Nick Clegg is Right, British Drug Policy Should Change

British Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of
the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has
said that British drug policy is not working. According to the BBC,
Clegg said that he does not back legalization and that the Liberal
Democrats will publish a study on an alternate drug policy later in
the year.

Clegg’s recent comments are not the first time that he has
criticized British drug policy. Last October,
Clegg said, “I don’t think we’re winning the drugs war,” and
expressed frustration that the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister
David Cameron, “are not prepared to look more openly” at
alternative drug policies.

Clegg is right. In December 2012, Cameron rejected
a report
on drug policy written by members of the Home Affairs
Committee, who said that the Portuguese model of decriminalization
“is a model that merits significantly closer consideration.” and
that “We were impressed by what we saw of the Portuguese
depenalised system.” The report recommended “the establishment of a
Royal Commission to consider the best ways of reducing the harm
caused by drugs in an increasingly globalised world.”

Responding to the report, Cameron
, “I don’t support decriminalisation. We have a policy
which actually is working in Britain.”

In the BBC’s reporting on Clegg’s recent comments it is
mentioned that The Home Office does not think that drug policy in
the U.K. needs to be changed because the use of illegal drugs has
been falling.

According to the British government’s figures on England and
Wales, this is the case. The
graph below
from the British government plots the percentage of
people between the ages of 16 and 59 who used illegal drugs
(excluding mephedrone) in the last year in England and Wales from
1996 to 2013. Class A
drugs are crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, magic
mushrooms, methadone, and methamphetamine.

While it might be the case that there has been a decrease in the
number of people who have used illegal drugs in England and Wales,
this does not necessarily mean that British drug policy should not
be changed.

While the U.K.’s war on drugs is nowhere close to the scale of
the American effort to fight the use of illegal drugs, it is still
the case that Britons face time behind bars if caught in possession
of illegal drugs. In fact, some of those who work in British
prisons are not pleased about current drug policy. The president of
the Prison
Governors Association
said last year that “The current war on
drugs is successful in creating further victims of acquisitive
crime, increasing cost to the taxpayer to accommodate a higher
prison population and allowing criminals to control and profit from
the sale and distribution of Class A drugs.” and that “A
fundamental review of the prohibition-based policy is desperately

Cameron might think that the current British drug policy is
working, but he should be open to changes, especially if they would
reduce the prison population and save taxpayers some money.

from Hit & Run

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