Leading doctor calls for decriminalisation of drugs

Former president of the Royal College of Physicians says blanket ban has damaged health and encourag

The government should consider decriminalising drugs because the policy of prohibition has harmed public health and encouraged organised crime, a leading doctor has said.

Sir Ian Gilmore, the former president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said he agreed that drug laws should be "reconsidered with a view to decriminalising illicit drugs use". He formed his view after seeing the problems caused by dirty needles and contaminated drugs.

He said: "There's a lot of evidence that the total prohibition of drugs, making them totally illicit and unavailable, has not been successful at reducing not only the health burden, but also the impact on crime. I'm trying to take a fresh look, as many people have done. There is a strong case for trying a different approach. I'm not saying we should make heroin available to everyone, but we should be treating it as a health issue rather than criminalising people."

Danny Kushlick, from Transform, said Sir Ian's comments were "another nail in prohibition's coffin".

He went on: "With a prime minister and deputy prime minister both long-standing supporters of alternatives to the war on drugs, at the very least the government must initiate an impact assessment comparing prohibition with decriminalisation and strict legal regulation."

But the government criticised Gilmore's comments and said it did not believe this was the right approach.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.

"The government does not believe that decriminalisation is the right approach. Our priorities are clear; we want to reduce drug use, crack down on drug-related crime and disorder and help addicts come off drugs for good."