Coffee House

Clegg’s dangerous drugs pledge misses the point

8 August 2014

5:38 PM

8 August 2014

5:38 PM

This morning Nick Clegg announced that the Liberal Democrats want to ban judges from sending those convicted of possessing illegal drugs to prison. This policy may make sense around the dinner tables of the liberal elite, but it would be a betrayal of Britain’s poorest communities who would suffer as a result.

It would, for instance, render neighbourhoods less safe by giving a green light to drug dealers. Nick Clegg assumes it’s easy to tell dealers and users apart, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is no set quantity of drugs that automatically leads to someone being charged with ‘intent to supply’. Unless the suspect admits guilt or there is overwhelming supplementary evidence – such as scales, deal bags, or cutting agents – then even hardened dealers are charged only with possession. One former dealer put it bluntly:

I only ever got done on possession charges – to get convicted of intent to supply you either need to be high or stupid.’

Furthermore, we know former dealers who argue this would dramatically increase drug supply. This is because it makes it easier for dealers to recruit and spread drugs amongst new foot soldiers as they can promise that, carelessness aside, getting caught can never result in prison.


Prison is a necessary tool for judges to use in the most extreme cases. In the case of drug possession it is, rightly, rarely used – only in four per cent of cases are people sent to prison and they spend, on average, just two weeks inside. Prison tends to be reserved for those for whom every other sentencing option has been tried and has failed. We should not be sending first-time drug offenders to prison, but neither should we be banning judges from using it as a last resort.

Rather than this misguided idea we should be working relentlessly to prevent drug abuse and to get people clean. In particular, community-based treatment is in dire need of reform. We send 13,000 offenders on drug rehabilitation courses each year. Yet this expensive and wasteful system cares more about whether offenders are on time for meetings than whether they are getting off drugs. It needs to be focused on abstinence.

There is nothing socially just or liberal about leaving people more vulnerable to the damage of drug addiction. This idea from the Liberal Democrats, however well-motivated, is naive. It would increase dealing, drug use and addiction. The dealers preying on people in our communities will be delighted today.

Edward Boyd is Deputy Policy Director at the Centre for Social Justice

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Show comments
  • charlie williams

    Guess what? Legalise them and then you can regulate the supply. Duh!

  • Gary Smith

    I’m all for banning all drugs. But how do we class

  • Neil McKeganey

    So we are to believe from Steve Rolles and Transform that Nick Clegg is not supporting the removal of criminal penalties for drugs possession. As Steve well knows there is a very clear direction of travel in Nick Clegg’s comments on drugs which is to arrive at a situation where the possession of currently illegal drugs for personal use is no longer a criminal offence- i.e. where drugs possession has become decriminalised. Steve knows this which is why Transform has been such an enthusiastic champion of Nick Clegg’s favoured policies on drugs, including his repeated calls for drug law reform, his calls for a Royal Commission on UK drugs policy and his repeated claim that the war on drugs has failed. If anybody is in any doubt at all about Nick Clegg’s views on decriminalisation then take a look at the following links

    • Transformdrugs

      I don’t really disagree with any of that – I think its pretty obvious thats where the Lib Dems are heading, and Nick Clegg’s views are hardly a secret. And yes, we applaud their more proactive engagement in the reform debate, as we would any policy makers who did the same. None the less, yesterday’s announcement, of what we assume is their manifesto campaign position, was only to end imprisonment for possession, and not ‘decriminalisation of all illegal drugs’ as you have asserted in the conservative Woman blog. heres their offical announcement just to be clear: . Its a pedantic point perhaps, but its important to be represent public positions of others correctly when critiquing them. You don’t mention any of the above in your CW blog but refer to yesterday’s announcement – which i think you’ve clearly misrepresented). For what its worth, my public commentary in various media and on twitter was critical of their timidity, specifically for *not* calling for decriminalisation.

      • davidraynes

        It is very much a pedantic point. Misleading of the innocent observer.

        I did not see their media briefing paper but as I have said, the sources who spoke to me were clear it was about total decriminalisation.

        Clegg is playing the incremental step game, that I accuse you and the whole world wide legalization lobby of following. You are being pedantic and trying to mislead. Small incremental steps that individually do not frighten the public too much.

        Sorry Steve, That is why I frustrate and expose you so often,

        • Transformdrugs

          The LibDems, in all of their announcements, press releases and media coverage ion friday called for ending to incarceration not decriminaisation – and thats whats going in their manifesto. FACT. We have dilligently reported their other positions and statements over the years on wider refroms – and have been part of thoose discussions in many cases so do not accuse US of being miseleading.

          I find you tedious more than frustrating as you NEVER respond to questions, never engage with factual analysis presented and never say what your actual position is. You are unrelentingly negative; only ever attacking, not contributing anything useful at all .You may feel smug about your expertise – but to the innocent observer ‘I am an expert’ is not a strong debating position., And your not ‘exposing’ anything that isnt on our website.

