Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said ministers should consider decriminalising some drugs – in comments that fly in the face of Government policy.
In media interviews, Mr Clegg has backed a report which suggested the Government should think about relaxing punishments for drug use.
However that report, from the Home Affairs Select Committee, was rejected by David Cameron.
At the time Mr Cameron said: “Drugs use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference”.
He added: “Also, we need to do more to keep drugs out of our prisons.”
The Prime Minster said these were the Government’s priorities rather than long term consideration of decriminalisation.
However on Friday Mr Clegg said it was “time to do something different” on the issue of drugs.
He told The Sun newspaper: “In politics, as in life, you can’t keep on doing something that doesn’t work. You can’t keep repeating the same mistakes.”
The newspaper reported that while Mr Clegg said he is not in favour of legalisation, he thinks decriminalising possession while cracking down on traffickers and dealers “may be a solution”.
And Mr Clegg also revealed that he was sending a Liberal Democrat minister abroad to consider Portugal and Amsterdam’s approach to drugs.
The Home Affairs Select Committee said ministers should look at the effect of legalising cannabis abroad.
It also said the time was right for a “fundamental review of all UK drugs policy in the international context”.
It recommended an official commission be set up to consider decriminalisation, which would come back with findings in 2015.
However the Home Office disagreed, and said: “Our current laws draw on the best available evidence and as such we have no intention of downgrading or declassifying cannabis.”