Change and Continuity in British Drug Policy: An Advocacy Coalition Framework Analysis

 

British drug policy continues to be a policy area characterised by its complexities, both in its formulation and implementation. While the British media has indulged in bringing conflicts over these complexities to light, particularly where policy change is concerned, the existing scholarly literature on the issue has been broadly descriptive or explanatory. The main aim of this paper is to confront the lack of literature which analyses the conflicts and complexities of British drug policy in a concurrent manner. This paper examines British drug policy between 2000 and 2016, utilising the Advocacy Coalition Framework as its theoretical basis. The major research question of this study is: Where drug policy in Britain has encountered adjustment and modification, what have been the key factors behind such change? In answering this question the applicability of the framework and the number of advocacy coalitions operating within the British drug policy subsystem are also examined. A thematic analysis of documented evidence provided by actors within the policy to parliamentary committees is undertaken to indicate the prevailing forces driving policy change and continuity. This is followed by a cluster analysis using the data from the document analysis to demonstrate the distribution of coalitions. The outcome of the thematic document analysis revealed the preponderance of a pro-prohibitionist policy core driving the direction of policy change, while the clustering of actors indicated the existence of two significant opposing coalitions. While these results suggest the broad applicability of the Advocacy Coalition Framework across diverse policy contexts, it is recommended that the framework is developed further to incorporate the role of institutions and to expand the methodological parameters prescribed to researchers applying its principles.

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Change and Continuity in British Drug Policy – An Advocacy Coalition Framework Analysis

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