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, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    YOU may think its harmless but for every person who says "I've been a heavy user for years and its not done me any harm" will find another who's life has been blighted by it...the mantra should be EVERYTHING IN MODERATION...too much of anything is not good for you!! Even the "good" things in life...

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Good guy Clegg. I don't believe decriminalising all drugs is necessarily the right thing to do, but nice to see a politician willing to show an open mind! I'm sick of politicians who stick to their guns no matter what the costs, for fear of being judged weak or upsetting their vote back.

    Actions like this make me want to vote Lib Dem again next election!

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    Deal with the reason why people need to take illegal drugs in the first place. By taking drugs away or by making it more accessible won't get to the bottom of why people feel they need to take it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    People are bored, have no hope, are repeatedly told we're worthess and all the people in power are blatantly corrupt. And then when they try to relieve the pain of life they are made into criminals. The 1st step in the war on drugs has to be to treat people with humanity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    Really canabis should only be legal for medicinal purposes and given out by perscription.

    If it was legal there wouldnt have been any fun in smoking it in the bushes at school :P

  • Comment number 497.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    Well said Jay, everyone needs to watch Reefer Madness, pure propaganda implying that heroin is the same as the beloved maryjane. Our governments are still using this film as the base line as to what is what.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Think about the implication if cannabis was legalised
    what would all the police do on a Friday and Saturday night when the pubs and clubs close all these stoned people rushing to the kebab shop for the munches
    The would have to keep the Q's order
    Much better now dealing with the fights and people collapsing
    Don’t you think???

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    Some places I have worked, for example, Camden or Vauxhall have huge problems with drug use and knock on social effects. Used needles were a serious risk to myself and my colleagues. Listening to Will Self's statistics on QT last night it is clear that current policies that have led to huge increases in use have failed. The issue needs some applied inteligent thinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.


    "We know people think it's wrong but so many people do it, we can't control it... so let's decriminalize it & while we are at it make a bit of money on the side, because as long as the country's coffers are boost".

    Since when did a line in the sand become a camel in a tent?

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    it is about time a prominent politician had the balls to start a debate on this.
    my opinion is that all drugs should be legalised.
    drugs do not wreck lives drug dealers do.
    if drugs were legalised we could provide proper care, education and counselling for a fraction of what we spend on enforcement.
    drug dealers would be out of business overnight.
    addicts would not need to rob or visit dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.


    2 million reefer madness types and how many zombies.We are doomed.
    If they would just let people grow their own 3-4 plants a house hold lets say for own use.They woulnt go for that as they would want it taxxed.They wont budge.they are politicians...

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    why does everyone assume that drugs ruin peoples lives? Every high profile celebrity does drugs, FACT. I cant think of anyone in the music industry who hasnt taken or been influenced by drugs. Drugs are inbedded in society and its time the government realise that. The war on drugs is a momentus failure and it is a unwinnable war. If you cant beat them, join them!!! Legalise!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    If a Royal Commission were genuinely on the cards it would need to look at how drug use impacts psychiatric health services, tax, the economy and crime. What exactly is Clegg's "defined subject," and who would he appoint as commissioner? The emptiness of this BBC article shows the real is issue is exactly what Clegg is denying: "I don't see this as a thing between myself and the prime minister"

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    Two biggest killers (tobacco and alcohol ) have been legal for centuries so what is the problem with other drugs. The problem is SOCIETY we exclude, stigmatize and humiliate people who are taking such drugs. Our behaviour towards such individuals is shambolic and it needs to change. NHS spend billions on alcohol and tobacco related illness why cant it spend a few more pennies on other drug user?

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    441: Clearly, you have not read the news reports about public transport operators on cannabis who have caused numerous deaths in America: crashing trains, ferries & other vehicles. Yes, weed does kill, maim. Never mind how much it impedes the education of a young mind, or reaching full potential. And what about Loughner & Holmes? Wishful thinking (delusion) to imagine cannabis always harmless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    Mankind always has and always will use drugs. If drugs were legalised not only would this take money out of the hands of smugglers and pushers, it could also generate a tax revenue to educate and treat We must never think we have all the answers, it is common sense to look and learn from other parts of the world where they are trying different ways of dealing with this endemic situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    The real problem is that the penalties for Drug possession do not equate to the harms posed by the substance itself.

    Prison and/or a criminal record almost always impose more "damage" to an individual than the drug. Does this prevent the harm caused by drugs? I think not.

    Prohibition does not work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    473.Kelly - "Dealers would sell "products" below any government price, Tax Free. Those who thing there is no black market are on something else."

    That is a every sweeping statement said with conviction, so presumably you can share with us the evidence you have that makes you so certain.....

    ....oh, you don't have a single jot of evidence do you? Just your ill informed gut instinct......

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    It's about time someone came out and said something about this, alas nothing will be done however since DC and his mates are too busy supporting the church in its campaign to remind women and gays that they aren't allowed to be equal.


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