A radical change in drugs policy would “send an incredibly dangerous message to young people”, Downing Street has said in response to a new report on drugs.
Considering other countries’ attitudes to drugs, the report stated that “levels of drug use are influenced by factors more complex and nuanced than legislation and enforcement alone”.
Although the report was seized upon by the Liberal Democrats as evidence in favour of decriminalisation, Downing Street said such a policy would see drug dealers “getting off scot-free”.
Lib Dem minister Norman Baker claimed: “It’s time for a radical change in British drugs policy.”
The new report considers the different ways countries such as Portugal, Japan and the USA deal with drugs, commenting: “In many cases, they illustrate the complexity of the challenge”.
It also found that the ‘zero-tolerance’ approach used in Sweden and Japan is influenced by a “strong cultural disapproval of drug taking”.
Considering the Czech Republic and Portugal, where drugs laws are weaker than in the UK, the report noted “while levels of drug use in Portugal appear to be relatively low, reported levels of cannabis use in the Czech Republic are among the highest in Europe”.
Baker claimed the document “shows that other ways of tackling drug addiction and supply can save lives and cut crime”.
However, Number 10 said: “This report provides no support whatsoever for the Lib Dems’ policy of decriminalisation.
“In fact, it clearly states that it would be inappropriate to draw those kind of conclusions.
“The Lib Dem policy would see drug dealers getting off scot-free and send an incredibly dangerous message to young people about the risks of taking drugs.
“As the report makes very clear, the Government’s approach already provides a good balance between enforcement and treatment, drug use is plummeting as a result and there is simply no chance that we will entertain such a reckless change of course.”
At the beginning of October a review of studies over 20 years found regular cannabis use increases the risk of mental and physical health problems, and may cause intellectual impairment.