          • davidraynes

            I only claim expertise in understanding serious crime, smuggling & drug trafficking. the area where you have repeatedly, for years, threatened to overturn my arguments against you, by producing an “expert”. (We have not thankfully rehearsed those arguments here, this time).

            You arguments that legalization of all illegal drugs can remove serious criminality from the marketplace, (and which you use as one of the main justifications for your absurd legalization proposition), is specious and bordering on the lunatic. It is so absurd, that I cannot really believe, you believe it. You are in a policy corner on this, so have to say it. If you told or accepted the truth, your whole position would founder.

            My position is extremely simple, I treat drugs use, legal or illegal as a public health issue of immense importance. One of the most grave which confronts society.

            I work assiduously as a volunteer in my own time, to ensure that governments are not mislead by the arguments of Transform and fellow travelers. I believe the lobbyists feign apparent concern for addicts and users, but in reality now represent big business which wishes to exploit addiction .

            I resist any changes to the present regime which in my view is more likely to increase the size of the market, substantially increase use and therefore increase personal and social “total harm”.

            I do not believe we can “arrest ourselves” out our current drug use culture, I do not wish over harsh punishments on users rather than traffickers (especially the young and impressionable).

            The “exposing” comes about because most people, innocent bystanders not immersed in the subject, do not understand the millions of dollars behind the drug legalization movement of which you are a part.

            More money put into changing opinion across the world on this than any other, single, public policy issue

            • Transformdrugs

              OK – Ill reply to this and then bow out as I suspect we will just go around in circles as usual. please feel free top have the last word.

              Regarding the analysis on international organised crime. Ive made no ‘threats’ or promises to you, but we have done substantive work in this area. We have summarised the critique of prohibition in the ‘Alternative world drug report’ – specifically see the sections on crime and economics.

              We have also worked with the International Institute for Strategic Studies for several years on a project that resulted in the book ‘Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States: The problems of prohibition’–insecurity-and-failed-states–the-problems-of-prohibition-sh-bbb4 . The lead author is Nigel Inkster who worked for Mi6 for 31 years, 7 of them as Assistant Chief and Director for Operations and Intelligence. He has published a number of fairly high profile media discussion pieces on all this, as has his co author Virginia Comolli.

              We have also been working closely with Chatham House on the ‘Drugs and Organised crime’ project – which has led to a number opf events and publications

              These are all projects we have helped instigated. supported, and led. Perhaps you missed them – but please don’t accuse us of being idle on this issue.

              I welcome any feedback you have of course – please try harder than merely claiming it ‘is specious and bordering on the lunatic’.

              You say ‘I believe the lobbyists feign apparent concern for addicts and users,
              but in reality now represent big business which wishes to exploit
              addiction’. To me this is deeply offensive, and frankly beyond contempt. I wouldn’t even have expected it from you – i assumed that there was at least some respect between old sparring foes. Our work is absolutely driven by our concern not only for people with drug problems whose lives are made immeasurably worse by criminalisation, but also the millions who suffer abuses in the name of the war on drugs – (see the human rights sections in the Alternative world drugs report), and those who suffer the crime and violence fueled by prohibition. We have a staffed office in Mexico now as you may know – so have some expertise here, although given the above Im not sure if you’ve in fact been paying us much attention.

              Yes – there are business interests funding some US cannabis campaigns. This is not only a concern for us, but a concern for many in the reform field. But to tar the entire global reform movement with this is ridiculous as you must surely know. Its a broad church and not everyone agrees with everyone else on all issues. We do not receive money from any of vested interests and never have – we have even returned donations on occasion. The idea that Transform is dripping with business millions is laughable – I don’t want to crack out the violins, but our funding situation has never been better than a struggle from one year to the next, as with almost all similar small NGOs/charities.
              The sugsestion ‘More money put into changing opinion across the world on this than any other, single, public policy issue’ is probably the most outlandish claim you’ve ever made – Ive never totted it up and wouldnt know where to start – but we cant be talking more than single figure millions globally each year. Quite aside from any other issue (come on, seriously!), how do you think that compares to Big Pharma lobbyists, tobacco and alcohol lobbyists, treatment industry lobbyists, police and prison industry lobbyists, drug testing industry lobbyists, the US State Department and ONDCP, the Home Office, the UNODC, all the various drug free *insert country* organisations and affiliates etc etc etc.

              And to repeat – you don’t need to ‘expose’ us – we freely advertise who we are and what we do. We believe our arguments stand on their own merits and publicly campaign on that basis! You don’t respond to them in any meaningful way – preferring personal attacks and silly conspiracy theories. You dont propose policy alternatives or even offer a coherent defense of the status quo; the above responses are testimony to that.

