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Lib-Dems 2015 Manifesto to Include Radical Drug Reforms

Nick-Clegg

The Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg has confirmed that the party's 2015 manifesto will contain proposals to radically reform UK drug policies.

Clegg made the announcement at an event at Chatham House alongside entrepreneur Richard Branson who is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

"Drugs reform, like prison reform, is one of those issues that political parties always talk big about in opposition, only to fall silent and do nothing in Government. Not the Liberal Democrats.

"As part of the Coalition Government, we've continued to fight for change. We believe the time for action on drugs reform is now.

"I'm incredibly frustrated that, after five years in Coalition, we cannot take our work to its logical conclusion - just because the Tories are scared of being branded soft on drugs.

"It's time for the Conservatives and Labour to realise that the world has moved on, reform is no longer a taboo subject and voters expect politicians to deliver results based on solid evidence, not overblown rhetoric." Nick Clegg said at the event.

The Liberal Democrats reforms include adopting the drug reform policy used in Portugal. Portugal tackled the issue of problematic drug use, especially intravenous heroin use, by decimalising possession of illicit drugs for personal use. Treatment rather than punishment became the priority; fines and treatment referrals replaced criminal sanctions.

Taking drugs is still illegal in Portugal but if caught users do not get a criminal record.

'There are a number of rough indicators which can be used to assess the outcome of the Portuguese approach, including the number of drug-related deaths, the number of people using a drug, the number of people using a drug harmfully, the number of young people using drugs, the use of services, or the rate of HIV or hepatitis infection. Based on these indicators, Portugal's problems diminished between 2001 and 2007, and evidence suggests there has been a fall in the most problematic forms of drug use' writes drugs policy expert Susanne MacGregor in The Conversation.

Other drug reforms by the Lib-Dems would include:

- Bringing in a legislation to end imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use

- Divert resources towards tackling organized drug crimes

- Enable doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical use

- Clamp down on those who produce and sell 'legal highs'

- Review the effectiveness of cannabis legislation in other countries in relation to public health and criminal activity

- Impose severe penalties to manufacturers, importers or dealers of illegal drugs

- Bring in a legislation to make the Advisory Council on the misuse of Drugs solely responsible for setting the classifications of drugs

- Put the Department of Health in charge of drug policy rather than the Home Office

"The first step is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health issue. That's why, in our manifesto, the Liberal Democrats will commit to move the responsibility for drug policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health. Tackling supply is a matter for the police so that will stay with the Home Office. But reducing demand and minimising harm are questions of public health.

"Secondly, we will re-focus resources away from prosecuting people whose only crime is that they have used drugs, or are addicted to drugs. The international evidence very clearly shows that handing out criminal records to users does nothing to reduce overall levels of drugs use.

"We know that around one third of British adults have taken illegal drugs in their lifetime, with approximately one in five 16-24 year olds taking drugs in the last year alone. For many, it's something you try when you're young then grow out of.

"But, in this country, if you're a young person - say out at a club with friends - and you get arrested for possession of a small amount of drugs, it's likely you'll end up with a criminal record. That means this stupid youthful mistake could damage your whole future - possibly stopping you from getting the job you want, whether it's as a doctor, nurse, teacher or even taxi-driver.

"What would you do? If this was your child and you found those drugs would you go to a doctor or police officer to help them? I think nearly all of us would call the health expert. And, in the same way, I just don't think it's right for us as a society to write off these young people who haven't hurt anyone else, just made the wrong choice, so early. We need to put an end to this ludicrous situation. Our focus should be on getting them the help they need, not punishment, so they can go on to realise their ambitions and make a positive contribution to society.

"That's why the Lib-Dems believe these resources should instead be ploughed into smarter enforcement and greater availability of treatment.

"So we will develop diversionary programmes to take users out of the criminal justice system altogether, ensure that those who need treatment get it, and find more effective ways to reduce or end their drug use.

"I want a see a system where anyone who is arrested for possession of drugs for their own personal use gets either treatment (if they need it), education, or a civil fine." Clegg added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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