Lib Dems would ‘adopt Portugal approach’

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The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto will ‘contain the most far-reaching drug reform policies ever put forward by a major political party ahead of an election’, according to party leader Nick Clegg. These will include ending the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use and instead ‘adopting the approach used in Portugal’, where people are diverted into treatment, education or ‘civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record’.

Other measures would include legislating to give the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) independence in setting drug classifications and allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use, he said. The party would also honour a commitment contained in their ‘pre-manifesto’ document to transfer drug policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health (DDN, October 2014, page 5).

‘The first step is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health issue,’ he told delegates at an event at Chatham House. ‘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.’

The party’s approach would also stop people’s future employment opportunities being damaged by a ‘stupid youthful mistake’, he said. ‘The international evidence very clearly shows that handing out criminal records to users does nothing to reduce overall levels of drugs 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.’