The UK's Home Office Minister, Theresa May, has ordered an " international "what works" study of drug laws, including Portugal's policy of scrapping criminal penalties for personal possession." The Guardian reported on March 7:
But she has rejected a call from the Commons home affairs select committee for a rapid royal commission to report by 2015 on how to reform Britain's 40-year-old drug laws.
The international review, to be led by the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister, Jeremy Browne, will include a visit to Portugal where the policy of "depenalisation" with its strong emphasis on getting users into treatment rather than jail clearly impressed MPs. The Portuguese policy stops short of decriminalisation as trafficking and dealing in drugs remain illegal and subject to strong police enforcement action.
The study will also look at the effects of the recent decisions in the American states of Washington and Colorado to legalise marijuana for recreational as well as medicinal use. It will also look at the international response to the rapid emergence of new psychoactive drugs or "legal highs" which have been appearing on the market at the rate of more than one a week.
The move represents a significant official acknowledgement of the recent shift in the Westminster consensus towards drug policy reform, as well as the more radical approach of the Lib Dem ministers in the coalition.