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 222.

    @211 Here Here!

    Viva la rEvolution

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Decriminalising stuff like weed is a good policy because it does make it easier to regulate and control. However, the prices will have to be competitive and fair for the consumer. Otherwise, a black market (more like a green market..) wil develop because the government is kicking the rights of drug addicts. Not that they should have any rights in the first place other than to get help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.


    I want dealers out of business overnight and my money no not vanish into a blackhole that's helps nobody. Oh and on a personal level the ability to smoke some nice sativas and not the rushed, sprayed and unloved cheese we get everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Nick Clegg is only looking for votes. The reason the drug war hasn't been won is due to the paltry sentences given out for use, possession and trafficking. The sentences used need to be quadrupled and then doubled every year until until they have some effect. It's time the Judiciary stopped pussyfooting about with these criminals !

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Decimilize cannabis, don't tax it. We get taxed on enough good stuff in this country so that our government can spend it on 2nd homes. Cannabis is a plant, don't tax it, think it through. You need cannabis in your garden, it's the most useful plant in the world. Do some research like I have, it'll make you weep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Here we go again...

  • Comment number 216.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    @53 "but if you want a good example don't go there go to Amsterdam and see what leagalised drugs do"

    Amsterdam is a beautiful city and I didn't encounter any trouble whilst staying there. People are too high to commit crimes. This "war on drugs" bs has been going on too long. Legalization creates more revenue via tax, and reduces drug related crime. Fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    The current drug laws, like the role of prisons, are completely ineffectual and do not reflect the real world in which we actually live. They exist to placate the middle classes. We need to get to the underlying problems in our society and have laws and punishments that support people instead of isolating them further.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Mr Clegg, you Sir are making sence.

    The decriminalisation of cannabis will lead to more Jobs, more Tax paid in. Also the goverment can keep a check on how it is grown and what strength it is, no more fears of that evil "skunk" super strong weed that has been going round.

    For Addicts of harder drugs, if we can't get them off them we need to make them safe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    Its quite simple.
    Its illegal so if you do it then its breaking the law
    If you break the law then expect to pay the penalty
    Personally the penalty is far to small and should be much harsher
    People say they need to do it to get through the day - well do something else then and perhaps you'll be a better person in society.
    Cannabis is addictive as is everything if take to much

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Us, humans are capable of fulfilling all of our dreams.. as much our nightmares as our longevity and prosperity... We are indeed, able to reach for the stars but only and only if we can first reach out for each other by putting aside our indifferences and by finding our true meaning, our true purpose in this vast land of universes we're set to exist and indeed, co-exist..! Legalize Cannabis. Now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    @195: When I was in University, I saw my flatmates smoking cannabis together. Well. They didn’t seem to be normal to me.

    So, do people look normal to you when they're drunk? Maybe we should ban alcohol. Oh no wait, they tried that in the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    178 - A royal commission is long winded, but is usually based on evidence rather than pre-conceived ideas - it has been in the long grass of parliament for decades with the main two parties more concerned about loosing votes than the legislastion reflecting societies views/morals - i.e. what the law of the land is supposed to represent and parliament is supposed to achieve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Lealise cannabis and tax it etc. The result will be less police resources wasted/less court time wasted/less people in jail/cannabis dealers put out of business/revenue for the government. Is there anything not to like!

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Why didn't he say this last week?!

    It's all well and good governments having the, excuse me but I think it needs it, balls, to cut funding to schools, NHS, police, etc, things that will cheese us all off, but don't have the balls to legalise cannabis.

    I don't smoke it, but it has proven to be quite harmless by scientists. Scientists, who are wrong, it appears.

    Get some balls Mr Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    I wonder what the result of removing controls on drugs might be. Look at what happened when the Blair government decided to create a "cafe culture" by easing the licensing laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Legalise everything and educate the public as is done with cigarettes and alcohol. Tax the drugs = more money for the government to spend and not in the pockets of the criminal underworld.

    Politicians are terrified of doing anything that rocks the boat though - every single policy and statement is based not on 'is this good for the country?' but 'will this win me votes?'

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    I am 62 and do not drink alcohol or smoke tobacco but have enjoyed the odd puff of grass since I was 17. I am surrounded by perfectly legally drunk people shouting and punching and driving and crashing! The hypocrisy and stupidity of the blind refusal to look at evidence on all drugs is astonishing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    "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."

    How is that possible? Less people are using them, yet MORE are being treated for them?


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