Suggestions for a new approach to tackling drug use in Norwich were welcomed by a resident of a council apartment after a decade of trouble.
Martin Schmierer, the Green Party candidate for police and Norfolk crime commissioner, called for rethinking the way drug problems are tackled, saying Britain’s war on drugs has failed as has prohibition on drugs. alcohol in the 1920s in America.
“The war on drugs is not won and we cannot help but get out of the problem,” Schmierer said.
âThese are not my words, but those of the police, judges and medical professionals to whom I have spoken.
“We need a new approach that treats addiction as a health problem, not just a criminal problem.”
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Mr Schmierer pointed to figures from the Office for National Statistics from 2019, which showed Norwich had the second highest number of drug poisoning deaths in the country.
To help tackle the problem, he called for the introduction of âsafer consumption roomsâ – places where users can consume drugs while being supervised by a medical professional.
“This will lead to safer communities for everyone and all Norwich residents deserve to feel safe in the areas where they live.”
The idea has already been used in other countries, including Switzerland and Denmark, while Scottish medical experts recently called for decriminalization to tackle problems there.
Mr Schmierer’s proposal was greeted favorably by Gillian Dickinson of Ebenezer Place in Norwich, a city apartment complex that has suffered a decade of anti-social behavior, including drug trafficking and people entering buildings not safe to use drugs.
âPeople who come to Ebenezer Place have probably had horrible things happened to them,â said Ms Dickinson, who works as a psychotherapist.
âOne day I yelled at them and told them to get out and I saw this poor girl with only skin and bones.
âShe looked so scared, I felt awful.
“It’s really the drug dealers who are creating this situation, these people are probably going through the horror of their lives.”
Instead, Ms Dickinson argued that by making drugs legal, you could better tackle the issues that lead to addiction in the first place.
“I always thought that if it was legal it wouldn’t be such a big deal and therefore there won’t be so many scammers.”
Ms Dickinson said that instead, you could tackle the problem with better education and better care for addicts.
Mr Schmierer’s idea has elicited a mixed reaction from his opponents in the CCP race, with several pointing out that spaces would require a law change, which is beyond their power.
Conservative candidate Giles Orpen-Smellie agreed that drug addiction is not a problem you can “get out of” except by attacking the providers.
However, he argued that safe spaces could be useful in prison, as a way to combat trade there.
Liberal Democrat candidate John Crofts was perhaps the most supportive of the program, calling for more leniency for drug users, especially cannabis.
He said: âWe need to have a serious discussion about how we deal with drugs, as the police spend a lot of time looking at personal use, I think there should be more tolerance for it. regard for personal use while spending more time fighting the harder drugs.
Michael Rosen, the Labor candidate, also agreed that there was a need for a public health approach, focusing on why people use drugs while suing those who provide.
Mr Rosen said he would consider any evidence-backed proposal and take full advantage of the opportunities offered by Project Adder – a Â£ 148million government program to reduce drug-related crime.
David Moreland, an independent candidate, said he was not in favor of secure drugstores, saying he didn’t believe anyone would use them – adding that he felt people had “turned to drugs âbecause of the boredom of the lockdown.
In January 2020, Norwich City Council unanimously passed a motion, moved by Mr Schmierer, arguing for Norwich to become a pilot city for safer consumption rooms.