Pin It

Nick Clegg calls for decriminalising drug use

The Liberal Democrat leader wants to end the war on drugs

Finally: he speaks! And it makes a lot of sense. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called for the UK to follow Portugal's lead and decriminalise the use and possession of drugs. His damning assessment of this country's failed "war on drugs" is backed by space-mad entrepeneur Richard Branson.

In a joint article written for the Guardian, the pair said: "As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like."

Clegg and Branson said that the UK needs to look to Portugal as a template and install the infrastructure that has proved so successful there – treating drug users under civil and not criminal law.

"We should look to Portugal, which removed criminal penalties for drug possession in 2001," they propose. "Portugal’s reforms have not – as many predicted – led to an increase in drug use. Instead, they have allowed resources to be redirected towards the treatment system, with dramatic reductions in addiction, HIV infections and drug-related deaths."

"Drugs remain illegal and socially unacceptable, as they should be, but drug users are dealt with through the civil rather than the criminal law. Anyone who is arrested for drug possession is immediately assessed and sent for treatment or education. If they fail to engage, they have to pay a fine."

Currently, the limits for possession for personal use in Portugal are 25g of cannabis, 1g of MDMA, 2g of cocaine, 1g of heroin, 10g of opium and 2g of morphine.

Branson appeared on last night's controversial Channel 4 show Drugs Live and spoke of the need for reform, labelling it wrong that so many young people are criminalised simply for smoking a joint.

Clegg will address a conference on the topic today and include the pledge to make drug use an issue for the Department of Health rather than the Home Office in the Liberal Democrat manifesto. David Cameron has said that he is against the decriminalisation of drugs.