              If that changes – maybe we can have a sensible discussion. Until then, stop wasting my time.

              • davidraynes

                Yes. I do not know Inkster personally, but I agree with some of the things he has written. Obviously I have worked with others from SIS.

                The record of MI6 operatives on drug trafficking and organized crime is not good. It was never their main bailiewick and when ex MI6 people largely ran the SOCA, especially the intelligence side, it demonstrably failed, did not deliver, had a lack of impact and government eventually said so. Using in fact, eventually, almost exactly my words.

                Those people from SIS did not understand the business, (though Inkster was not among them)

                In fact if you check the history you will find that my early criticisms of of the way SOCA was run, was first robustly attacked, I was denigrated, & personally criticised by SOCA leadership and then, after the lack of impact became obvious, what I said was broadly accepted by the politicians of both main parties.

                I am not aware that Inkster challenges my views of your nonsense on organized crime, I would be astonished if he did and would be happy to debate it with him. ..

                • Transformdrugs

                  Thanks – Unfortunately the book is only available in print.

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    “This idea from the Liberal Democrats, however well-motivated, is naive.”
    A comment that can be made about most if not all ‘policies’ that emanate from the Lib Dems…

  • Ken

    This does, at least, answer a question I often pose when I read a LibDem policy – what on earth was he smoking?

    • davidraynes

      Very good.
      We need a laugh sometimes.

  • bugshead

    Can Clegg please think before he opens his mouth. The only policies that the LIbDems seem to come out with are pitiful. I just hope that they are deservedly destroyed in the next elections and we can clear the air waves from his drivelling dross

    • Tom M

      Agreed bugshead. I sometimes think Clegg and his mates sit up at night having competitions to see who can be more liberal than the other by dreaming up ways to give people money for doing nothing or working less or like this stupid pronouncement on drugs. These people can’t be serious politicians it has to be the result of some infection or mind altering drug we haven’t heard of yet.

      • bugshead

        Clegg studied Social Anthropology at Robinson College, Cambridge. What do you think this serious learning has equipped him for ?

  • AdH2011

    Drug laws in general are ridiculous – especially when it comes to the class C and B ones like Cannabis and Ecstasy. They should be legalised and taxed like cigarettes with proper education of the dangers. Leave it up to the individual to make their own mind up.

    The legal drug ‘Alcohol’ causes far more problems than all the rest put together anyway.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Cull the weak-minded from society. I’m cool with that. Not like we’re short of people.

  • swatnan

    Lib Dems are soft in the head on drugs, and want essentially a free for all policy.
    They want to legitimise the taking of drugs. Mine would be quite the opposite a vigourous war against drugs with stiff penalties for the abusers. I do not believe in the taking of recreational drugs, and it should be stopped, not encouraged.

    • MH

      Drug use is already legitimized and always has been. This country celebrates alcohol from the moment of one’s conception to their wake. It is only the use of certain drugs that receives vilification – a lot of which is based on political conjecture and prejudices. It’s also these types of comments which fail to recognize the distinction between drug use and abuse.

      • swatnan

        There is no such thing as safe’ drugs; you can even overdose on aspirin.

        • MH

          Maybe so, your point being..?

    • Simon Fraser

      Yes, because the current war on drugs in the U.S. is working so, so well! Anyway, why shouldn’t perfectly sane adults be able to take certain drugs if they want to, surely it’s their right as a human being to do as they please, so long as this use does not harm others.

      • swatnan

        You have to be insane to take drugs, ipso facto, nem com.
        I don’t pay my taxes to support your drugtaking habit, and drug rehab and drug patching up and inevitablele drug cremation, thank you.

        • Simon Fraser

          “You have to be insane to take drugs”

          By your standards, you yourself are a nutcase just by having a glass of wine then.

          FYI alcohol has killed far more people than cannabis, LSD, psilocybin, MDMA or DMT.

  • Donafugata

    Who the heck takes any notice of Clegg, a total non-person?

    • Transformdrugs

      For starters, evidently the person who wrote the blog, and the people who read and commented on it.

  • Alexsandr

    I can see this going down well with parents of teenagers who spend their lived scared their kids take up drug taking.
    And people whose kids have to play amongst the discarded needles by the roundabouts and swings.

    • davidraynes

      You are right. In respect of drugs use, legal or illegal, what most parents and grandparents want from the State, is help to protect their kids from drugs use, between the ages of of 12 to 22.

      Normalizing the use of any additional drug, or further facilitating the use of the ones we have, is not what society needs or the electorate wants. That applies even to those parents and grandparents who have themselves used drugs.

      • Transformdrugs

        The question is what policy approach we should use to protect and educate young people and encourage responsible informed lifestyle choices. Our argument is that evidence based prevention, treatment and harm reduction are an effective and appropriate tools, punishment and incarceration are not.

