Drugs status quo ‘a colossal con’

Published: Wednesday 4th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Young people caught with small quantities of drugs for their own personal use should not have their future career prospects blighted by criminal convictions, Nick Clegg will say today.

The Deputy Prime Minister will use a keynote speech to reaffirm the Liberal Democrats commitment to developing “diversionary programmes” to take users out of the criminal justice system altogether, if they are in government after the general election.

Appearing alongside Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson at the Chatham House foreign affairs think tank in London, Mr Clegg will call for an end to the “ludicrous” situation where a “youthful mistake” involving drugs could lead to employment difficulties years later.

In a joint article for The Guardian, Mr Clegg and Sir Richard said the global “war on drugs” had proved an “abject failure” and a new approach was needed.

“The idea of eradicating drugs from the world by waging a war on those who use them is fundamentally flawed for one simple reason: it doesn’t reduce drug taking,” they wrote.

“The gulf between the rhetoric and the reality could not be greater. The status quo is a colossal con perpetrated on the public by politicians who are too scared to break the taboo.”

In his speech, Mr Clegg will point to current rules which mean that a 19-year-old cautioned for possession of drugs for their personal use will have to declare it for six years when applying for certain jobs.

If they are fined for the same offence they have to declare it for 11 years and if they receive a prison sentence they have to declare it for the rest of their lives.

“In this country, if you’re a young person – say out at a club with friends – and you get arrested for possession of a small amount of drugs, it’s likely you’ll end up with a criminal record,” he is expected to say.

“That means this stupid, youthful mistake could damage your whole future – possibly stopping you from getting the job you want, whether it’s as a doctor, nurse, teacher or even as a taxi-driver.

“I just don’t think it is right for us as a society to write off these young people who haven’t hurt anyone else, just made the wrong choice, so early. We need to put an end to this ludicrous situation.

“Our focus should be on getting them the help they need, not punishment, so they can go on to realise their ambitions and make a positive contribution to society.”

Mr Clegg will say that the Lib Dem manifesto will commit the party to working towards a system where anyone arrested for possession of drugs for their personal use gets treatment – if they need it – education, or a “civil fine”.

He will say that the Lib Dems would recognise that drug use is primarily a health issue, and would seek to move the responsibility for drug policy from the Home Office to the Department of Health.

Published: Wednesday 4th March 2015 by The News Editor

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