Pubdate: Wed, 22 May 2002
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd
Author: Richard Ford
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


MPs who called for Ecstasy to be downgraded after the most comprehensive 
examination of Britain's drug laws for 30 years were immediately rebuffed 
last night when David Blunkett insisted that it must remain a Class A drug. 
A Commons inquiry had said that the drug taken by millions of clubbers each 
weekend should be grouped alongside amphetamines, rather than with cocaine 
and heroin. But the Home Secretary swiftly dismissed the call, saying: 
"Reclassification of Ecstasy is not on the Government's agenda. Ecstasy 
can, and does, kill unpredictably and there is no such thing as a safe dose."

The recommendation that Ecstasy be downgraded came from the Home Affairs 
Select Committee, which concluded that for many young people drug-taking 
was a passing phase that caused them no long-term harm. But it ruled out 
the legalisation of drugs.

It did propose controversial pilot projects in which heroin users could 
inject illegal drugs in "shooting galleries" where they would use clean 
needles and be encouraged to seek treatment. But Mr Blunkett said that 
while wishing an extension of prescribing heroin, there were no plans for 
shooting galleries.

The MPs also want pilot projects in which heroin would be prescribed to 
chronic addicts in an attempt to undermine the criminal market. And they 
back Mr Blunkett's plan to make possession of cannabis a non-arrestable 
offence. That will come into force this summer.

While ruling out legalisation of drugs as a "step into the unknown", the 
cross-party committee report acknowledges that those those favouring such a 
move were "sensible and thoughtful people".

It also points the way for future changes by urging ministers to initiate a 
United Nations debate over the possibility of legalisation and regulation 
of the global drugs problem. "It may well be that a future generation will 
take a different view. Drugs policy should not be set in stone," the report 

Despite advice to avoid drugs, the report says that young people will 
continue to use them. "In most cases this is a passing phase which they 
will grow out of and, while such use should never be condoned, it rarely 
results in any long-term harm."
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