        • davidraynes

          The worldwide historic evidence is that where drugs such as alcohol or tobacco are proscribed or taboo, for social or religious reasons, use is much less and personal and social harm from the drug is much less.

          That lesson, based on evidence, is equally applicable to the illegal drugs that Clegg is talking about. If we as a society increasingly tolerate a “use reinforcing behaviour”, it is likely to increase. If it increases, there will be more personal and social harm.

          Of course though you pretend otherwise, you and your fellow travellers do not really seem to care about increased use. Almost everything you suggest is tending to normalize use. The present regime contains it.

          it is about time Transform stared relying on historic evidence. Young people tend not to make wise “informed choices”, they need social protections. the best prevention is discouragement of the damaging behaviour.

          There is nothing wrong with punishment for certain anti social acts. We accept it right across many types of behaviours. Why should damaging drugs use get a special dispensation?

          It is very difficult in the UK now, to get “incarcerated” for personal possession of drugs, even in quite extreme situations, you will recall the academic who left teenagers in his house where they found and used his drugs “stash” and one died, no incarceration. So those very few who do get incarcerated tend to be very serious cases indeed.Politicians should leave it to the Judges.

          Professor McKeganey has it about right:

          • Transformdrugs

            We are not opposed to prevention – we actively support it, arguing that counterproductive criminal justice resources should be redirected in to prevention treatment and harm reduction that is supported by evidence. We do however argue that punishment, criminalization and jail are not the tools to achieve this – they are expensive, unethical and actively counterproductive. A more detailed case around decrim is made in this report: and although not the issue under discussion, the way we would like to see drug responsibly regulated (and why) is detailed in our Blueprint for Regulation and more recent cannabis regulation guide here: . From your ongoing misrepresentations and misunderstandings of the reform position I can only assume you havent read these yet.

            btw. McKeggany gets it wrong in the first line – saying that Clegg has called for decriminalisation of all drugs when he has not – calling only for non incarceration for personal possession offenses. Ive posted a request for a correction but my comments, always polite even if critical, have never been accepted by the moderators on that site. Critical analysis and factual corrections are apparently not welcome there.

            • davidraynes

              I think you (and Clegg) much exaggerate the significance, in the UK regime, of what you call “incarceration” as can be seen from the link I provide at the bottom.

              I think you do that for your own devious purposes, as part of a piece by piece attempt to mislead the uninitiated & to demolish the current regime in favour of the normalisation/legalization that you and your fellow travellers around the world, campaign for. That is what George Soros wants to achieve. No doubt that is why he gave you his dollars.

              I will tell McKeganey, you say he he has got it wrong, but Clegg is surely on record as wanting cannabis legalized, not just decriminalized. The media people who spoke to me, in advance of the embargo on Clegg’s remarks, all said it was about ALL drugs being decriminalized, so it likely came from somewhere in his media spinning operation.

              Some statistics here;

              • Transformdrugs

                What we call ‘incarceration’ is what everyone calls incarceration – people being sent to prison. You may feel 1200 people jailed each year for possession is insignificant, we do not. It is disproportionate by any judgment, including that of the key UN drug agencies (I dont think yet part of the mythical Soros legalisation illuminati). We and others have argued in detail elsewhere why criminalization specifically and prison in particular is an inappropriate and counterproductive sanction for drug users – even if there may be a good case for some drug dealers (but probably not most). You have yet to respond to any of that substantive analysis (assuming you have read it). The WHO and others agree with us and have made the same case – i trust you will be taking up the debate with them as part of your campaign to defend the status quo, in addition to silly personal attacks on NGOs in Spectator blog comments.

                Certainly the libdems advocate cannabis regulation (with a caveat on UN convention issues being tackled) and have done as official policy since 2002. They have a conference motion backing portugese style decrim of all drugs, and indeed Clegg personally has gone further in the past, when an MEP, supporting wider legalisation. But these are apparently not campaign platforms, at least not yet. This announcement is very specifically and unambiguously not ending incarceration and not decriminalisation (as recommended by ACMD etc) which is apparently what will be their manifesto platform. If decrim was their official platform I presume they would have said, and they clearly haven’t. See: . I have emailed Mckeganny already. Gyngel presumably knows as I posted the comment on her blog (which has been moderated/rejected)

                • davidraynes

                  “You may feel 1200 people jailed each year for possession is insignificant”.

                  Indeed I do, because a) I understand that these will be cases of serious gravity & b) it is a tiny portion of the cases that come before the Courts,

                  I am prepared to trust the Judiciary and the sentencing guidelines. If any of the sentences were inappropriate, sentence could have been successfully appealed.

