Tonight Radio 1 is devoting an hour to the debate . To gauge its audience's opinion in advance of this evening's phone-in, the BBC organised a five- day telephone poll. Listeners were asked to vote on the question: "Should people have the right to take drugs?"
More than 20,000 responded, with 84 per cent in favour and only 16 per cent against.
"I think that the huge majority in favour of the proposition indicates people's enthusiasm for debate," said the DJ Steve Lamacq, who hosts tonight's debate. "More people than ever before are talking about what used to be a taboo topic for them; basically it is a question of rights."
The findings offer further evidence of how out of touch politicians are with dance-floor reality. Reporters for the programme Sorted - The Drugs Lottery, which precedes the debate, found some teenagers were so confused about the law that they did not realise that it was an offence to be found in possession of a couple of ecstasy tablets.
Throughout last week listeners to Radio 1 were encouraged to dial-in their votes after an announcer said "If you think you should be allowed to do whatever you like with your mind or body providing it hurts no one else, you should vote Yes. If you believe we need to keep the current laws in place in order to protect us vote No".
Tonight the Drugs Tsar, Keith Hellawell, will defend the status quo. Alan McGee of Creation records argues for reform.
Mr Lamacq added: "To test public opinion further we are going to open the poll lines again after the debate to see whether opinions have been shifted by the arguments. It is going to be very interesting."
'Sorted - The Drugs Lottery' 9-9.30pm; 'Drug-taking - Law-Breaking' from 9.30-10pm.