THE BLOG

Nick Clegg and Drugs Reform - A Misguided Malady

16/03/2015 11:00 GMT | Updated 13/05/2015 10:59 BST

In a desperate bid to appear relevant Nick Clegg has started making noises about the Lib Dem's latest pet project, drug decriminalisation. I'm not totally sold on either legalisation or continued prohibition, but I'm definitely not sold on Clegg's latest proposals which will encourage drugs use (whilst arguing that this is a problem in itself) and if anything will increase the criminal damage caused by drug dealing worldwide.

Nick Clegg makes the argument that "around one third of British adults have taken illegal drugs in their lifetime, with approximately one in five 16-24 year olds taking drugs in the last year alone. For many, it's something you try when you're young then grow out of", as if they're not really a big deal. The jury is still out on how much medical damage different drugs cause, but if Nick is so sure they're not a big deal, why has he talked of the need to treat them as a medical "problem". Surely if they're not a big deal, they're not a problem? He has made the case for ensuring that those who need medical treatment as a result of drugs use receive it. But this is already provided by the NHS. If you need medical treatment for a drug related illness or overdose you don't get turned away at the hospital doors.

In his infinite wisdom Nick Clegg has asked parents "If this was your child and you found... drugs would you go to a doctor or police officer to help them? I think nearly all of us would call the health expert." I'm pretty sure if most parents caught their child smoking a spliff they'd sit them down for a chat, rather than cart them off to the family GP. We already have an interfering nanny state which seems hellbent on medicalising everything. The Lib Dems have made clear they want to discourage people from drinking fizzy drinks, drinking alcohol (cider especially) and smoking. Personally I've heard of instances of people being referred to local mental health teams for alcohol abuse, with the only supporting evidence being an admission to having drunk three double whiskeys in one night. Why does Nick Clegg want to support this nanny state agenda?

If drugs aren't a big deal, why is Clegg suggesting that anyone caught using drugs is diverted into treatment, where they will pick up a medical record that will perhaps follow them for the rest of their lives? Whilst a lot employers won't touch people with criminal records for drugs use, a lot of employers probably wouldn't touch anyone with a medical record of drugs use. Wouldn't a better approach be to ensure information about the side effects of drugs use is readily available and then leave people alone to make their own informed decisions rather than having the state wade in where - assuming drugs aren't a big deal - it isn't needed?

Clegg's proposed drug reforms wouldn't just empower an Orwellian nanny state, they'd empower the criminal gangs and terrorist organisations that profit from the illicit drugs trade as well. He proposes decriminalisation, not legalisation. Under his proposals production and sale of drugs would still be illegal, but he'd remove a key deterrent of criminal prosecution from consumers. The only outcome would be a larger market and larger profit for the criminal gangs and terrorist organisations that profit from the illegal drugs trade. If drugs really aren't a big deal, a smarter response would be to legalise production and sale within a regulatory framework similar to alcohol and tobacco, creating jobs in the private sector, setting a safe industry standard for drugs products and undercutting the criminal cartels and terrorist groups who use the profits to spread misery and destruction worldwide.

If Nick Clegg really does believe drugs aren't a big deal, why doesn't he start making the case for real legalisation in a regulatory framework, protecting the consumer's health, protecting their liberty and undermining the criminal organisations that profit from the trade of illicit drugs?