                  Of course /my/ starting point is not that anti drugs legislation is inappropriate and I am not arguing for legalization of any currently illegal drug, like you or some LibDems are

                  One would need a spreadsheet and a lot of research to examine all those cases in detail but simple “possession” can be an appropriate charge for substantial quantities of drugs in trafficking quantities by repeat offenders. It also is often taken as a plea, to save a long trial over intent to supply. It saves public money because the judiciary has enough scope to reflect the gravity without the more serious charge. You and Clegg, I believe overstate the impact. because you have another agenda other than containing damaging drugs use. Clegg wants votes, you want legalisation.

                  Your call on support from the WHO rather makes me smile, you presumably disagree with the WHO 1997 report on cannabis, a drug which even you have publicly acknowledged, is much more dangerous than you thought. an area where we agree.

                  You selectively cherry pick it seems, that which suits your agenda

                  We should rest it there

      • Simon Fraser

        Sorry, but the prohibition of certain drugs has been exceedingly detrimental to society, because it has prevented (up until now) any research being conducted into it. However, the few research efforts undertaken have found that certain drugs, namely, psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD, have been used to treat terminally ill patients, and the results have been immensely positive; many of those who were treated with drug reported the most profound and meaningful experiences of their lives, and relieved many of their anxieties. Secondly, if you have any interest in music at all, then it is safe to bet that many of those artists you enjoy took drugs at some point during their career, and were perhaps even inspired by the experiences they had. However, stuff like heroin and cocaine I agree seem to be immensely destructive.

      • charlie williams

        Why can’t I decide to smoke marijuana or not?

        • davidraynes

          Well you can, but not and stay within the law.

          Why cannot I, drive at 100 mph when the road is clear enough? It gives me a buzz.

          Similar reasons, for the protection of society,

          Even though I may be able to cope with it, others cannot and there will be personal and social costs.

          • charlie williams

            if you drive too fast on the motorway you increase the risk of death to others, directly. If somebody choses to smoke marijuana, whom else are they causing potential harm to? You have not answered the question: why can’t I decide? Tell me.

            • davidraynes

              Well normalization of that behaviour, even though it may not affect you (but probably will if you are young or you use enough or are one of those who is genetically more vulnerable) will also affect many others, because the drug does that. Harm is caused, not just to the user but to those around the user including, depending on job, work colleagues and the wider public.

              Society picks up the social and medical costs of those damaged by any drugs use, Cannabis crosses the placenta and affects the unborn, it can cause permanent brain damage, it may well affect sperm

              Drugs use, against laws and rules, any drug, not just cannabis, is profoundly anti social act and the effects of addiction tend to affect the poor much more than the rich.

              But of course you knew all that.

              • charlie williams

                I mean this sincerely not sarcastically: I still don’t understand why any of that means that anyone has the right to stop me taking that risk my self. If I chose to smoke it, I am not harming any one else, and I may not be harming myself either, as you indicated. please explain, thank you.

              • charlie williams

                One more thing. Smoking marjuana, in my own home, or on a river in the middle of the countryside…please explain why it is ‘profoundly anti social’. Thank you.

                • davidraynes

                  OK. I will respond just this once. you may be genuine, I give you the benefit of the doubt (your questions are typical “trolling” questions).

                  It is anti social for a substantial number of people to continue to break the law, any law that has been decided upon to protect the vulnerable.

                  Drugs use is enormous numbers of people and not just the user..

                  By increasingly normalising the consumption, more will inevitably use. If more use any particular drug, there will be more personal and social harm. this is true of both legal and illegal drugs.

                  The vulnerable and poor suffer more from drugs use, their lives and opportunities tend to suffer more. hence Scotland’s life expectancy and health problems.

                  I know you are not asking about heroin but it represents a very clear example. To be a rich heroin addict in London, with treatment, clinics, clean needles and social state financed support, is very different to being a heroin using Afghan, unable to support his family.

                  Drugs use is a deeply cultural issue, individuals by their behaviour can affect the culture.

                  Back to where this started, even Clegg, the LibDems and Transform simply arguing to further normalize drugs use, when they know, without any doubt, that harm rises with use, is profoundly anti social .

                • sorryforlaughing

                  So drugs are bad because they are illegal and they are illegal because they are bad.

                  When someone asks me for a circular argument I think i’ll send them your way.

                • charlie williams

                  I am indeed being sincere.

                  I mean this sincerely too: does the law decide your morality for you, or do you decide it?

                  ‘It is anti social for a substantial number of people to continue to break the law, any law that has been decided upon to protect the vulnerable’
                  I still genuinely do not undersand how it is anti social carry out an acitivity that can only harm themselves, if at all. The words anti social obviously imply a negative to others. So, I am fishing on a river in Scotland, I light a joint. There is no one else around. Where is the negative. I would be grateful if you were able to explain this in direct reference to my question, not the ‘law’ since I am sure that you frame your own morality, not in accordance with ‘the law’ but your own compass.

