Think Tanks
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New website helps people develop their opinion on drugs policy

A new website to get the public thinking about drug policy was launched recently. aims to get people complex debate around international drugs issues. The site enables visitors to assess the facts and hear arguments from all sides while deciding where they stand.

Thinking Drugs, created by independent think-tank nef (the new economics foundation) with the support of the drugs policy centre Release, does this in three ways:

  1. It provides a clear structure. Focusing on criminal justice and public health the website looks at the issues raised by drugs policies in four countries: Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, and the UK. In each case, there are stories and facts to provide context. For each country, these are followed by the strongest arguments on both sides of the debate.
  2. It encourages participation. Site users answer an initial question to establish their starting view on drugs. They are then invited to rate all the arguments. Finally, when they have done this, the site tells them whether they support drug policy reform or a toughening of the current position.
  3. It can be done quickly. People can work through the site in the space of a coffee break: it takes only 15 minutes to complete.

“I find it very hard to know what I think about all sorts of issues”, said Perry Walker, expert on Democracy and Participation at nef. “So I wish I had a version of this site for a whole range of topics. I’m glad we have tackled the issue of drugs, because it is polarised and because it is so easy to be bemused by the rhetoric that sweeps in from all sides.

“The wider point is that healthy politics needs well-informed citizens. But our media don’t seem to deliver this. The result is that people’s opinions are non-existent or fragile, prone to change at the drop of an article.. So we hope Thinking Drugs is a first step to help people become more confident in their opinions on politics.”

Niamh Eastwood, Deputy Director at Release, said: “This is an exciting on line tool which will allow the public to consider arguments for and against drug policy reform and will expose them to information they may not have been aware of. Release strongly supports reform but public engagement on this issue must be borne out of education and independent support”.

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