|Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.|
The Liberal Democrats are to call for the decriminalization of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, to be considered urgently by the Coalition Government in an effort to cut levels of addiction.
The party's conference is preparing to back demands for Britain's "harmful" and "ineffective" drug laws dating back 40 years to be swept away and replaced with an entirely new strategy for tackling drug use says the UK Independent.
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has previously supported drug decriminalization, is understood to be relaxed about his party committing itself to such a contentious policy proposal.
But it would be bound to provoke tensions with the party's Conservative coalition partners, who strongly oppose reform of drugs laws.
The Liberal Democrats look certain to call for the immediate establishment of an expert panel to draw up plans to decriminalize all illicit substances.
The proposed reform is based on legislation in Portugal, where the personal use of any controlled drug is no longer a criminal offence.
Although its possession will still be illegal, users would no longer face a jail sentence or fine, but would instead be required to undergo treatment or counseling for their habit. The current penalties for dealing would remain.
A motion to be debated by the conference says: "Individuals, especially young people, can be damaged both by the imposition of criminal records and by a drug habit. The priority for those addicted to all substances must be healthcare, education and rehabilitation, not punishment."
It argues: "Those countries and states that have decriminalized possession of some or all drugs have not seen increased use." The motion adds that "heroin maintenance clinics" set up in Switzerland and the Netherlands as an alternative to jail for addicts have had great success in reducing crime and the prevalence of hard drugs.
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