ONE of Scotland's leading drug campaigners has lauded a move to give people caught in possession of Class A drugs warnings instead of facing prosecution as the “biggest change to drug policy in a generation”.

Speaking to The National, Peter Krykant said this policy will change lives in Scotland by taking people out of the vicious cycle of drug use and imprisonment.

While officers can already issue warnings for possession of lower category drugs, on Wednesday, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain told MSPs this would now include Class A drugs.

It’s in a bid to address Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis which is the highest in Europe. In 2020 alone there were 1339 drug-related deaths in Scotland and it was a factor in the country's declining life expectancy.

READ MORE: Warnings for Class A drugs is good step but there's still more to do

The drugs activist ran a mobile safe consumption room in Glasgow before being arrested by police, although the charges were later dropped.

Krykant, who began taking drugs at the age of just 11, said the current system of criminalising addicts fails to tackle the underlying issues.

Krykant told The National: “I felt quite emotional about the announcement today. I had tears in my eyes because I think this is the biggest shift in drug policy that we've seen in a generation and it will have such a dramatic impact for people across the board.

“My experiences of going into the prison system at such a young age, it just made the problems worse for me.

“And the problems continue to mount because you're not getting any of the social or psychological support that you need within the prison system to actually move away from that problematic substance use.”

Krykant said judges would be happy with the change as they often see people in the court system who “really don’t need to be there”.

He continued: “It actually frees up the treatment services as you'll often get people who are not problematic drug users who go through the court system. And then the system gets clogged up.

“And it also retains more available spaces for the people who actually genuinely need support and that ongoing intensive therapy. Some of the trauma with users is that they are in and out of the criminal justice system.

“I know the present system has changed a lot since I was in well over 20 years ago now - it's not as punishment type based as it was 25-30 years ago.

READ MORE: Drugs activist Peter Krykant breaks down in tears in heart-wrenching video

“But it’s still not a system that's designed to support people and help guide people in the direction of change. That trauma can be created just through the system of sending people to prison.”

The National: Peter Krykant has called for a change to the UK's drug lawsPeter Krykant has called for a change to the UK's drug laws

There have been calls for the Misuse of Drugs Act to be overhauled. The 1971 legislation forms the basis of the UK’s anti-drug strategy which separated drugs into different classes.

A 60-strong group of MPs showed their support for the Transform Drug Policy Foundation to review the current legislation.

Others have gone further to call for decriminalisation and the regulation of drugs. Krykant is one of these campaigners.

He said that would be the next major step. But the idea has been knocked by the UK Government, who has also been battling with the Scottish Government over safe consumption rooms as drugs is a reserved matter.

The SNP would like drug policy devolved to Scotland but the Tories have been reluctant to give Holyrood any more powers.

“There needs to be a radical change in the way that we deal with drugs altogether,” Krykant said. “Like a full-scale decriminalisation or with a move towards a regulated market.

“There is still going to be people caught up in that system, because it’s a police warning in effect which will, as the Lord advocate mentioned in her statement, stay on police files for two years, I believe.

READ MORE: Peter Krykant: How we're marking International Overdose Awareness Day at Holyrood

“So if there is a repeat offence, people will also end up in that criminal justice system. But the amount of people that will benefit from this will outweigh the people who still end up in that system because many people who get that opportunity to divert anti-drug treatment services, will get that opportunity to get on to a safe supply of medication and move away from the illicit market which altogether, which ultimately, is the way that we need to break down the criminal supply chains.

“The Misuse of Drugs Act and trying to enforce that through drug busts is clearly not working. We see that every time that there is a drugs bust and a criminal gang's supply chain get disrupted it creates a turf war and means that another criminal gang steps in and they just get stronger.”

Overall, Krykant wants to see attitudes towards drug policy change in Scotland to one that focuses on decriminalisation and education.

“The other alternative is we just keep doing what we do and we keep seeing people dying,” he says.

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