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, went on: “Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities.
“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.
“One way to do this would be an impact assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act in line with the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee finding – which included David Cameron – for the Government to explore alternatives to prohibition, including legal regulation.”
Mr Ainsworth also criticised the Government’s new drugs strategy, which aims to shift the focus from reducing the harm caused by drugs to recovery as the most effective route out of dependency.