                • Sean L

                  Just because you may actually consume the drug in isolation, in your bedroom or wherever, doesn’t mean there aren’t social consequences. Even in the act of buying it in the first place you, or whoever bought it for you, are helping to fund its further supply and distribution. No easy answers.

  • Transformdrugs

    There is no evidence from the many countries that have stopped imprisoning drug users, or in fact fully decriminalised drug use, that it leads to increases drug supply or decreases community safety. Zero.
    There is also no evidence that prison is an effective deterrent in this context.
    Yes – we certainly need greater investment in prevention and treatment but this can be facilitated by ending the criminalization of the groups we are attempting to help, and redirecting the millions wasted on punishment and jail into such proven health interventions.
    Which other public health field do we base on punishment and jail? It is demonstrably an expensive and counterproductive approach – as has now been acknowledged by the WHO, the ACMD, UNAIDS and many others. The LibDems should be applauded for taking this step – but need to go further and call for decrim as so many other countries across Europe and Latin America already have. Hopefully the other major parties will see sense and follow their lead.

    • davidraynes

      Let us be absolutely clear what Transform is. It is a single issue pressure group set on legalising/normalising drugs use. It has taken money from the rich grandad of the world wide drug legalization movement, George Soros

      In short it is the one of the main, UK based, “Rentavoices” for big business wanting drug legalization.

      Big Business and criminality (and there may not be much between those two characteristics sometimes) simply LOVES, “Use-reinforcing substances and behaviors” because they create, perpetual enslaved, addicted and regular, customers.

      It is a creed without a social conscience and the poor suffer more than the rich, from drugs.

      Millions of dollars have been put by Soros and others into convincing the public that legalizing all drugs would be better than the current situation. Transform’s friend in the US, The Drug Policy Alliance (also paid for largely by Soros) has suggested legalizing everything possible that anyone might want to put into their bodies.

      It is very difficult to see how, given the experience, the EVIDENCE of the tobacco/alcohol model, as variously applied worldwide, the social and personal harm, the human misery, that any society would be better off overall, by normalizing the consumption of even more, addictive and damaging substances.

      Clegg and many noisy Liberal Democrats (not all, some thankfully disagree) are FOR legalization of, particularly cannabis but maybe other drugs. I suggest they have been taken in by the expensive hyperbole of the legalization lobby. I told them this at their conference and Evan Harris got very upset with me.

      Thankfully the two main and serious parties of UK government, are largely, (bar oddball individuals) absolutely united against making drugs use easier or more likely. They have voted together, to reclassify cannabis in the wake of calls by the National Director of Mental Health.. So major change is very unlikely.

      However imperfect the current system, it has CONTAINED use of illegal drugs and broadly, use is dropping in the UK.

      Now is precisely the wrong time to suggest major liberalizing change.

      The article above by Edward Boyd is bang on the money.

      It is actually quite hard in the UK to get sent to prison for possession of “personal use” quantities of ANY illegal drug. As Boyd says there is a muddy area around personal (use) “possession” and “possession with intent to supply” especially in respect of “social dealers”, those who deal just enough to support their own addictive & destructive habit.

      At Court, deals get done, for regular offenders their Lawyer will regard getting an “intent to supply” charge dropped in favour of a guilty plea to “possession”, as a victory. So it is, but the Judge knows what is going on.

      Addicted regular dealers being sent to prison would actually be a very good tactic if prison treatment regimes were improved.

      It is in the interests of both the addict and society, to use that line in the sand, of imprisonment, to kick start treatment. As we all know, addicts do not have to stay addicts, to anything, but there are signs of an industry developing that wants that situation. It is after all, their customers too.

      It is generally ill advised for politicians to tie the hands too much, of the judiciary

      Clegg’s mid summer spasm, is just that, a spasm. Probably the result of Clegg’s man, Norman Baker, getting absolute rejection of these proposals by Theresa May.

      It is is very unwise to interfere in a behaviour control system if one of the likely consequences of the interference is much more, of the undesirable anti social behaviour.

      This is desperation for a brief headline, by a desperate politician. His probable mentor on legalization, the evangelical Evan Harris, lost his seat, probably largely, over his views on drugs.

      We can but hope.

      • Transformdrugs

        David – you are not needed to ‘be absolutely clear’ about what Transform is – we can do that, and in no way hide our views or funders. We advocate legal regulation of currently illegal drugs and far from being a secret agenda, we actively campaign on it. There’s no conspiracy theory here. No sock puppets or sneakyness. But suggesting we are a ‘rentavoice’ for big business is just childish slander. Playground stuff – no more sensible than us suggesting you are working for the prison idisutiral complex or ‘big treatment’ (obviously we arent and you’re not – in fact we just disagree on some issues). We have had some money from from OSF for the last 3 years of our 15 years of operation – before that we have been funded, always completely openly as all charities and NGOs are, by a range of charitable trusts and individuals – can we move on now?

