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Health Insight May 2002: Government accused of losing drugs war

  The Home Affairs Select Committee has published a report demanding a rethink in government drugs policy. Politicians, senior police officers, customs chiefs, doctors and drug charities all face scathing criticism for failing to stop drug use in Britain rising to the highest levels in Europe. Ministers responded by announcing a new move to halt the main crack cocaine route into Britain. It is estimated that half the crack cocaine in Britain is smuggled in from Jamaica. Plans are being drawn up to train Jamaican police and provide equipment to catch drug smugglers flying to Britain from Kingston and Montego Bay. A separate plan to show shock anti-drugs videos to schoolchildren as young as ten has been unveiled by the education secretary Estelle Morris. She will also recommend that any child selling drugs in or near school should be permanently expelled.

In a more controversial move following the report the committee recommended that thousands of addicts be prescribed heroin at GPs surgeries. A nationwide network of ‘safe injecting areas’ is also to be set up where addicts can use diamorphine, or ‘medical heroin’. There are now only thirty GPs licensed to prescribe diamorphine. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, wants the numbers to increase to 1,500 as a first stage. He is also likely to lay an order before the House of Commons this month amending the Misuse of Drugs Act so that cannabis can be downgraded. Home Office officials said, however, that reclassifying the drug ecstasy was ‘not on the agenda’.

The judge in Britain’s highest court has called for cannabis to be legalised, Lord Bingham, the senior law lord, said he would legalise the drug, adding, ‘It is stupid having a law which isn’t doing what it is there for.’

Source: Independent 22nd May, Observer 19th May, Guardian 21st May, Press release (DoH)

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