Nick Clegg has announced that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a commitment to end imprisonment for possessing drugs for personal use, so that no one is sent to prison, where their only offence is one of possession.
Under the proposals, users would instead receive non-custodial sentences and appropriate medical treatment.
Liberal Democrats are calling for an immediate end to prison sentences for people whose only crime is the possession of drugs for personal use.
More than 1,000 people in England and Wales are jailed every year for the possession of drugs for their own use. Many of these people are addicts, suffering from a medical problem and would be more effectively treated in the community.
This proposal is about saying to courts that the very unusual step of imprisoning someone for drug use should no longer be an option. The primary aim for sentences should therefore be to see drug use as a health problem that needs appropriate action.
In the long term, Liberal Democrats want to see a system which will effectively tackle the harms caused by drugs and prioritising resources for medical treatment. In such a system, drug users would be assessed at the police station and those with addiction would be directed to treatment.
“We are never going to win a ‘war on drugs’. Illegal drugs still cause immense harm to the people who use them and to the communities they live in. We need a radically smarter approach if we are serious about tackling this problem.
“Liberal Democrats believe the first step to ending the war is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health problem. Addicts need treatment, not locking up. And it is a nonsense to waste scare resources on prison cells for cannabis users.
“That’s why we will commit to ensuring that nobody in future will go to prison where their only offence is possession of drugs for their own personal use.
“Instead these people should receive non-custodial sentences, and addicts should get the treatment they need to stop using drugs.
“In the longer term we will develop a more effective approach that frees up resources currently spent on prosecuting users, and reinvests that money in treatment and in the fight against organised crime.
“Liberal Democrats believe in a stronger economy and a fairer society. These liberal reforms will ensure that drug users get the help they need and that taxpayers don’t foot the bill for a system that doesn’t work.”