The Duke of Cambridge has entered the debate on whether to legalised drugs in Britain, saying it is now a “massive question” to be faced.
The Duke, who was visiting a charity, asked recovering addicts whether they believed the law on illegal substances should be changed, calling them “the key people” to give insight on the “big dangers” surrounding drug use.
Saying it “feels like a question I had to ask”, the Duke acknowledged the “growing pressure” to change the regulation of drugs use in the UK.
Royal aides emphasised that the Duke had been careful not to offer his own opinion, but said he was “not immune” to the debate after working with charities helping those affected by addiction.
The Home Office said it the Government “has no plans to decriminalise drug misuse”.
The Liberal Democrat’s most recent General Election manifesto called for the legalisation of cannabis so that it could be sold in a regulated market.
Last year, a report from the Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health suggested that the "war on drugs" had failed. It argued criminalising drugs lead to greater long-term harm by causing users to be excluded from employment and education, as well as exposing them to more drugs in prison.
Yesterday (tues), the Duke spoke as he visited the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT), which for more than 50 years has provided services for alcohol and drug addicts.
Sitting in an art room used by the charity based in Shoreditch, London, the Duke spoke to three recovering addicts, who had been affected by drugs or alcohol.
"Can I ask you a very massive question - it's a big one,“ he said. “There's obviously a lot of pressure growing in areas about legalising drugs and things like that. What are your individual opinions on that?
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"I know it's a big question, but you seem like the key people to actually get a very good idea as to, you know, what are the big dangers there - what are the feelings?"
Heather Blackburn, 49, said she thought the legalisation of drugs was "a good idea", with the money used to prosecute users better spent on help for those who turned to illegal substances after “massive trauma”.
The Duke asked "So there needs to be more of a social element to it?", adding: "So prison doesn't tackle the root cause of why someone is taking drugs?"
Ms Blackburn replied: "No, it just punishes what you've done, not the reasons why."
As he left, the Duke said: “You guys have seen it and it's affected your lives in ways I can only imagine, so it's very interesting to hear that from you.
"Talking to you and being here it feels like a question I had to ask, I appreciate your honesty."
A Royal aide said afterwards: “He has long taken a keen interest in the issue of homelessness and is not immune to the fact that addiction can play a big part in this.
“If there is a social issue then he believes it is important not to talk about it in the abstract but ask questions of and listen to those who are affected.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “This Government has no plans to decriminalise drug misuse. There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that controlled drugs are harmful and can damage people's mental and physical health, and our wider communities.
"In July we released a comprehensive new drugs strategy, setting out a balanced approach which brings together police, health, community and global partners to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.”
Transform, a think tank which campaigns for the legal regulation of drugs, praised the Duke for his approach, saying: "Transform is delighted that Prince William has the courage to ask one of the most crucial questions of our time.
“Going where angels fear to tread, the prince is asking the hardest question in an area that has been tragically neglected by our most senior politicians.”