        This question at hand, however, is NOT about legalisation, and certainly not about reclassification of cannabis or other dated preoccupations you may have. It is specifically about ending incarceration for dug possession offenses – something we understood from previous conversation you broadly supported on general principle that it was disproportionate and ineffective use of limited funds. Half of these imprisonments – and at 1200 a year, it is not an insignificant number – are for cannabis. Do you suggest this is sensible or proportionate? Do you suggest prison should be used to kick start treatment for alcohol or tobacco? if it works as you claim – why not?

        In what other areas of public health do you think punishment and jail are the appopriate form of intervention – Obesity? perhaps we should ban pork scratching and imprison people for possession. Diabetes? – should we send in the special forces to round up middle aged men with waistlines over 40 inches?

        Your views on legalisation aside (not being proposed or discussed here), do you or do you not advocate criminalisation of drug use? Lets be clear – to borrow your phrase – that ending crimainlisation of users has now been unambiguously supported by the World Health Organisation – not to mention the 20+ countries who have adopted such approaches. Have they all been hoodwinked by the wicked legalisation illuminati of your fevered imagination? Even the UNODC and INCB have been clear that such approaches are both permissible and proportionate – and said that drug users should not be imprisoned. Are you so afraid of legalisation that you are happy to see 250million people across the world criminalised for a consenting adult choice?

        Rather than catty comments about people and organisations you disagree with how about some evidence based arguments in favour of your position. Or maybe how about telling us what your position is; what is it you want? Who is it you want jailed in your brave new world of effective drug policy?

        • davidraynes

          Say who you are and I will respond.

          I do not attribute a secret agenda, I just explain it. To those who do not understand exactly what you are and who you represent and speak on behalf of.

          Do not hide behind the Transform badge. There are quite a lot of you.

          Soros can afford quite a lot of you.

          The core leadership of Transform, for me at least, have sociopathic tendencies.

          One of the instigators of Transform, told me, several years ago, that he was, in his own words, “worried about his problem cannabis habit”.

          Maybe the time has come, to expose exactly who that was and what else he said.

          Why does he want to foist that possibility. of a personal drug problem, on my grandchildren? How will his position benefit them and the society into which they grow?

          The world is watching.

          • Transformdrugs

            David – Its Steve Rolles here responding on behalf of Transform. Anyone can follow me at @stevetransform , google me, or read stuff ive written on Im not hiding, I’m just doing my job as a representative and spokesperson for my organisation.

            I’m entirely unwilling to get drawn on your attempts to undermine our organisation with childish personal attacks, or vague playground threats to expose non-secrets you have in your ‘files’. In contrast to your rote responses to anything Transform posts, you’ll note that when we engage with those who may disagree with us, including you, we don’t focus on you, your past, or your drug use – but the issues, facts and and analysis.

            If you want to discuss drug policy – lets do that. Just a reminder: The discussion was about whether we should imprison people for possession of drugs for personal use.

    • Callan

      There is no evidence? A rather sweeping statement. Can you refer us to the research or the government reports from these “many countries”. The legalising of cannabis in certain states of the USA for example has seen cannabis shops proliferating and the pot smokers queuing up in droves in their enthusiasm to stupefy themselves. Hopefully the major parties will see sense, ignore the idiot Clegg and try to keep drugs off the streets and particularly out of our schools. You infer, “Prevention can be facilitated by ending criminalisation ….” So, if the police stop arresting drug dealers that will lead to a decrease in drug taking? Really?

      • Transformdrugs

        cannabis legalisation is an important issue – but the question here was specifically about the criminalisation and imprisonment of people for posession for personal use. as many countries have already made this move there is in fact a good body of evidence with whihc to assess the impacts:

        See this summary (I am co-author):
        this more detailed assessment: – it includes links to comparative studies between decrim and non-decrim jurisdictions
        or the recent report from the Organisation of American States:

        On Portugal – perhaps the highest profile example in Europe – which decriminalised in 2001, see this review of conflicting interpretations of the evidence:
        And this new report from Transform which includes the latest data:

        • davidraynes

          I was in Portugal three times last year researching & discussing their drug problems, including with parliamentarians. Our regime is working better in terms of reducing use. There is no doubt whatsoever.

          Many there think they have made a big mistake and because of that, they have been much more robust than the UK in dealing with “Headshops” and what the tabloids call “legal highs”.

          it is very hard for governments to admit to major policy errors but Portugal made one and is clawing its way slowly back. Our last (Labour) government made one when it downgraded cannabis, putting it back up again 5 years later.

          The Portuguese system has been oversold by the legalization lobby because they see decriminalization as “opening doors” for further policy changes.

          The legalizing lobby have said as much, in their own non public meetings, which is why they push decriminalization so hard. as a “first step” to full drug use normalization/leglization.

          Sadly Clegg has become a co-conspirator.

