Source: BBC News
16 december 2010
Bob Ainsworth, who oversaw the issue at the Home Office in Tony Blair’s government, said the approach of successive administrations had failed.
The Labour MP for Coventry North East, also a former defence secretary, said the current policy left the drugs trade in the hands of criminal gangs.
Ministers have insisted they remain opposed to decriminalisation.
Mr Ainsworth is the most senior politician so far to publicly call for all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, to be decriminalised.
He said he realised while he was a minister in the Home Office in charge of drugs policy that the so-called war on drugs could not be won.
Mr Ainsworth has called for a strict system of legal regulation under which different drugs would either be prescribed by doctors or sold under licence.
The Labour backbencher said successive governments had been frightened to raise the issue because they feared a media backlash.
But he predicted in the end ministers would have no option but to adopt a different approach and consider decriminalisation.
He said: “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.”
Mr Ainsworth said billions of pounds was being spent “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,” he said.
“We must take the trade away from organised criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists.”
BBC political correspondent Norman Smith says it seems highly unlikely there will be any imminent change in drugs policy, despite Mr Ainsworth’s intervention.
All three main parties at Westminster remain opposed to decriminalisation.
Last week Home Secretary Theresa May said the government’s drugs strategy would remain focused on rehabilitation and reducing supply.Republish