Dance Clubs Given a Licence To Go Soft on Drugs

Dance Clubs Given a Licence To Go Soft on Drugs
Posted by FoM on March 07, 2002 at 17:34:19 PT
By Richard Ford, Home Correspondent
Source: Times UK
The Government acknowledged a softening in its drug policy yesterday by admitting that it would ignore the personal use of Ecstasy and other so-called dance drugs in nightclubs. In a new set of Home Office guidelines the Government accepts that drug-taking is a part of youth culture that cannot be eradicated. It wants the public to recognise that drug misuse has to be fought on many fronts. 
The guide underpins the Government’s strategy of focusing on dealers and the impact of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine while developing ways of minimising the harm caused by dance club drugs. It gives clubs advice on how to prevent dealing and how to make the venues safer for clubbers using drugs, including the provision of “chill-out” rooms, water and better ventilation. It also called for “amnesty boxes” where young people can deposit drugs they are carrying before they are searched. The guide also urges clubs to instal metal detectors to curb gun crime in big cities. The guide, Safer Clubbing, says: “Controlled drug use has become a large part of youth culture and is, for many young people, an integral part of a night out.” It received a mixed response. Liam O’Hare, a club owner, said that if the Government could not stop drugs getting into prisons it was impossible to keep them out of clubs. Alan Spinks, whose daughter, Lorna, 18, died after taking two Ecstasy pills before visiting a nightclub in May last year, said that the guide would help to stop crises developing. But Janet Betts, whose daughter Leah was killed by Ecstasy, said that she was alarmed at the new approach. The authorities should instead take firm action against club owners allowing dealing on their premises. “Things like free running cold water, and a rest room and a first aider should be there anyway. The minute you put a fancy label on it, like chill-out room, that club is using that to advertise the fact that they tolerate drug use, and that’s what I object to.” The guide says that free ice and frozen ice-pops should be provided by clubs to help clubbers to keep as cool as possible. Clubs are also urged to make more use of air conditioning after complaints by that some owners fail to switch it off to save money. The provision of free water should be a condition of a licence being granted to clubs, the guide says. It was unacceptable that some clubs tried to maximise profits by turning off water supplies or supply only warm water to ensure that clubbers paid high prices for bottled water. Releasing the guide, Bob Ainsworth, a junior Home Office Minister, admitted the reality of the scale of drug-taking. He said there was no point ignoring the drug culture surrounding the club scene. “We have to recognise that some clubbers will continue to ignore the risks and carry on taking dangerous drugs,” Mr Ainsworth said. “If we cannot stop them from taking drugs then we must be prepared to take steps to reduce the harm that they may cause themselves.We are not asking club owners to condone the use of drugs on their premises. What we’re asking them to do is accept that we’re not going to be successful in the entirety in keeping drugs out of the club scene.” The minister ruled out, however, allowing clubs to provide drug-testing facilities such as those that operate in Amsterdam, so that customers could check the purity of drugs. He insisted that Ecstasy was dangerous in itself and encouraging testing kits would be sending out the wrong message. The urgent need to tackle the growth in gun crime linked to the club scene was highlighted by the Home Office and police at the launch of the guide in Central London. A Home Office source said that gun crime in or around clubs was now a a very serious issue. The Home Office wants more clubs to install airport-style metal detectors, which cost £12,000 each, or to use hand-held scanners in an attempt to discover guns, knives, knuckle-dusters and other metal implements being smuggled into their premises. The source said that problem of guns in clubs was not confined to London, but also affected Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester. Mike Fuller, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, said: “It is our responsibility to reduce the risk of violence and drug taking. There is a culture of violence and intimidation that follows the supply of illegal devices. “It is important that clubgoers are made aware of those risks. With proper security devices a lot of the violence that has been associated with some nightclubs can be reduced if not stopped altogether.” Drug experts, however, highlighted a contradiction in the Government’s approach. While ministers were offering guidance on reducing the harm caused by drugs, they were also about to implement a new law that threatened club owners with jail if they permitted drug use on their premises. Roger Howard, chief executive of the charity Drugscope, said: “While we welcome the new harm reduction guidance there does seem to be a real contradiction in government policy. While offering guidance on reducing harm on one hand, on the other they are introducing legislation that threatens club owners with jail if they knowingly permit the use of drugs on their premises. “With the threat of jail hanging over them, club owners may be dissuaded from introducing effective harm reduction measures and deaths may result.” Professor John Ramsey, head of the toxicology unit at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, southwest London, welcomed the idea of amnesty boxes, which he said would allow an examination of the substances used in dance drugs, providing vital medical data. Last year a pill containing the compound 4MTA, synthesised in the US as an antidepressant and only ever tested on five monkeys, had been found at one night spot. At least four people died. Another compound, 2CT7, known as Blue Mystic, had been found in an amnesty drug. Both compounds have now been banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Source: Times, The (UK)Author: Richard Ford, Home CorrespondentPublished: March 8, 2002Copyright: 2002 Times Newspapers LtdContact: letters Articles:Youth Culture Has Changed Attitudes Dems Call for Ecstasy Laws Shake-Up Laws Revolution Set for UK
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