drugs’,” said Dr Simon Stevens, head of drugs policy at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in a press statement.
In a follow-up poll published on Monday, a majority of respondents (57%) said they were against drug testing for job applicants. “
We are talking about a much wider range of harms, ranging from addiction and mental health problems to social exclusion and criminalisation.”
In a follow-up poll published on Monday, a majority of respondents (57%) said they were against drug testing for job applicants.
“This does not mean that those people who have failed drug tests are unfit to work,” Stevens added.
More:The poll comes as British Columbia, the nation’s second largest province, has unveiled a comprehensive drug strategy.
The strategy calls for the creation of a national drug strategy committee and is expected to include recommendations on drug policy.
According to the province’s website, the strategy will be launched on Wednesday.
Follow @BBCNewsMagazine on Twitter and on Facebook