It’s no secret that many Leeds students love drugs. They consistently score highly when data is collected on drug usage by university, most recently coming fifth, and the fashion choices that most of them make are clearly not the result of a sober mind. That’s before even considering the cottage industry that has popped up around them – do you think anyone would go to Beaver Works if prohibition worked?
Luckily for Beaver Works, for kids with dodgy mates or those tech savvy enough to make their way onto the darknet, prohibition does not work. In the UK, you can get drugs delivered faster than a pizza. Every customer and every dealer of drugs represent a policy failure. I understand why the Tories stick so relentlessly to their line on this, and it’s nothing to do with how best to serve British citizens. It’s to placate their core voters, whose support for draconian policies remains unwavering.
Studies have shown that decriminalisation is a far more effective policy for harm reduction. I’m willing to wager that there’s not one person at this university that thinks the current drug policy is working as it should. Tories are well aware of this, too, but they have a habit of firing any advisors who tell them that they’re wrong. Notably David Nutt, now a prominent campaigner for drug policy reforms. In classic Tory style, the government of this country are willing to sacrifice the safety of its citizens to cling onto as many votes as it can.
The sad reality is that we’re stuck with this government for some time yet. Even if Labour were elected tomorrow, their drug policy is still woefully behind what we need. Drug policy remains one of Corbyn’s most significant blind spots and there is precious little evidence that this will change anytime soon.
In the meantime, it has fallen to charities and advocacy groups to pick up the slack. Some are doing fantastic work, notably Dancesafe, by setting up shop at festivals and allowing people to find out what’s really in their drugs.
It’s time for Leeds University Union to follow suit. We would be far from the first university to provide free drug testing kits which students can take home to make sure their pills won’t kill them. Universities in Manchester, Sussex and Newcastle already provide them. In fact, demand is growing so much across the country that the NUS is starting to explore purchasing the kits in bulk and distributing them to universities.
The LUU committee’s steps so far on drug use are exasperatingly inadequate. No doubt many of you have been badgered recently to fill in a survey about your drug and alcohol use. There is perhaps some use for this data, but it’s nothing more than ugly window dressing when it comes to preventing students from dying. Considering the extent to which LUU prides itself on being progressive, they’re woefully behind the times on this most crucial of issues.
There is no doubt that the public want this. There is no doubt that drug users need it. Sadly, there is also no doubt that, without pressure from the student body, LUU will continue to drag their feet over enacting anything that could be of actual use.
LUU have released this statement regarding drug testing:
“Your Welfare Officer Matt is dedicated to providing students at LUU with safer drug use and drug education. Before introducing testing kits, we want to gather as much data as possible. Once we have analysed the results, we will have a better understanding of where the resources would be most impactful and a strong case to lobby the University for support. LUU does provide support for drug use currently, partnering with Forward Leeds we provide drug and alcohol drop-ins with an expert team of student advisors. If you require support, you can pop in to see them in the Foyer for a confidential chat.”