BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Head to head: Drug reclassification
A radical overhaul of Britain's drug laws is needed according to MPs on the Commons home affairs select committee.

In their report they make a controversial call for the Class A drug ecstasy to be downgraded to Class B - the same category as amphetamines.

But is this the best way forward?

BBC News Online looks at two opposing views.


Janet Betts, whose daughter Leah died after taking ecstasy in 1995:

I'm against the relaxation of drugs laws as proposed in today's report because whether MPs like it or not, it sends out the wrong message to youngsters and we will lose a hold on the dealers.

My initial reaction is that the MPs that have sat on this committee either haven't bothered to read the research pertaining to ecstasy or are being gain-led.

I cannot believe that anyone who has read the medical and scientific evidence about what ecstasy does to you short and long term could honestly say it's not as dangerous a drug as heroin or cocaine.

In fact in many ways in my opinion it's more dangerous than heroin because it's totally unpredictable.


We are still sticking our heads in the sand, as far as ecstasy goes

Each time you take it you have no idea what it's going to do to you and if we declassify it, that gives out the message that it's not as bad as we thought it was, that it's ok.

Whatever MPs say about that isn't the message they are giving out, that is the message kids are getting whether they like it or not.

And bear in mind that when you declassify a drug you lessen the penalties for dealing that drug and that is what worries me most of all.

I do however agree with what they've said about a new offence of supply for gain which distinguishes between a friend supplying a friend and a dealer supplying for profit.

And I do agree with the government's idea of raising the penalty ceiling for a dealer who is specifically supplying a school.

I am disappointed by today's report but I have a letter which Tony Blair sent to me last November and he says: "Let me also assure you that David Blunkett has made clear he is not in favour of further changes in drug classification, and has specifically ruled out plans to change the classification of ecstasy and LSD".

From what I have heard today David Blunkett is sticking to that.

And I hope they do, I hope in a years time I can say this government can be trusted they are not going soft on drugs.

We have got to start realising that yes, two million people do E at the weekend and the vast majority of them walk home with no ill effects, but ask any clubber and there's always someone who's collapsed in the club at the end of the night.

Nobody is looking longer term and we are still sticking our heads in the sand as far as ecstasy goes.


Committee chairman Chris Mullin MP:

All we're saying is that drugs should be categorised according to their harmfulness and the scientific evidence is clear.

If you want advice about drugs to be credible to young people there's no point in pretending that ecstasy is as harmful as heroin because it isn't and they know that even if we don't.

No-one is saying that it cannot be dangerous, - it can, often relating to the circumstances in which it is taken.


If we want young people to take us seriously when we offer them advice about drugs then we have to be honest with them

We say all drug-taking is bad for you and it should be discouraged.

But what we are saying is that we need to get real and we need to focus on the 200-250,000 problematic drug users - those whose habit is causing most damage to themselves and to others, and those are overwhelming users of heroin .

In the case of heroin users, who are responsible for 40% of acquisitive crime among other things, [we need to focus on] firstly stabilising their habit and trying to wean them off it.

If you treat them all as outlaws all you end up with is parks full of heroin users who are injecting themselves in public and throwing their needles away and often they are dying from overdoses and adulterated samples.

But we need to treat them primarily as a medical and not a criminal problem.

I am disappointed that the Home Secretary has been quite so quick off the mark [in dismissing the ecstasy recommendation].

The government is always saying that 'we follow the science and we don't allow ourselves to be diverted by a hoo-hah kicked up in the tabloid press'.

Well, all we're saying to them is: follow the science relating to drugs and the science is absolutely overwhelmingly clear.

If we want young people to take us seriously when we offer them advice about drugs then we have to be honest with them and if we're not honest with them we can't expect them to take us seriously.


Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes