MP calls for rethink on 'failing' drugs laws

Health Editor,Jeremy Laurance
Friday 11 April 2008 00:00

A Labour MP in one of Britain's drug abuse capitals has called for the decriminalisation of drugs in an attempt to reduce the harm they cause and wipe out the dealing trade.

Des Turner, MP for Brighton, said the zero tolerance policy on drugs was not working and a fresh approach is needed.

"I want to make drugs available through safely controlled sources such as pharmacies. Brighton has a serious drug problem with 60 drug-related deaths a year because of the variability of the strength of heroin on the streets."

"I would like to decriminalise drugs for personal use but I am not advocating the legalisation of heroin. By making drugs available through pharmacies it would take away the incentive to push drugs, if the dealers couldn't make any money out of them. It is what I have been thinking for a long time and it is what the professionals are thinking."

Mr Turner said that current arrangements under which registered addicts can get heroin from pharmacies on prescription were "too restrictive". On soft drugs, such as marijuana, he said he had "some sympathy" with the practice in the Netherlands of allowing customers in licensed coffee shops to buy small amounts of cannabis for their personal use on the premises.

A spokesman for the charity Drugscope said Mr Turner appeared confused about the law. "You don't need to change the law to make drugs available through pharmacies because they already are. In the Netherlands, the government has taken an administrative decision not to prosecute [drugs offences] in some cases. Exactly what Mr Turner is proposing is a bit unclear."

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