She added that there should be more help, such as psychiatry, so people could turn their lives around earlier.
The duke then asked whether prison tackles the root cause of why someone is taking drugs, to which Blackburn replied: “No, it just punishes what you’ve done, not the reasons why.”
Recovering alcoholic Grace Gunn, 19, who is training to become a midwife, told the future king: “You can’t just say, you know, ‘drugs are illegal’ or ‘now we can all go and do drugs’, because it doesn’t stop the fact we’re a nation of people hurting, and we can’t undo all that overnight. It takes a long period of time.”
Jason Malham, a 45-year-old recovering heroin addict originally from Melbourne in Australia, said: “Personally, I believe that they should not be made legal.”
At the end of the discussion the duke thanked the group for giving him a “very useful little snapshot”, adding: “Talking to you and being here it feels like a question I had to ask, I appreciate your honesty.”
As he said his goodbyes William, in a jokey reference to the birth of his third childexpected next spring, told Gunn: “All the best with the midwifery – might see you sooner than you think.”
William’s question to the recovering addicts was welcomed by Danny Kushlick, head of external affairs at Transform, a charitable thinktank that campaigns for the legal regulation of drugs in the UK and internationally.
Kushlick said: “The protocol in the [Westminster] village is ‘we don’t talk about drugs’. That’s why we appreciate the courage and foresight of Prince William to be stepping into the debate where even seasoned politicians won’t go.”
The government’s drug policy is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. In its drug strategy, published in July it said: “We have no intention of decriminalising drugs. Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.
“Drug misuse is also associated with much wider societal harms including family breakdown, poverty, crime and anti-social behaviour. We are aware of decriminalisation approaches being taken overseas, but it is overly simplistic to say that decriminalisation works.”