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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  • Comment number 962.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    Quite apart from the fact nobody I know who uses recreational drugs (I don't know anybody who uses hard drugs and that's the usual situation) was asked, I don't know they have the audacity to state drug use is down based on a door-to-door survey riddled with holes

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    The war on drgus has failed.
    The real question here is:
    Should we be allowed to do things that are not good for us?
    if yes, then we should be ble to buy licensed drugs and the risk is ours. Also we must accept responsibility and accountablilty for what happens.
    If no, then just how far does that go - how much should our choices be controlled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    6. This government and the last one are experts themselves at appointing people who do not have any specialist or historical interest or expertise in the topic under review. This applied especially to Welfare when Blair appointed Frued, an ex-journalist and banker with NO knowledge of the subject to review it. Cameron now is putting draconian policies into place to suit ideology NOT reform.

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    Each drug should be looked at individually before legalization is considered but look at it this way people go on a night out drinking and end up fighting, then other people hang out with friends and smoke cannabis, they are calm and relaxed, no violence, but then people on heroin would rob their own familes to fund their next fix so people should look at the effects of each drug on people first

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    Don't some people on this forum just LOVE telling other people what to do !

    So I say to all you druggies - alcohol causes 10x the damage to "society" than all the illegal drugs combined.
    Therefore give it up or do life in jail with hard-labour, try and become decent members of society and pay your taxes.
    Gosh yes that does feel good !
    ps: Don't mention "bbc" and "coke" - instant removal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    955 oldgit53:
    "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Just another example of the rapidly declining morals and principles of those who claim to be "leaders".

    I wouldn't call over half a century that rapid, oldgit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Just another example of the rapidly declining morals and principles of those who claim to be "leaders".

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    14th December 2012 - 11:00

    Prohibition created the mafia!


    It didn't - but it made it very, very rich and allowed it to grow into a large criminal organisation involved in the worst sort of crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    The same old arguments churned over and over and over again. Until people look at this from a proper evidence based scientific viewpoint we will be having the same debate in 50 years time. Meanwhile criminals will continue to make more and more money and more people will have died needlessly. Politicians court popularity, not common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    The fact is that regardless of laws, if someone wants to use cannabis then they will, it's not a small minority who use it & the numbers keep growing but society hasn't fallen apart because of that, society suffers when a government doesn't listen to it's people then act accordingly & with this issue they're as deaf as a post!

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    940. albertrooney
    >>>Replace the word cannabis with the words child abuse or any other criminal activity. Makes you think or maybe not.

    A disingenuous comparison; child abuse has one or multiple victims. Laws & policies are based on current understandings, estimates of enforceability & need the tacit consent of a majority in society. Clegg is right, our drugs policy is no longer fit for purpose

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    re: 942. DistantTraveller
    >>>Dreadful news from Connecticut. ...whether he had been taking drugs

    Heartbreaking indeed. That cowardly murderer could have been hopped up on drugs, or violent trash movies or just screwed up by life. He was inevitably the result of a society where drugs trade is outside society, ultra-violent movies get general releases and where guns can be got with little trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    So, could somebody tell me why I, of my own free will and with a reasoned and educated approach, should be denied the choice to smoke something or not, without the risk of being sent to jail. If I smoke a joint it does not harm you, and it hasn't harmed me. Please don't just tell me it's against the law, it wasn't so long ago homosexuality was illegal. Illegality does not make something wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    So Clegg 'disagrees' with Cameron on the drugs issue. Where was this independence of thought when he pushed through the tripling of student fees, or the dismantling of the English NHS? Where were his sense of morality or his 'distinct LibDem identity' then? This is posturing for the next election, and doesn't deserve to be taken seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    It's also different from other "crimes" because in cannabis there is no victim. You should be free to do with your body whatever you like so long as no-one else is being harmed. You can't compare the use of a drug to child abuse or burglary. In these cases there must be a victim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    944. paddypudlian
    Cannabis regenerates and repairs the brain.

    If that statement is true, you should have some.
    If you already have, you've just disproved it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    The best thing Clegg could do is seriously breaking up this useless non-coalition by sabotaging the Tories until they call it a day and give up and then hand his party over to someone with a backbone, who will do politics, be it in government or in (real) opposition. We want, need, and deserve democracy. That requires not only civil courage but also choice!

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    Taking drugs isn't even a sin , then why should it be a crime? God created cannabis for a reason. It has evolved over tens of thousands of years for a reason.

    if the main chemicals in cannabis are so bad then why in 2003 did the US government patent them. Their patent lasts till 2021. Google it and inform yourself.

    Cannabis regenerates and repairs the brain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    Well done for not being a lap-dog Clegg; stand up for your ideas, right or wrong, and you will at the very least earn respect for having integrity.
    This is surely what politics SHOULD be about?!


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