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Sunday, 28 October, 2001, 14:20 GMT
Ecstasy laws will not be changed
ecstasy
An estimated two million young people use ecstasy
Home Secretary David Blunkett has said the government has no intention of changing the law on ecstasy, following his reclassification of cannabis.

Ecstasy was a killer and should retain its class A classification, said Mr Blunkett.

His comments came as senior police officers called for the law on the drug to be relaxed, according to reports.


I am not prepared to countenance any reclassification or legalisation, as ecstasy is a killer

Home Secretary David Blunkett
The chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), told The Observer newspaper that ecstasy should be treated as less dangerous than heroin or cocaine.

The proposal comes days after Mr Blunkett said the rules governing cannabis possession would be eased.

Mr Blunkett said: "I am not prepared to countenance any reclassification or legalisation, as ecstasy is a killer."

If ecstasy - used by an estimated two million people - was reclassified from class A to class B it would cut the maximum jail sentence for possessing the drug from seven years to five.

And supplying it would no longer carry a life sentence.

Elsewhere Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes suggested that his party's review of drugs policy might recommend decriminalisation of all drug use.

Medical evidence

The chairman of Acpo's drugs committee, Andy Hayman, told The Observer that the police wanted to focus on heroin and cocaine.

leah betts
Ecstasy has claimed dozens of lives

"Acpo's submission to the Independent Inquiry into Drugs, based on the most up-to-date medical and scientific research, was that some drugs seem to be in too high a class, including ecstasy," said Mr Hayman, who is a deputy assistant commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police.

But he added that the association would insist on a further review of the medical evidence on ecstasy before the law was changed.

Doctors have warned the drug has been linked to serious depression and birth defects, and some say changing its class would send a very unwise signal.

Meanwhile, a member of the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs - Roger Howard - who runs narcotics charity Drugscope, told The Sunday Times the council had seen new evidence suggesting the laws on ecstasy could be relaxed.

'Deplorable suggestion'

But Paul Betts, whose daughter Leah died after taking ecstasy at her 18th birthday party six years ago, said the suggestion was deplorable.


I saw Tony Blair in February last year and I was told face-to-face that there was no way that this government was going to go soft on drugs or reclassify

Paul Betts

He told The Sunday Times: "I saw Tony Blair in February last year and I was told face-to-face that there was no way that this government was going to go soft on drugs or reclassify."

Ecstasy can cause dehydration, dramatic changes in heart rate and blood pressure and lasting changes in the brain's chemical systems that control mood and memory.

Health issue

Mr Hughes suggested that the Liberal Democrat review of drugs policy might recommend decriminalisation of all drug use.

In an interview with GMTV's Sunday programme, he said that the personal use of drugs was a health issue.

Afterwards Mr Hughes suggested that the recommendations of his party's review, due within weeks, would include "radical" proposals on the law governing narcotics.

"Unless there is a real difference in how we deal with drug addiction, we will not make any significant change in the tragic course of harmed individuals, ruined lives and knock-on crime," he said.

Meanwhile former Home Secretary Jack Straw, who had opposed relaxation of cannabis laws, told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost that he had always said that the government would be led by the science.

"Some of the experiments have been advanced, and David Blunkett quite rightly put it down to class C".

See also:

24 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Cannabis laws to be relaxed
23 Oct 01 | Health
How drugs are classified
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