The former deputy prime minister was among the leading figures calling on governments to decriminalise and regulate all drugs.
Nick Clegg has joined an influential group of public figures – including former prime ministers and presidents – in calling for a global drug policy reform in a new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy.
The former Liberal Democrat, who was Deputy Prime Minister in the coalition with the Tories between 2010 and 2015, told iNews that public opinion on drugs has shifted towards support for the decriminalisation of drugs.
Mr Clegg said: “If you look at trends generally around the world, we are seeing trends more towards the decriminalisation of drug use, particularly cannabis.
“The public isn’t daft on this stuff, most people will know of someone who uses drugs and they will understand that drugs come in different shapes and sizes, there are different effects, and some people use them in ways that are not hugely problematic.”
The report comes right after a proposal by the current UK government led by Boris Johnson that would punish drug users by confiscating their passports or driving licences, among other measures.
While the prime minister has announced a 10-year drug strategy targeting drug dealers, the above-mentioned proposal is highly unlikely to be made into law.
Meanwhile, even if it’s just a PR stunt, the message is clear: the targeting of drug users shows us that the UK is once again going backwards.
Mr Clegg wants governments to treat drug use as a health issue, rather than a criminal one.
“In what rational world would you treat something where the existing approach is leading to more and more harm, more and more deaths and greater and greater profits for organised criminality?
“Why would you persist with the same philosophy? In what world is a public health issue solved by enriching criminals?
“There seems to be some quite interesting stuff buried in there, particularly on diversionary community-based schemes and extra funding for treatments.
“But as ever, it’s smothered by the stuff that the tabloids lap up that the Government feels the need to give them on slightly gimmicky stuff, like confiscating passports which won’t make the blindest bit of difference.”
The report, published on Tuesday, argues that prohibition has failed. The number of drug users has grown from 185 million to 269 million between 1998 and 2018.
The $100bn/year spent on enforcing strict drug laws were just a waste of money.
Mr Clegg said: “I think certainly in the West, there has to be a reason why the US and Germany have changed as radically as they have.
“Because they are responding to evidence and understand there is public support for doing something different.
“It was Richard Nixon who coined the phrase ‘war on drugs’ and now that the vast majority of people are in favour of drugs reform in the US is a huge thing and over time will have a big knock-on effect.”