The GSD and Together Gibraltar have called on the Gibraltar Government to recognise drug addiction as an illness.
The plea came as the government launched its new drugs campaign yesterday, insisting it will focus on law enforcement, prevention, treatment and harm reduction.
And although the two parties agreed on the need to treat addiction as an illness, they had mixed responses to the government’s announcement.
The GSD said it was itself committed to putting forward a new drug policy which included the need to recognise addiction as a “real illness”.
But the GSD said it will approach quantities for personal use with education, awareness and support and criminal procedures if necessary, while at the same time cracking down on those responsible for the distribution of drugs.
The GSD says the decriminalisation of drugs is not the right approach for Gibraltar’s society as this might have “negative repercussions” as people who may have previously rejected drugs for fear of criminal repercussions may now accept it.
The GSD said despite the delays it welcomed the Government’s drug survey and hoped it will provide deeper understanding of the underlying issues which see people resort to drugs.
Lawrence Llamas, the GSD spokesman for drugs, alcohol, addictions and rehabilitation, said: “We need to better understand why there has been an increase in users.”
“The causal use and abuse of drugs seems prevalent today and affects people of varying social backgrounds,” Mr Llamas added.
“This cuts across society.”
“We must accept that is part and parcel of where we are today, however, how we confront it is entirely up to us – we must act urgently and radically.”
Mr Llamas called for legislative reform and said Gibraltar had to offer an alternative to the current criminal system.
As part of the GSD policy, individuals caught with small personal amounts of drugs can take up other pathways including mandatory support group meetings, participation in specialised educational classes and community service if necessary.
“This would avoid persons being branded with a criminal record while learning about life in a more effective way,” Mr Llamas added.
“And if they do not wish to take up the alternative educational and meaningful pathway laid with opportunities and support, the only resort left would be the traditional pathway through the criminal justice system.”
Mr Llamas said the GSD’s police would ensure casual abusers or addicts are given alternative paths to rehabilitate and reinsert themselves into society without the heavy stigma of the consequences of criminal penalties.
Together Gibraltar took a tougher stance on the government’s announcement, which it said was “eight years too late”.
“Had the government genuinely had a commitment to tackle the growing drugs problem in Gibraltar, it would have properly prioritised the issue in the last four or eight years,” the party said.
A spokesman for Together Gibraltar added that the Government “has been sitting” on parliamentary questions on drugs for over three months.
Together Gibraltar is now calling for a multi-disciplinary approach with a “more empathetic and less punitive infrastructure”.
It has also called for the decriminalisation of small quantities of some drugs in order to free up resources that can be fuelled into other facilities such as emergency access to the system and other pathways to help with rehabilitation.
Together Gibraltar promises to place the drugs portfolio and mental health at the top of its agenda if elected into Government, adding that it will treat these stakeholders with “genuine respect”.