DUNCAN BARKES: It’s time for some new ideas to tackle drugs

I FIND myself in the odd position of agreeing with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

His view that the war on drugs is unwinnable is probably correct.

Clegg’s party says it will publish an alternative strategy shortly, having completed a study of the impact of decriminalisation of marijuana in Uruguay and some states in the USA.

It also says Britain must end the conspiracy of silence surrounding the issue.

Hundreds of millions of pounds has been spent over the decades, warning and educating society of the dangers of drugs. It has not worked. The use of illegal drugs is rampant and in some cases quite blatant.

Take a stroll along the promenade in Worthing or Bognor Regis and the smell of hash is carried on the breeze, especially at the weekend.

A look at the eyes of many late-night clubbers instantly reveals they are in a state created by more than several pints and a few shots of cheap booze.

Use of illegal drugs is widespread. Many youngsters tell me they choose to get their kicks from a banned narcotic rather than drink alcohol.

Society is changing, so perhaps the law should, too.

Our legal system can put people in prison for possession of Class A, B and C drugs – something that seems utterly ridiculous and a waste of prison space that could be housing those who have committed more serious crimes.

The issue of decriminalising or legalising certain drugs is, of course, politically toxic and it is a brave politician who suggests it.

Certain elements of the British media would have a coronary at the prospect.

I can well imagine the Daily Mail imploding at such an idea, but

ignoring this very real issue is foolish and dangerous.

There is some evidence to suggest that by decriminalising drugs, their usage drops. Many cite Portugal as an example of where this approach has been effective. Since it decriminalised all drugs in 2001, the Portuguese drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states.

I am not necessarily pro-drugs; they can do untold damage and cause death, but then so can legal stimulants such as alcohol and tobacco.

Decriminalisation needs to be considered, but why not be brave and legalise marijuana?

Control it, tax it, and make it available from a licensed outlet. That is what is happening in Colorado where state officials are using the tax revenue to invest in school construction.

It is an idea I could see myself supporting.

The war on drugs has been lost. It is time for fresh thinking.