Pubdate: Sun, 19 May 2002
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Tom Robbins


A report from the cross-party home affairs select committee, due on 
Wednesday, is widely expected to say cannabis should be downgraded from a 
class B to a class C drug. This would mean it remained illegal but 
possession of it would attract a caution or a fine rather than arrest.

The committee is also likely to suggest that ministers consider setting up 
"shooting galleries" where addicts can inject drugs under medical 
supervision in a safe, clean room.

Most controversial will be the report's verdict on ecstasy, the drug taken 
by an estimated 500,000 young people in nightclubs each weekend. An early 
draft suggested that it, too, should be downgraded from class A to class B, 
but some members of the committee are thought to have objected. Last week a 
coroner described taking the drug as "like playing Russian roulette" after 
hearing the case of Kirsty Mendy, 17, a student who died after taking two 
ecstasy tablets.

The MPs will strongly endorse the Lambeth experiment where possession of 
small amounts of cannabis is no longer an arrestable offence. David 
Blunkett, the home secretary, has already proposed the reclassification of 
cannabis and with the MPs' backing a change in the law is likely.

However, the MPs have rejected calls for Dutch-style coffee shops where 
cannabis can be smoked freely.

The committee is also expected to recommend convicted addicts be offered 
treatment programmes rather than go to prison and that there be a new legal 
definition of "social supply", so young people who buy a few ecstasy 
tablets to share are not prosecuted as drug dealers.
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