The authorities are not winning the war on drugs and controversial measures could be needed to address the problem, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.

Nick Clegg-1345934He said that legalisation was not a “magic wand answer” but suggested treating some cases as a health problem rather than a criminal justice issue should be examined.

The Liberal Democrat leader refused to be drawn on whether he had taken drugs, telling LBC 97.3: “I’m not going to get into whether I did things right or wrong in my deep dark past before I went into politics.”

Hosting his regular phone-in show on the radio station Mr Clegg said: “On drugs policy generally, I have always believed that there’s been a tendency in Government and in Whitehall to slightly stick our head in the sand and say ‘oh we are winning the war ondrugs’. We are not, frankly.

“There are some good successes and there have been some great steps forward. But if you look at the sophistication of the criminal world which peddles these drugs, if you look at the new chemically confected highs and legal highs which come on to the market, you look at the number of children who get hooked on stuff, I just think we should always be led by the evidence.”

Lib Dem Home Office Minister Norman Baker has continued the work done by his predecessor Jeremy Browne in examining the way the drugs problem was tackled in other jurisdictions, including countries such as Portugal with limited forms of decriminalisation.

Mr Clegg said they had looked at “other countries which have been doing innovative things to see whether they can tell us a thing or two about how we could, for instance, deal with some forms of the drug problem as a health problem rather than just a criminal justice problem, because often it is actually a health problem getting people off these drugs so they get out of the hands of the vile people who peddle these illegal drugs to them in the first place”.

Asked if his comments meant he believed the UK was losing the war on drugs he said: “I think we are making some progress, I don’t want to dismiss everything.”

But he added: “I think if you look at the sheer scale, sophistication and financial might of the illegal drugs industry, the idea that we should be complacent about what we are doing is a dangerous one.

“We should always look at the evidence, we should be humble enough to look at other countries and do innovative things, even where that may be sometimes controversial among people who just want to keep the status quo.”

Courtesy of Press Association

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