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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Ministers in drug war ideas call
Cannabis joint
Cannabis classification will be reviewed, the Home Office says
The government has launched what it says is the biggest ever public consultation on fighting drugs.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says she wants ideas on how to steer vulnerable young people away from drug use and get more dealers off the streets.

Current and ex-drug users, as well as experts and members of the public, will be among those taking part.

There will also be an extra 5m for the Talk to Frank drugs awareness campaign for young people.

The government is looking separately at whether cannabis should be reclassified as a Class C to a Class B drug.

Treatment programmes

Ms Smith said the government's current drugs strategy, which runs out in March 2008, has led to a 24% drop in drug use among young people.

But it needed a more "radical" approach to the problem in its next drugs strategy.

I want to hear fresh and constructive ideas on how we can build on our achievements with the new drug strategy
Jacqui Smith
Home Secretary

"The government wants more drug dealers put out of business, young people better educated and informed so they can resist drugs, effective drug treatment widely available, ex-drug users given a greater sense of hope and purpose in their lives and power put back in the hands of the law abiding majority in our communities," said Ms Smith.

She said the government was calling on "communities, families, experts and current and ex-drug users to tell us what can be done".

Drug users will be asked to take part in focus groups and other exercises planned by market research company Ipsos Mori.

Ipsos Mori will also carry out focus groups, workshops and other events with members of the public and people working in the drugs and criminal justice sectors.

Among the questions it wants answered are:

  • How can drug treatment be made more cost-effective?

  • Should children under the age of 11 be specifically targeted in anti-drugs campaigns?

  • Should more resources be focused on tackling "emerging threats" such as methamphetamine, or "crystal meth"?

The consultation document says drugs education in schools needs to be improved, adding "some teachers are not adequately prepared to deliver lessons and poor quality materials are still often used in the classroom".

Housing

It also says groups vulnerable to drug use should be more closely targeted, including young offenders, children in care, young homeless people, those excluded from school or playing truant, young sex workers and the children of drug addicts.

There also needs to be better housing and employment prospects for addicts who have undergone treatment, to make it easier for them to lead drug free lives, it adds.

The public, including current and ex-drug users, have until 19 October to respond to the 40-question consultation paper.

To find out what the public wants the Home Office will run workshops and events with community members, families and current and ex-drug users to ask how it should tackle the problem.

It will also distribute 200,000 leaflets to police stations, libraries, doctors' surgeries and community groups across in England and Wales.

Cannabis

Ms Smith launched the consultation less than a week after she admitted smoking cannabis while she was at Oxford University in the 1980s.

Her admission prompted a string of fellow Cabinet ministers to reveal their own drug-taking experiences.

The cannabis classification review will last for six months, with the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reporting to the government early next year.

It will take into account the fact that there are now far stronger strains of cannabis available.




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