MPs Signal New Era in Drugs War 

MPs Signal New Era in Drugs War 
Posted by CN Staff on May 21, 2002 at 21:16:08 PT
By Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor
Source: Guardian Unlimited
Ecstasy, the dance drug used by thousands every weekend, should be downgraded from the class A status it shares with heroin and cocaine, according to the results of a year-long official inquiry into Britain's drug laws published today. The long-awaited report by the Commons home affairs committee, chaired by the former Labour minister Chris Mullin also marks the first official recognition that for most young people drug abuse is "a passing phase" that "rarely results in long-term harm" and that criminal punishment should be reserved for the dealers. 
The MPs want to see the creation of a new offence of "supply for gain" so that the penalties imposed by the courts can distinguish between the large-scale commercial dealer and "social dealing" among friends. The landmark report also marks the first time that politicians in Britain have recognised that the case for legalisation is being put forward by "sensible and thoughtful people". Although they say no to legalisation, the MPs concede that a future generation might take a different view and the government should initiate an international debate now on whether legalisation could tackle the global drug problem. As expected the report endorses the home secretary's decision to relax the laws on cannabis. The MPs also call for a radical extension of NHS heroin prescribing in Britain that would undercut the illegal market in class A drugs and drug-related crime, and for the immediate provision of European-style "shooting galleries" - safe-injecting rooms - that would take the most chronic addicts off the street. Their proposals go much further than the limited extension of heroin prescribing to hardcore addicts put forward by the home secretary, David Blunkett. "We have to face the fact that, whether we like it or not, large numbers of young people take drugs," said Mr Mullin. "As far as users are concerned, our priorities should be realistic education, readily available treatment and harm reduction. Above all we have to focus on that relatively small minority of drug users who are making a misery of their own lives and those of others. "The criminal law should be reserved primarily for dealers. Government policy is already moving in that direction and I hope this report will encourage ministers to go further." But last night Mr Blunkett, who tried to pre-empt the inquiry by announcing his decision to relax the law on cannabis, claimed that similar action on ecstasy or on injecting rooms was not on the agenda. "Ecstasy can, and does, kill unpredictably and there is no such thing as a safe dose. I believe it should remain class A. Reclassification of ecstasy is not on the government's agenda," said Mr Blunkett. "I have already made clear that I want to see an appropriate extension of prescribing heroin. However, there are no plans for injecting rooms," he said. But the home secretary said he welcomed the report's focus on education and ways of minimising the harm caused by drugs and announced that he would publish an updated drug policy programme covering dealing, addiction, cannabis and harm minimisation before the end of July. The Home Office also distanced itself yesterday from two "announcements" by the education secretary, Estelle Morris, designed to deflect attention from today's report, involving far tougher penalties for drug dealers who operate near schools and to use "shock videos" in drug education. The Home Office said it had already looked at the school drug dealing point but all the evidence was that the courts were already giving heavier sentences to dealers who sold to children. Support for the home affairs select committee report came last night from the police, drug charities and the Liberal Democrats. The police superintendents' association said it welcomed the shift in emphasis from enforcement to harm reduction and backed the call for the new "supply for gain" offence. Roger Howard of Drugscope, the leading drug charity, said it was "the next steps for drug policy in Britain" and he hoped the government would begin the long-overdue modernisation of the drug laws. Simon Hughes, for the Liberal Democrats, said it was unfortunate the MPs had not gone further and recommended the end of prosecutions for personal possession and use of cannabis. Conservative MP David Cameron, who sat on the inquiry, said: "Drugs policy in this country has been failing for decades. I hope that our report will encourage fresh thinking and a new approach." Special Report: Drugs in Britain --,2759,178206,00.htmlNote: Tolerance is watchword as legalisation is rejected.Newshawk: puff_tuffSource: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Alan Travis, Home Affairs EditorPublished: Wednesday, May 22, 2002Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: letters Unlimited Series & Web Site:Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special Love Not War - Leader Voice Reservations About an Expanded Role Fresh Approach To Clubbers' Drug
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on May 22, 2002 at 06:00:59 PT:
Notice something about this article?
Not a single word about possible US reactions. Most refreshing. Usually there is some blurb about Washington's displeasure. But as has been noted earlier, Shrubya needs the Brits for his planned dustup in Iraq; so he's more likely to keep mum about their changing their US-based approach to a more sensible one.Oh, the times, they are a-changin'...
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment