The Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party. At long last.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made the commitment at an event alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
The manifesto will include commitments to:
Adopt the approach used in Portugal, where those arrested for possession of drugs for personal use are diverted into treatment, education or civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record.
Legislate to end the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use, diverting resources towards tackling organised drug crime instead, as a first step towards reforming the system.
Continue to apply severe penalties to those who manufacture, import or deal in illegal drugs, and clamp down on those who produce and sell unregulated chemical highs.
Establish a review to assess the effectiveness of the cannabis legalisation experiments in the United States and Uruguay, in relation to public health and criminal activity.
Legislate to make the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs independent in setting the classification of drugs, while remaining accountable to Parliament and the wider public.
Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use.
Put the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in charge of drug policy.
I am anti-drugs, but as a society we have a responsibility to look at the evidence of what actually works to reduce drug harm.
At the moment, the level of harm to individuals and communities – here and around the world – is still unacceptably high. We need to practically solve this problem. So, if you’re anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform like me. Brave political leadership to openly acknowledge that new ways of controlling illegal drug markets and discouraging use are required.
We need to accept the overwhelming evidence that things are not working, the war on drugs has been a failure, that politicians are letting down the victims of the drugs trade by failing to engage with the evidence.
Talking tough while acting weak may be tempting, but it no longer fools anyone. It is time to commit to a radically smarter approach to tackle this problem head-on.