Pubdate: Sun, 16 Feb 2014
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Keith Morris
Page: 40


I agree with your editorial ("Time for Britain and the rest of Europe
to join the drugs debate", last week) that the call by Nick Clegg for
the UK and the EU to engage in the debate about drug policy reform
deserves strong cross-party support ("The lesson from Latin America:
we need to rethink the drugs war").

This is the first time that a British minister in office has said what
others have believed but waited until retirement to say. (Yes, I was
one of the officials who also waited.) Nick Clegg has done so on
returning from Colombia, and after conversations with President Juan
Manuel Santos, who was the first president in office to call for
debate on the UN drugs regime  in an interview in the Observer in 2011.

Santos broke a taboo and other Latin American presidents followed.
Between them, they secured agreement to a UN General Assembly special
session on drugs in 2016. That presents a real opportunity for change.

The home affairs select committee studied this issue exhaustively in
2001-02 when the prime minister, as a backbencher, was a member. It
recommended that the UN should look at alternatives to prohibition,
including legalisation. The committee examined the issue again in 2012
and endorsed the 2002 recommendation. It also called for a royal
commission to consider domestic legislation to report by 2015.

Meanwhile, the drugs war had engulfed Mexico and Central America as
well as Afghanistan with devastating results. I believe the evidence
for reform is overwhelming and, while there will be many varying views
on possible new regulatory regimes, there should be wide support for
British and EU backing at the UN in 2016 for flexibility in the
conventions to allow for such experiment.

Sir Keith Morris British ambassador to Colombia, 1990-94, London SE19
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