          • Transformdrugs

            The evidence on Portugal is there for all to see – i have linked some relevant info above. It is not disputed by the Portugese Government (who have recommended our briefing), the INCB (who have acknowledged welcomed the Portugese success) or EMCDDA. Its important to be clear – as we have been – that the decriminalisation itself is only a part, perhaps even a small part of the positive outcomes witnessed there. The reinvestment of CJS spend into health provision has been as or more important. the law change however creates and enabling environment for these health interventions.

            There is no suggestion that they are ‘clawing back’ anything – the policy has enjoyed growing and widespread public and cross party support to the extent that the health provisions that were part of the wider reorientation from punitive to health models have been insulated from recent recession driven cuts.

            We have been perfectly open in acknowledging that decrim of users is both important in itself, but also a necessary step to wider reforms – should governments choose to go further (although that doesn’t of course mean they have to). The pragmatic harm reduction arguments we and others have made for both are not dissimilar – they are on a spectrum or continuum of reform as we have described. Legalisation and regulation obviously also involves decriminalisation of users. The difference is that decriminalization (and definitions are important here – see links above) is permissable within the UN conventions, but legalisation is not – and reforms have to progress within the parameters of what is politically possible. We also make the case for convention refrom – but that is a seperate issue.

            Your problem appears to be that paranoia about the imagined nightmare of drug markets regulated by governments rather than gangsters means you cannot tolerate *any* move away from the punitive tenets of prohibition and the war on drugs. For many groups you associate with this appears to be the case even when horrendous abuses are being committed, or when the overwhelming weight of scientific and expert opinion is against you (as is the case for decrim). This creates a ratchet effect – policy can only ever move in one direction. Even Sabet and SAM – the more vocal anti-legalisation group, porbably in the world – have relented and now advocate a Portugese style model for cannabis possession offences. Is anyone who disagrees with you a co-conspirator. What is this conspiracy – please tell us? Is sabet part of it.

            Please answer any of the questions posed and or tell us your position on anything. Personal attacks on people you disagree with don’t win friends or arguments.

            • davidraynes

              But we already HAVE a UK caution system for most cannabis offences. we have had it for some time. You have never heard me speak against it, What on earth are you on about. I tried to encourage such a scheme for small cases 40 years ago.

              in Portugal they have been discussing reducing their 10 days supply, toleration model to three. I am surpised you seem unaware of that.

              As for removing regulation by criminality, we have argued for years about if that is really possible. I have told you and like it or not I am an expert on international drug markets, that your view is nonsense.

              You threatened me years ago with an academic paper which would destroy my arguments (which I will not rehearse again here).

              I am still waiting for your paper, years after the threat was issued.

              Bluff called I think

              • Transformdrugs

                Yes we have a cannabis warning system in the UK – and around 80k of these are issued each year. the number of cautions and prosecutions is similar (both of which entail a criminal record – so cannot come under the banner of decriminalisation by any reasonable definition) have remained stable – so since that change, if anything, *more* cannabis users have been coming into contact with the CJS. Tens of 1000s of young people are getting crimainl records for cannabis posession every year and we have a problem with that for well rehearsed reasons.

                My Transform colleagues and I have written about many aspects of the drug law reform debate -I dont know which you are refering to – but et me know and ill direct you to our relevant analysis. I think we covered most bases in the Alternative world drug report – have you read that? But my job is not to please you unfortunately, and lets face it – judging by the Portugal example you aren’t likely to agree with whatever analysis I produced anyway – especially if your argument, as above, literally consists of ‘I am an expert and you are talking nonsense’

              • sorryforlaughing

                ” I am an expert on international drug markets”

                That’s very interesting because I have worked closely with many of the leading global experts on international drug markets and I’ve never heard of you.

          • sorryforlaughing

            “Many there think they have made a big mistake”

            I have lived in Portugal for the past 5 years and this is absolute rubbish. You would have to actively search out people who believe drug decriminalisation was a mistake and there would be very very few of those.

            This is an incredibly popular policy that has had real positive consequences for Portuguese society.

      • davidraynes

        Transform does not like evidence that does not suit its purpose,

        It is a crusading organization started by a person who wanted to continue his own drugs habit..He has told me as much.

        You are right about the US, in some parts there are now more cannabis shops than Starbucks. Big Marijuana is taking over.

        • Transformdrugs

          Steve Rolles here – please respond to the points Ive made rather than avoiding them by resorting to unpleasant personal attacks on someone else.

          I have linked to the evidence as we see it, all carefully referenced to official and academic sources. I would welcome your analysis or response – and would be happy to respond to any evidence or analysis you present.

  • CharlietheChump

    Let them put it to the electorate next year and we can all say bye bye to the yellow cleggie chancers

  • andagain

    Presumably you want to ban alcohol, too. To protect people in the poorest communities. As in prohibition.