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Nick Clegg: We should to go to war on drugs, not on addicts

It is clear we are not winning

Nick Clegg
Thursday 30 October 2014 20:30 GMT
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs
The Liberal Democrats leader says efforts need to be focused on cracking down on the criminal gangs (Getty Images)

Britain has fought the “war on drugs” for the best part of 50 years. But with 2,000 people dying each year and the Mr Bigs of the drug world getting richer, it is clear we are not winning. Instead of looking at evidence-based solutions successive government’s have ratcheted up the rhetoric – talking tough but failing to tackle the problem.

The consequences of sticking rigidly to the same old solutions will not bring about the change we badly need. It would mean more young addicts carted off to jail. More people in need of help unable to free themselves from the grip of drug abuse. And those emerging from jail even more vulnerable to the pushers. But Westminster has finally reached a tipping point in the drug debate and change is in sight.

As my colleague Norman Baker said, “the genie is finally out of the bottle” and people have realised if you are anti-drug you must be pro-reform. This is because a Government study found that the severity of criminal sanctions against drug users makes no difference to the rates of drug use.

And that if possession of drugs is treated as a health matter rather a criminal one, the well-being of users dramatically increases.

So we need to focus our efforts on cracking down on the criminal gangs who traffic drugs, rather than the addicts, who should be helped to recover.

It is nonsensical that as a society we jail 1,000 people each year whose only crime is drug possession. These people need to be treated, not thrown on the scrapheap. That is why the Liberal Democrats will get rid of prison sentences for people whose only offence is possession for personal use.

And it is also why we will crack down on pushers preying on the most vulnerable, while helping those who suffer drug addiction to get the education and treatment they need. We will move the responsibility for the Government’s drugs policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health.

The war on drugs can only be won if we take the politics out of our drugs policy and listen to the evidence.

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