Legalise drugs says ex-minister

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Former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth has called for the Government to consider legalising drugs, saying prohibition has failed to protect the public.

The war on drugs has been "nothing short of a disaster" and it is time to study other options, including decriminalising possession of drugs and legally regulating their production and supply, Mr Ainsworth said.

Referring to the legalisation of alcohol in the United States after 13 years of prohibition, he said: "After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs."

The Labour backbencher, who was previously a Home Office drugs minister, said politicians and the media needed to engage in a "genuine and grown up debate" about alternatives to prohibition, so "we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our

children and communities".

He said: "Prohibition has failed to protect us.

"Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harms to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit.

"We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs.

"It is time to replace our failed war on drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children.

"We must take the trade away from organised criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists."

Mr Ainsworth called on those on all sides of the debate to support "an independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options, including further resourcing the war on drugs, decriminalising the possession of drugs, and legally regulating their production and supply".

Former Conservative Party deputy leader Peter Lilley said it was time "for all politicians to stop using the issue as a political football".

"I have long advocated breaking the link between soft and hard drugs – by legalising cannabis while continuing to prohibit hard drugs," he said.

"But I support Bob Ainsworth's sensible call for a proper, evidence based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalisation,

and legal regulation."

HELPING HAND: Ben Wilson, MD at MPM, with Victoria Hopkins, MD at Hopkins Catering. PIC: Tony Johnson

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