David Cameron firmly rejected Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s call for a Royal Commission to rethink drug laws and ruled out the decriminalisation of any illegal narcotics.
The Liberal Democrat leader dramatically signalled his split with the Prime Minister on the issue by declaring that Britain was losing the war on drugs and a new approach was needed.
But Mr Cameron said the coalition Government had already taken necessary action to change drug policy, and there was evidence that this was bearing fruit with reduced levels of abuse.
He said that Mr Clegg was “entirely entitled” to advocate further change, but made clear that this was only in the context of the Lib Dem manifesto for the next general election, not the policies of the coalition administration.
In an interview with the The Sun yesterday, Mr Clegg said that the premier had missed an opportunity by ruling out a Royal Commission on drugs policy when it was recommended in a report by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee this week.
“If you were waging any other war where you have 2,000 fatalities a year, your enemies are making billions in profit, constantly throwing new weapons at you and targeting more young people, you’d have to say you are losing and it’s time to do something different,” said the Lib Dem leader.
“I’m anti-drugs – it’s for that reason I’m pro-reform.”
Mr Clegg insisted he is not in favour of full legalisation of drugs but thinks targeting dealers and traffickers, while decriminalising possession, might be a solution.
He said he would include a “clear commitment” to a Royal Commission on drugs in his party’s 2015 manifesto.
Voicing his regret at Mr Cameron’s response to the Home Affairs Committee report, Mr Clegg said: “I told the Prime Minister that this was a missed opportunity. He knows my views on this. He and I don’t agree on this.”
The Lib Dem leader has ordered Home Office minister Jeremy Browne to compile a report on approaches to drugs across the world which have worked, including in Portugal, Amsterdam, Latin America and several US states.