Met chief declares war on substance abuse

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe Met Police Commissioner says ‘professionals should face drug testing and action was needed to discourage demand.

He said drug testing should take place in ‘all occupations’, but in particular teachers, intensive care nurses and transport workers. Anyone who failed a test and refused help to get clean should lose their job’.

Sir Bernard said “employers who discovered a staff member abusing drugs would not have to turn ‘informant’ and tell the police but encourage their staff members to get professional help.

In a speech to the all-party parliamentary group on cannabis and children, Sir Bernard said drug testing and the fear of losing their job would act as a deterrent for drug users. He said: ‘It seems to me we have got to plant in people’s minds something to affect the demand as well as supply. You can think of many occupations where if you were working with a colleague you would want to be sure in fact that they were drug free.’

Employers who discovered a staff member abusing drugs would not have to turn ‘informant’ and tell the police, he added.

Anyone caught with drugs in their system should be offered help to stop, he said – but anyone who refused that help should suffer ‘consequences, which would probably be termination of their employment’.

The suggestion that workers should be given a drug test is likely to cause outrage among trade unions. It will also raise civil liberties concerns.

In America, however, random drug testing is already prevalent – and widely accepted – in workplaces, with staff tested in the retail, financial, manufacturing, education and health sectors.

Companies say that the tests are not just carried out for safety reasons, but also to identify theft risk, employee reliability and improve productivity.

During his speech, Sir Bernard told the group of his concerns that parents born in the 60s and 70s when cannabis was weaker are failing to warn their children about the dangers of super strength skunk.

Sir Bernard told the all-party parliamentary group on cannabis and children that he had never smoked the drug and had only smoked one cigarette, when he was seven years old.

He said the potency of cannabis has increased five-fold in the last half century but many parents were unaware of the damage it can do to young brains. Teenagers who smoke new powerful strains of skunk run the risk of developing schizophrenia in later life, and must be told they are taking a ‘major’ health risk.

Sir Bernard warned any move away from a ‘robust’ approach would lead to even younger children taking the drug and even more serious damage to their health.

His hard line approach also marks him apart from other senior officers who in recent years have called for a more relaxed approach to enforcing drugs laws, especially around cannabis.

As Chief Constable of Merseyside, Sir Bernard was credited with adopting a zero tolerance approach known as ‘Total Policing’, which included a relentless crackdown on drug dealers.

His comments on Monday night are at odds with a series of parliamentary reports in recent months calling for a more permissive approach to drugs. First the home affairs select committee called for cannabis to move from Class B to Class C. Then, the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform called for possession of heroin and ecstasy to be decriminalised.

In recent months Alphabiolabs has seen an increase in the number of workplace drug tests carried out by employers within the UK. A spokesperson for Alphabiolabs said ‘the increase in occupational drug testing shows that UK employers are increasingly concerned about their employees’ health.

We have seen that a large number of corporate businesses are approaching Alphabiolabs to carry out pre-employment screening to test potential employees and are making the test as part of the application process.

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