Soften Law on Ecstasy, Says Police Inquiry 

Soften Law on Ecstasy, Says Police Inquiry 
Posted by FoM on February 16, 2000 at 22:09:20 PT
By Alan Travis, Home Affairs Editor 
Source: News Unlimited
Ecstasy, said to be used by half a million people every weekend in Britain's dance clubs, should no longer be treated as a class-A drug such as heroin, but instead should be downgraded and classed as a soft drug such as cannabis, a Police Federation inquiry will recommend next month. 
The two and half year inquiry enjoys semi-official status with home secretary Jack Straw who, after rejecting calls for a royal commission into drugs, said he would wait for the federation report before considering if any change is needed to Britain's 30-year-old drug laws. Although the popularity of ecstasy and other amphetamine derivatives peaked in 1996 when police forces seized some 5.75m doses, they have started to make a comeback - the seizure of 2m doses in 1998 was the second highest figure ever recorded. Any decision to remove ecstasy from the group of drugs which are highly addictive would mark a sharp change in official policy. It would also be sure to spark a fierce reaction from anti-drug campaigners and the families of ecstasy victims such as the Essex teenager Leah Betts. As a class-A drug, possession of ecstasy attracts a sentence of up to six months but this would be reduced to a maximum of three months or a 200 fine if it were reclassified as a class-C drug. Most ecstasy taken in the UK is made in the Netherlands and smuggled into Britain. About 3,000 people were convicted of ecstasy related offences in 1998. The Police Federation inquiry is chaired by Lady Runciman, the former head of the government's advisory council on the misuse of drugs, and includes two chief constables as well as former home office civil servants on its team. It is expected to recommend that instead of imprisoning people caught possessing cannabis, the offence should be treated as a minor civil offence. This policy of "penalisation" stops far short of decriminalisation because cautions and fines would still be widely used. However, it is expected to recommend that those caught in possession of more than two grams of cannabis - enough to make five joints - should be treated as dealers by the police and the courts and face much tougher penalties. Drug law reform campaigners fear this will be a retrograde step. The change of classification for ecstasy would mean much more lenient penalties and end cases where teenagers have been jailed for supplying a small group of friends with a tablet each. Figures published yesterday showed that 127,900 people were found guilty of drug offences last year - 90% of them for possession of cannabis, most of whom were cautioned or fined. The number of offences rose 13% on 1998. Despite claims that the police increasingly turn a blind eye to cannabis possession, the figures show that there has been a massive increase in cannabis arrests in the last decade. In 1988 only 30,500 were arrested for drug offences in England and Wales. The figures show that last year 5,700 people were jailed for possession of drugs - but they do not spell out how many were for cannabis alone. The drugs tsar, Keith Hellawell, yesterday insisted after meeting Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, that his 10-year strategy was not failing and was given the public backing of the prime minister. "These figures prove we are clamping down on drugs with the arrest of more offenders and more seizures." But the government is coming under renewed pressure to set up a royal commission to look at the possibility of legalising soft drugs such as cannabis. The Cleveland police force has become the first to question whether the "war on drugs" can ever be won and suggest that legalisation might be the only serious alternative. Published: Thursday February 17, 2000 Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 2000 Related Articles:Police Force Urges Legalisation Articles On The UK & Ecstasy:
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on February 17, 2000 at 07:22:22 PT
Another shot across the bow for Blair
Another warning from the people who are charged with prosecuting an insane war that no one can win. A few more like this, and the Blair government may soon change it's tune. Though there's something I'd like to say about 'E' that might rankle some of you.It is not a toy. It can exact much more of a price than the purely physical ones you read about (which can be ameliorated if you use it *sensibly* and take precautions such as mineral supplements). And you should be ready for them. I've used it in conjunction with the guidence of a very wise friend, and in the process uncovered a traumatic event that emotionally scarred me at a very young age. But because I was so young at the time I didn't recognize its' impact. The event itself had become lost in memory, buried and forgotten. Yet that event had driven much of my life, in a very negative way. By becoming aware of it, I was able to understand why my life had gone the way it had, and changed some things.So, needless to say, I don't think of it as a 'party drug'. It can be a powerful tool for understanding, both of yourself and of others because of it's ability to painlessly break down emotional barriers. But it can also be like fire; be careless with it and you are likely to get burned.
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