Nick Clegg ignited a huge controversy last night by claiming that all drug users should be treated as ‘victims’. The Liberal Democrat leader said they should not be given criminal records for possessing illegal substances – even if they they are caught with ‘harder’ drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine.
Meanwhile, Sir Richard Branson made the astonishing claim that smoking powerful skunk cannabis does not cause ‘any harm’ – despite evidence that a quarter of new cases of psychosis are linked to it. Announcing his party’s new drugs policy yesterday, Mr Clegg said: ‘We shouldn’t be treating the criminal “Mr Bigs” the same as the users. The latter are the victims of the former.’
But his comments were dismissed by the head of the Chatham House think tank Robin Niblett, who said: ‘Are all users victims or is there a large proportion of people who enjoy drugs and take them recreationally? It is a question of demand, rather than people who need to be treated for an addiction.’
Other experts have also questioned whether it is right to label all drug users as victims. Stuart Waiton, senior lecturer in sociology at Abertay University, said: ‘The problem we have today is that society finds it difficult to hold people to account for their actions.
‘The idea of moral responsibility is very weak because we assume that everyone’s a victim. People don’t need medical support – unless their bodies are falling to bits – they need to take responsibility for their own actions.’
The Lib Dems’ new policy would end prosecutions for people caught with small amounts of drugs for ‘personal use’. It would cover all drugs. Mr Clegg said the policy would be included in the Lib Dem manifesto.
It is widely seen as a pitch to win back young voters disillusioned by the party’s betrayal over university tuition fees.
The Liberal Democrat leader said drug users should not be given criminal records for possessing illegal substances – even if they they are caught with ‘harder’ drugs such as heroin or crack cocaine
With neither Labour nor the Tories backing decriminalisation, it is unlikely to become government policy even if the Lib Dems remain in power after the election.
Mr Clegg received a public endorsement yesterday from Sir Richard, who suggested that smoking skunk is safe.
The Virgin tycoon shared a platform with the Lib Dem leader to promote the party’s pledge. He said: ‘Of people taking hash [cannabis], something like 99 per cent do not have a problem … Take people taking skunk.
‘It’s slightly worse than alcohol. But there are a lot of people doing it for recreational purposes and they enjoy doing it and it’s not doing them any harm.’ A study last month by Kings College London found that 24 per cent of new cases of psychosis are linked to the use of skunk.
The report concluded that smoking skunk trebles the risk of someone having a psychotic episode.
Last night, Mr Clegg also insisted that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ was ‘not working’, although he was later forced to concede that official figures show drug use has been falling in Britain for years.
Downing Street rejected Mr Clegg’s analysis and said it was not supported by David Cameron.
Andy Cook, chief executive of charity Twenty Twenty, which works with disadvantaged young people, said: ‘Cannabis is ruining the life opportunities of those we work with, so the idea that society would be better off if this stuff was decriminalised is crazy. ‘Making it more easily available and more culturally acceptable will mean that more of our young people would take it. The result will be that more of our young people would fail to make the most of their potential.’
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2980158 5th March 2015