Clegg adopts more confident stance on drug reform

Clegg signs ‘roadmap’ to ending war on drugs

Clegg signs ‘roadmap’ to ending war on drugs

Nick Clegg is among the signatories to a controversial report outlining a roadmap toward ending the 'war on drugs', as he continues to push for a more liberal approach to the problem.

The London School of Economics (LSE) report includes a call from five Nobel Prize economists to redirect resources toward evidence-based policies rather than the hardline prohibition approach pursued by the UN.

"It is time to end the 'war on drugs' and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis," the foreword to the report, which was signed by Clegg, says.

"The pursuit of a militarised and enforcement-led global 'war on drugs' strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage.

"These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilisation in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world."

It adds: "The United Nations has for too long tried to enforce a repressive, ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

"Now the consensus that underpinned this system is breaking apart and there is a new trajectory towards accepting global policy pluralism."

Clegg's decision to throw his weight behind the report is evidence of a more confident response to the drugs issue from the deputy prime minister.

A meeting with reformist Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos in February prompted Clegg to write an article in the Observer saying: "I want to end the tradition where politicians only talk about drugs reform when they have left office."

The Liberal Democrat leader also removed  conservative Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne from the Home Office and replaced him with Norman Baker, a liberal on drug policy.

Clegg's newly robust stance chimes with a growing international trend toward liberalisation, with some US states experimenting with new legal frameworks and Latin American countries kicking back against pressure from the UN to maintain prohibition.

Campaigners have their eye on 2016, when a UN conference on drug laws offers an opportunity for a wholesale change in international drug law.

The report will be launched tomorrow at the LSE by Guatemala's minister of the interior, Mauricio López Bonilla.

The small central American state has been beset by gang violence in recent decades after finding itself in the middle of supply lines bringing narcotics into the US from South America.

In many Latin American states, the military is significantly underfunded compared to the enormous spending power of the drug cartels.

"The drug war's failure has been recognized by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world’s most respected economists," said John Collins, coordinator of LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Project.

"Leaders need to recognise that toeing the line on current drug control strategies comes with extraordinary human and financial costs to their citizens and economies."

One section of the report warns policymakers that setting up a market in narcotics was not the only option outside of prohibition.

Experts warned that a profit-making market in drugs could encourage the promotion of heavy use.

"No system of legal availability is likely to entirely prevent an increase in problem use," the report found.

"But pioneering jurisdictions should consider alternative approaches including non-profit regimes and state monopoly."

The report received funding from financier George Soros's pro-legalisation Open Society Foundation.