All drugs should be decriminalised for personal use and cannabis should be fully legalised as a medical treatment, the Liberal Democrats have said.
The party has tabled amendments to the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill which seeks to ban most legal drugs.
Brian Paddick, the party’s Home Affairs spokesperson and a former police officer, said in a statement that the Conservative approach to drugs policy was “doomed to failure”.
“These new psychoactive substances - or legal highs - only exist because our current approach to drugs is failing. Instead of tackling the danger of these new drugs, this Bill is likely to make things worse,” he said.
"When I was a police officer, I realised that locking up drug users is simply not the answer. We have to learn the lessons of why our current approach is failing before we make the same mistakes with new psychoactive substances as we have done with other illegal drugs.
"Decriminalising personal possession will free up vital police resources to go after drug dealers, ensure addicts get treatment and social users get the education they need to keep them safe.”
Decriminalisation for personal use would not equate to full legalisation but would mean someone could not be punished criminally for possessing the drugs.
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Treatment would still be available and those who sold drugs could still be punished, depending on the specifics of the legislation.
Such an approach has been tried in Portugal, where it has produced largely positive but also mixed results.
The country has seen reduced deaths amongst drug users since instituting the policy as well as increased uptake of treatment.
Critics however note that general drug use has increased, though proponents say that “problem” drug use is in fact down.
The country has additionally seen significant savings to the criminal justice system.
In the United States 23 out of the country’s 50 states currently permit medical cannabis, with more states pending legislation.
The Liberal Democrat 2015 election manifesto contained a slightly less emphatic pledge to ensure that no one arrested for possession of drugs for personal use ended up with a criminal record.
The party had also said it was keen to establish a review to assess the effectiveness of cannabis legalisation in some US states and Uruguay.
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