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 442.

    Further to 405: Look at the numbers: Just over 3 million American voters -- out of a US population of 315 mill -- voted to legalise cannabis in 2 small, underpopulated states.States mostly known for Microsoft & Sundance. Fewer than 1% of US population. In states themselves, roughly 1 in 4 residents voted for.Minority.The "problem" of legal access to intoxicants is a distracting minority obsession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    The cannabis industry could make a fortune in tax revenues and create jobs - just like the alcohol industry does - I have always advocated the safety of cannabis consumption over alcohol - how much violence can be attributed to a room of stoner's over a room of drinkers? The government should listen to its science advisers rather than ignore them - Alcohol kills, weed doesn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    just proves what I always thought that the Liberals are high on drugs as only they could think such a stupid idea would be good. Would they then claim cannabis on their expenses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    We waste far too much time, money and effort on people hell bent on destroying not only their lives, but the lives of others. Put the money to better use, such as the provision of all drugs to treat cancer, MS etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    "drug use is falling"

    Recreational use of soft drugs is very commonplace these days, from the dinner-party set to the elderly man on the street with chronic arthritis. It's far cheaper and less harmful that sustained alcohol usage and causes far less anti-social behaviour issues than alcohol. Decriminalise it for personal use & stop violent gangs profiting from its production and sale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    A lot of people here quoting "Use the common sense approach" or "people can make their own choice"


    Take a walk in some of the more deprived areas of this country.....

    .......People cannot make the right choices for themselves. There are a lot of unintelligent people in the UK.

    Make drugs legal and they will use it as a way to destroy themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.


    The UK has had the same policy towards illegal drugs for 40 years with no positive result - doesn't that signify it isn't working & needs changing?
    Yep they need to stop being so soft & liberal (Cleggy)
    Build a few camps on remote Islands ran by the army insted of filling up the prisons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    lets be honest here. the only reason cameron is against it is because cannabis user tend to be a bit more liberal, less materialistic & lean more towards social equality. if it becomes legal more people would try it & see beyond the plastic reallity that is presented by the media & the government. which would affect the tories profiteering & war machines. make love not war, share the wealth etc..

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    @396: I feel the ONLY reason certain drugs remain illegal is because the government can make more money from criminal proceedings seized by the courts

    What's seized is only the tiny tip of a very large iceberg, which could be taxed. As a committed conspiracy theorist, the Colombian drug barons bribing the MPs seems much more likely!

    What I want to know is: where do they sell the seized drugs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Legalise them. Regulate them. Tax them.

    Get rid of the gangs. Get rid of the gangsters.

    More money for things like the NHS.


  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Yes maybe but we are stuck with them. Prohibition did not work. So the only answer is to legalise, decriminalise and make it a medical, not police issue. As to licences, I bet if there were legal outlets, people would use them. It won't drive off all criminals, but then again you have illegal alcohol and tobacco dealing. The police could concentrate on that particular crime

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    People defend weed so much they forget that there is evidence that it can trigger latent mental conditions in developing brains. You won't get psychosis from smoking it frequently at the age of 25, but if you smoke regulaly from an early age it can very possibly cause problems. Let's not also forget that smoking weed (unless vaporised) is still highly carcinogenic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    I am in my 60's and have smoked cannabis since the age of 15 on a VERY regular basis. In my life I have raised 5 wonderful kids, worked very hard and am now retiring into a graceful old age. The only problem I have had with cannabis is the fear of a dawn raid for something that I use in the privacy of my own home. Skunk is the result of law putting power into the hands of criminals. Free The Weed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Drugs HYS had a head-start, but immigration HYS already closed?

    Same issues: exclusion, vulnerability, non-integration

    Born amongst excluded; 'looking forward' to exclusion; lost to sub-culture 'warlords'

    What 'credit' due, trying to please in sound-bite solutions?

    Problem is, the problem not 'ours': in 'Westminster bubble', across society, our economic division drives all other divisions

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    World opinion is changing, and we must change with it. Prohibition has not and can not work, we have decades of evidence to prove this, and with the UK still in the red a new and taxable income stream would be good for everyone. Except drug dealers of course, which means we win the war on drugs at the same time. ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    Come the happy day when we might actually have some evidenced based policy. Of course at that point politicians will have a lot less to do and elections might seem to be redundant so I guess it's another century of whim based policy. Hurrah!

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    Cannabis is illegal to protect the profits of Pharma Companies. We keep hearing how diabetes is going to bankrupt the NHS. Well Cannabis (idealy low strength (low THC with high CBD) could half the incidence of diabetes and help sufferers of the disease as well. That's a lot of money and lives saved and pills not purchased. And that's without the anti-cancer effects.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    If this government and any before it cant control drung in a high security prison how can they expect to control drugs in a free society? They cant!!

  • Comment number 424.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    the thing is the government are not here to make their lives better personally, they are their to do what the people want and ratio wise im pretty sure there are more in favour of legilising drugs because it

    1. would reduce/crush a massive part of crime and their income
    2. create profit on tax
    3. save money/time for the police
    4. drugs would be pure and safer


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