INVERCLYDE MP Ronnie Cowan believes that the ‘war on drugs’ is failing  – and says he is open to discussing decriminalisation.

The SNP man, elected last May on a landslide, says it is time for reform of the zero tolerance approach that includes prosecuting drug addicts for possession and non-violent crimes.

Inverclyde has one of the worst drug problems in the country, with a high rate of drug-related deaths and hospitalisation.

The MP believes minds must now be opened to possible policy changes and has invited a campaign group to the area who argue for decriminalisation and other reforms.

Mr Cowan said: “We have to ask the question.

“I am willing to listen to all the arguments.

“The current drug policy is not working and there needs to be change.

“That is absolutely the case.

“We need to open up the debate.

“This is the direction we should be going in.

“I believe the policies we have are impacting unfairly on the very poorest and most vulnerable in society.”

The MP has backed the arguments of the LEAP group, led by a former Strathclyde Police officer, after they lobbied MPs in Westminster.  Mr Cowan has also spoken out in favour of reforms in other countries like Portugal, where drugs were decriminalised and health laws reformed to prioritise the treatment of addicts

The MP added: “I was very impressed with LEAP. I see absolute sense in what they are saying They are very informed people who have experience first hand.”

Police Scotland has repeatedly stressed that locking up drug dealers and taking illegal substances off the street is their top priority.

But the new Inverclyde MP argues that the current policies are simply not tackling the root of the problem.

He believes that the prohibition of drugs gives dealers complete control of what is bought and sold on the streets.

He added: “We need education and understanding.

“Being a drug addict is not a life choice, it is an illness.”