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Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
'Legalise drugs, for other parents' sake'

Two years ago Scott Gillespie died of a heroin overdose. So why is his father, a staunch opponent of drugs, calling for all drugs to be legalised?
"Legalise, don't criminalise" is Fulton Gillespie's response to Wednesday's Parliamentary report on drugs.

It may seem a strange argument, especially for someone who lost one of his children to a heroin overdose, but Mr Gillespie insists the only way to control drugs is to regulate the market.

Fulton Gillespie
Fulton Gillespie: " I'm encouraged by the report"
"I don't want a soft line on drugs. I wish to God that people wouldn't use them. But they do, and so we need put some order into the market," he says.

Mr Gillespie was one of three parents who was invited to give evidence to the Home Affairs select committee on drugs, which published its findings on Wednesday.

During a three hour face-to-face "grilling", he told the committee that his son would still be alive today if heroin had been legal.

Scott Gillespie was 33 when he died two years ago. A long-time heroin user, he was forced to do without the drug during a five-week spell in a remand prison.

He was killed by his first fix on coming out of prison.

What we have at the moment is a free-for-all, where criminals are in charge of supply and what goes into drugs

Fulton Gillespie
An inquest into Scott's death found that because he had been without the drug for several weeks, his body could not take his normal dose.

It also revealed that his final shot had been cut with an impurity - urine acetylcodeine.

"If there had been a controlled environment for my son to take his heroin, and it had been supplied legally, he would still be alive.

"There are basically two routes you can follow in this argument. You can legalise and regulate the supply, as you do with other drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, or you can leave it in the hands of crime."

Over the counter?

While Mr Gillespie, who has four other children, concedes that legalisation would be "anathema" to many fellow parents.

A
The report has recommended "shooting galleries"
But that does not have to mean putting wraps of heroin in the newsagent, alongside cigarettes, although that would "still be better than what you've got now".

Rather, he would like to see heroin supplied by the health service to addicts and a "clean and controlled environment" for it to be taken.

To that end, he is encouraged by the findings of the Home Affairs committee. It has recommended a pilot scheme of "shooting galleries" - premises where heroin users with illegal supplies can go to inject and receive advice.

It also proposes a pilot scheme that would allow pure heroin to be legally given to users in an attempt to wean them off their addiction.

But this is not a problem limited to the UK, and so the "most important" element of the report, he says, is its call for a United Nations debate on the possibility of legalisation and regulation of the global drugs problem.

World is 'painful place'

Government action is lagging behind the debate in Britain, and he says the only prospect of change would be if "a cabinet minister's son or a royal dies from drug abuse".

Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin, chairman of the select committee
"It's quite obvious that what we have at the moment is a free-for-all where criminals are in charge of drugs supply and what goes into those drugs."

After Scott's death, Mr Gillespie plunged himself into the debate and was able to understand why many young people turn to drugs.

"I met a lot of Scott's associates and there's one common denominator between them - they couldn't get to grips with the world.

"Scott could never understand why three-quarters of the world had to go hungry while one quarter had more food than they needed. For a lot of [addicts] the world is a very painful place. Drugs take the edge off reality."

He describes his meeting with the Home Affairs committee, led by Labour MP Chris Mullin, was "absolutely a worthwhile experience" and hopes its recommendations will be heeded by Downing Street.

"I understand the political system we live in, that it can only take a step at a time. And I'm encouraged by the report."


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Ecstasy ease
You asked Chris Mullin MP
See also:

22 May 02 | Politics
08 Feb 03 | Medical notes
16 May 02 | UK
22 May 02 | Politics
21 May 02 | Education
01 Mar 02 | Education
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