A former Labour justice secretary has called for the legalisation of all drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy, and an end to the Government’s ‘pernicious war on drugs’.
Ex-Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said heroin should be available on prescription as he publicly challenged Jeremy Corbyn to live up to his radical image by scrapping Britain’s tough anti-drugs laws.
He claimed the ban on such drugs was responsible for killing ‘tens of thousands’ of British people and was ‘an attack on the working class’.
Sparking criticism from anti-drugs campaigners, Lord Falconer said Labour should ‘legalise and regulate the supply of drugs’ to protect people from ‘the cruel consequences of a wrong policy’.
Former Labour justice secretary Lord Falconer has called for the legalisation of all drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy. Here he is pictured during his time as Lord Chancellor
He said last night: ‘I know my suggestions will provoke strong protests, but many scientists, doctors, politicians and police officers are coming round to this view.’
The peer added: ‘It is better to sell mild and medically safe versions of drugs that give a high than ones sold by gangsters that kill thousands.’
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘This idea is dangerously irresponsible.
‘It is an example of Labour’s shameful refusal to tackle serious social problems and would lead to even more lives being ruined by drugs.’
Lord Falconer, 66, who was head of the judiciary in Tony Blair’s government, also issued a scathing attack on the former prime minister.
He derided Mr Blair’s famous slogan, ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’, as a cynical ‘cliche’.
It was ‘the ultimate political soundbite, authoritarian and liberal at the same time’ but was a ‘betrayal’ of Labour supporters, who were the biggest victims of drug addiction, he said.
Lord Falconer, whose call for the legalisation of drugs was timed to coincide with the Labour Party conference in Liverpool this week, said it was a ploy by Mr Blair to keep Labour’s critics at bay, but made it impossible for the party to ‘acknowledge the damage done’ by criminalising drugs.
‘We criminalised generations caught up in drugs, betraying people who should have been able to look to Labour for a way out of their abandoned hell,’ he said.
Lord Falconer is the most senior political figure to call for all drugs to be legalised. In an extraordinary U-turn, he said he regretted his role in the jailing of drugs offenders as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary between 2003 and 2007.
The Labour peer, Mr Blair’s former flatmate and a key member of his Downing Street inner circle, issued a frank mea culpa.
Writing on the website UnHerd, he said: ‘I am sorry for supporting the war on drugs.
‘We can see with shocking clarity that it has been a tragic disaster. I am not the only politician who has pushed this doomed policy.
‘Yet my responsibility was more than most since I was in charge of the justice system that put prohibition into action.’
He urged Mr Corbyn to pledge to legalise drugs in Labour’s next election manifesto and reject the tough anti-drugs laws supported by both main parties for 50 years.
Lord Falconer argued that recent disclosures concerning the way in which thousands of children were being exploited to deal drugs by so-called county-lines gangs – urban dealers who swamp rural communities with drugs – was further evidence that the current laws were not working.
Britain should ‘go further’ than Portugal, he said, where drug use was decriminalised in 2001. Similar drugs law reforms were taking place in Canada, South Africa and some US states.
The Labour grandee added that there was ‘no reason why this cannot be done here for all other drugs’, with different rules for some substances. For example, heroin would only be available on prescription, with support from a doctor.
Lord Falconer, the most senior Blair minister to have served in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, in which he was justice spokesman until June 2016, said: ‘I have changed my mind and am now of the view Labour cannot achieve its goals for the poor if drugs prohibition remains in place.
‘Labour should call for an end to the drug war and commit to the legal regulation of drug production and supply in its next manifesto. We have a radical leader. We abandoned whole generations to the scourge of drug addiction and need to listen to police chiefs pushing for saner policies and take back control of drug supply from violent gangsters.’
Mr Corbyn signed a motion calling for cannabis to be decriminalised in 2000, but has not backed the move since becoming Labour leader.
Sir Vince Cable’s Lib Dems support a ‘regulated cannabis market’, claiming it would earn £1billion for taxpayers and avoid wasting police time.
But Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated that she has no intention of relaxing anti-drugs legislation.
Under existing laws, anyone caught possessing cannabis can be jailed for up to five years, although many argue that this is not enforced.
Some police forces have been accused of refusing to enforce anti-cannabis laws, and the Chief Constable of Durham came under fire for saying he no longer arrested all heroin dealers.