Nick Clegg calls for royal commission on drugs reform


Mr Clegg said the government needed to be "open-minded", as Mark Easton reports

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is calling for a royal commission on drugs, just five days after the prime minister and the home secretary rejected the idea.

On Monday an all-party committee of MPs recommended there should be a fundamental review of Britain's drugs laws, but David Cameron said that was unnecessary.

Now Mr Clegg has said the worst thing people can do is close their mind to drug reforms.

Mr Clegg told the BBC he wanted to break what he called the "conspiracy of silence", where politicians while in government refuse to consider alternatives to the so-called war on drugs because it is "all too controversial".

US examples

By calling for a royal commission to be set up, the deputy prime minister is at complete odds with David Cameron who emphatically rejected the idea.

A royal commission is a public inquiry, established by the head of state, into a defined subject and overseen by a commissioner who has quasi-judicial powers.

"I don't see this as a thing between myself and the prime minister," Mr Clegg said. "It's what do we as a country believe is the right thing to do."

Start Quote

My view is that we've been waging the war on drugs for almost 40 years, and I don't think by any stretch of the imagination it has worked”

End Quote Nick Clegg Deputy Prime Minister

Asked if he was at risk of being soft on drugs, Mr Clegg said: "There's nothing hard about turning your back against the evidence."

He said he wanted the government to look at the system in Portugal where all drugs have been depenalised and also at the experience in the US states of Washington and Colorado where marijuana was recently legalised.

"If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform. That is my view," he said.

At their party conference last year, the Liberal Democrats voted to establish a panel to consider decriminalising the use of all drugs. Reform of drug laws is an issue that has long been pursued by some in the party.

However, Mr Clegg has now set himself at odds with his Conservative coalition partners. He told the prime minister of his intention to support a royal commission, in defiance of Mr Cameron's publicly stated position, at a meeting in Downing Street.

"Both the prime minister and I are relaxed about the idea that this isn't an identikit government," Mr Clegg said.


"The home secretary and indeed the prime minister are perfectly entitled to say that they want the government's present approach to be given a chance to work and don't want the distraction of a royal commission.

"My view is that we've been waging the war on drugs for almost 40 years, and I don't think by any stretch of the imagination it has worked."

The Home Office and Downing Street both say there is no need to review Britain's drug laws, pointing out that drug use is falling while numbers in treatment are rising.

However, Mr Clegg has said the drugs minister at the Home Office, Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, will be sent on a fact-finding mission to look at the experience in countries experimenting with decriminalisation and legalisation.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    @188. Maria Ashot

    Sigh. Those who are addicted to the most dangerous drugs are probably some of the most desperate and vulnerable members of our society. What do we do? We lock them up and essentially remove any chance they ever had of turning their life around.

    What other crises are you concerned about? Those at the bottom of society? Overcrowded prisons? Strained police resources? Link?

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Generations victimised, criminalised and abused for political leverage.

    Idiot-speak such as 'Gateway drug' (which worthy spun that little line?) and 'drug Tzar'. Pushed by a willing - leading - media.

    No 'representative of the people' will rock the gravy-train.

    Absolutely contemptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Whilst I'm very must against drugs I believe we need to take out the dealers and 'sell' them from pharmacies under license, perhaps then crime would drop and youngsters would be kept safe from prostitutiion which is essential for a happy life. People could also have health checks every few months which would be cheaper for the NHS than leaving it too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Let's face it, it's the ONLY way the LibDems are going to go out on a high.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Legalize and tax the stuff.
    Well done Cleggy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    @157 i know more loving dedicated parents and productive members of society that smoke cannabis than don't, your lame plea to protect the children is a desperate attempt to emotionally blackmail the masses, unfortunately while there are other more harmful, readily available, legal drugs out there your argument is obsolete.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Queen Victoria herself used cannabis to relieve her mentrual pains, mind you, there weren't powerful pharma companies back then to provide her with a chemical substitute.I have smoked cannabis since I was 17 and have worked full time since I was 15, AND I am not addicted.Also, it has never been a gateway to other drugs.Wake up UK and get high, the answer to depression of all kinds, even financial.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    When I was in University, I saw my flatmates smoking cannabis together. Well. They didn’t seem to be normal to me. Moreover, why NHS specialists try to stop people smoking, yet Nick Clegg calls for legalization on other drugs. What is wrong with him?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    It's interesting that the banking industry launders billions of dollars of drug money whilst at the same time the US\UK government seem intent on keeping those drugs illegal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    the Vaz enquiry was seriously flawed, many feel it was rigged as it disallowed all evidence on medical Cannabis to be given although many asked for it to be included but all were ignored, they blocked any debate as they knew the pro evidence is overwhelming they had no defence, but they granted baer a licence 2 produce Sativex here but won’t allow it’s use here for chronic pain sufferers

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    As the leader of the legalised dopes keeping the coalition in power I think he is uniquely placed to make the call.

  • Comment number 191.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    123.Maria Ashot
    animals don't seek an altered state.

    Actually they do, check out catnip and the effect on cats they love it and it's a hallucinagen. There are other animals that enjoy getting stoned too, check your facts first please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    178. T8-eh-T8
    Surely a Royal Commission is just a way to kick the issue into the [ahem] long grass?

    hanyuverymuch - I'm here all week.

    Not as subtle as my hash comment, went straight over peoples heads, are they on something. lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    156: slightlyallthetime, indeed: Of course you don't care & of course you've been using for 43yrs and of course you've never had any difficulty getting it (& apparently had the funds to spare).OK: so how exactly has the current policy caused you suffering?It's a self-indulgent minority of Hedonists with(by the way)£$to spare who are pitching fits when there are so many bigger crises to confront!

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    At last! Someone with a modicum of power and influence is finally removing their head from the sand. Most politicians are terrified of a Royal Commission as they know too well that such an enquiry will back up the science and not the Daily Mail.

    Decriminalisation, although a step in the right direction is not however the full answer. Lets legalise, tax and regulate and save/make £billions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Prohibition did not work. So we need a radical decrimisation of soft drugs to put them ito the same catergory as alcohol.
    We need safe drug havens for those who want to use so called hard drugs. End of criminals, no more wasting police time, for hat is, let's face it, a medical matter. Money saved = millions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    It's not rocket science. Listen to the experts, stop making criminals of thousands of ordinary people, get some tax on the weed. Wake up Dave and smell the cannabis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    The dealers will be able to stand openly on the street corners and become rich overnight the police do not have the manpower to 'control, the trade' quality control?how?
    Market forces - would you buy suspect rubbish of a plastic gangster on the street or a decent product from a nice guy in a cafe or store?

    Licensed selling of cannabis = 1500 small businesses created overnight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    From the replies even the junkies have run out of money and need a law change to get a fix!!


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