MPs take fresh look at law on Ecstasy

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Indy Politics

MPs are poised to launch an investigation into whether laws on ecstasy and LSD should be overhauled to make drug taking "safer".

The Home Affairs Select Committee was to focus on cannabis in its drug inquiry, but is now looking at other ways to move forward after the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, told it that cannabis possession would become a non-arrestable offence.

Tom Watson, a committee member and Labour MP for West Bromwich East, has written to the select committee chairman, Chris Mullin, urging him to divert the inquiry to look at "some of the health issues to do with ecstasy and LSD".

More than 500,000 people are believed to take Ecstasy each weekend even though it is a class A drug, ranked alongside heroin and cocaine. But a number of high-profile ecstasy deaths among teenagers – there are around 10 deaths from Ecstasy a year in the UK – have polarised debate between campaigners who fiercely oppose relaxation of any drug laws and those who want it reclassified so its use can be better controlled.

One issue MPs are keen to take evidence on is whether some of those deaths could have been prevented if a more pragmatic approach to the drug was taken. They are keen to find out if the sort of test kits, used in the clubs of Amsterdam, could be introduced here. Some committee members are also keen to debate whether LSD and ecstasy should be reclassified.

Support for that idea came last week from Drugscope, a charity, and the Police Foundation, which recommended reclassification in a landmark report on the issue last year. Its key recommendations were, however, rejected by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary at the time.

But a Home Office aide said yesterday that Mr Blunkett was more open to renewed debate on the issue. Mr Blunkett's announcement on cannabis last week was a "first step" and had "opened the door to further debate on the wider issue of drugs". He confirmed this could include ecstasy and LSD.

"David Blunkett sees the issue differently," he said. "He comes at it from a different place. And I think he is open to looking at the arguments."

The Home Secretary is not yet convinced that cannabis should be legalised or that LSD and ecstasy should be reclassified. But he would consider recommending the legal use of cannabis for medicinal purposes as well as wider prescription of heroin by doctors.

Mr Watson said: "Our focus was going to be on cannabis but I now think we have to have a wider debate.