The Sun backs calls for relaxation of drugs laws

The campaign to decriminalise the possession of drugs took a leap forward today after Britain's biggest selling newspaper endorsed a call by the deputy prime minister for a radical rethink of the law.

Nick Clegg told The Sun that members of the public should no longer go to jail for drugs possession.

"The first thing we want to end and we're committing as the Liberal Democrats to end, is chucking people behind bars because they have in their possession for their own personal use, drugs," he said.

"What those people need is not to get put behind bars but treatment."

The Liberal Democrats will include a pledge to decriminalise drugs possession in their next manifesto.

The Sun endorsed Clegg's call for a radical rethink of the law, saying that current laws had "failed" to tackle the problem.

In a striking U-turn, the paper which has long campaigned against drugs, said it was now "high time" for change.

"Nick Clegg makes a powerful argument for reform of our drug laws," the paper's editorial says.

"Twenty years ago Mr. Clegg's plan would have seemed dangerously radical. Now after decades of failed attempts to stem the scourge of drugs it starts to sound like common sense."

The paper urged the prime minister to look again at the law.

"Two years ago the PM rejected calls for a Royal Commission on drugs policy.

"It's high time for a rethink."

Clegg's announcement and The Sun's newly liberal approach to the issue marks a major milestone in the campaign to reform drugs law.

The Sun's sister paper the Sun on Sunday was recently forced to suspend their investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood, after the drugs trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos, instigated by the paper, collapsed.

The Conservative party remain opposed to any relaxation of the law.

However, the Home Office have agreed to conduct a new study of drugs policy across the world including in countries where the law has been relaxed.

Clegg said the issue of drugs should stop being a criminal matter and instead become a health issue.

"Liberal Democrats believe the first step is to recognise that drug use is primarily a health problem. Addicts need treatment, not locking up. It is a nonsense to waste scarce resources on prison cells for cannabis users," he said in a statement this morning.

"Simply chucking people into prison and turning a blind eye is the lazy option because all it ends up doing is making the problem worse.

"I’ve always believed that if you’re anti-drugs you should be pro-reform. That’s why we will ensure nobody will go to prison where their only offence is possession of drugs for their own personal use.

"Instead these people should receive non-custodial sentences and addicts should get the treatment they need to stop using drugs.

"These reforms will ensure that drug users get the help they need and that taxpayers don’t foot the bill for a system that doesn’t work."