HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Hard Drug Users Should Not Go To Jail, Say MPs
Pubdate: Sat, 18 May 2002
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Authors: Marie Woolf, Paul Waugh


A sweeping review of drugs policy in Britain is expected to recommend next 
week that users of illegal substances such as cocaine and heroin should be 
offered treatment to help them kick their habit rather than face jail.

MPs on the committee will recommend that prisons are not the best way to 
ensure drug addicts overcome their problems and will recommend better 
access to treatment programmes. Addicts who steal and commit fraud to fund 
drug-taking should be offered places on treatment programmes instead of jail.

The long-awaited report by MPs, which follows 10 months of evidence from 
experts, drugs organisations and the police, will say that police and court 
time should not be wasted on punishing people who use small amounts for 
recreational purposes.

Cannabis users should not face arrest, the report is expected to say, 
endorsing the trial scheme being operated in Lambeth where police have not 
pursued casual users.

The report, which will be published on Wednesday, will say that police 
energy should focus on catching the criminal gangs who supply hard drugs 
rather than on recreational users of marijuana, including those who grow 
small quantities for their own use or that of friends.

They will say that the police should focus on dealing with addictive class 
A drugs, such as heroin and crack cocaine, which are often linked to 
criminal behaviour.

But it will recommend that greater use is made of new initiatives, 
including Arrest Referral schemes and Drug Treatment and Testing Orders, 
which force offenders to undergo rehabilitation - sometimes in drug 
treatment clinics, following evidence from police that they could reduce crime.

The report will express the need for a national strategy on dealing with 
drug users so that there is availability around the country for places in 
the treatment centres.

An early draft of the report also recommended that ecstasy should be 
downgraded to a class B drug. This was regarded as controversial by some 
members of the committee who said the pills, mainly used by clubbers, were 
dangerous and had caused several deaths.

Medical evidence presented to the inquiry found that cannabis was far less 
harmful than other drugs such as cocaine and heroin and although it was not 
"harm free", it "compares favourably (in terms of health implications) with 
legal drugs widely used such as alcohol and tobacco".

The report will support the Home Secretary's suggestion that cannabis be 
reclassified as a class C drug.
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