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WHAT'S YOUR POISON? Offer heroin addicts the drug on prescription Decriminalise cannabis Boost the number of rehab places SHOCK REPORT Judge drugs by the damage they do users and others Replace current classifications with a "harm scale Jail those who still go off the rails New report calls for a rethink of drugs laws and says fags and booze can be just as harmful.

Byline: By Magnus Gardham

DRUGS laws are out of date and need to be scrapped, a leading think tank claimed yesterday.

The RSA insist many illicit substances are "harmless" and modern drugs laws with harsh jail terms for possession are "driven by moral panic".

In a report, the group, who advise the Government, outline an overhaul of the laws.

They say theMisuse of Drugs Act should be scrapped in favour of a wider-ranging Misuse of Substances Act. That would mean abandoning the current ABC classifications in favour of an "index of harms".

This would extend the definition of drugs to include alcohol and tobacco, as well as illegal substances the report says have been "demonised".

Controversially, the team behind the two-year study claim addicts should be offered heroin on prescription and "shooting galleries" to inject safely.

Cannabis should be effectively decriminalised, they add.

It's claimed the radical rethink would free police to target gangs bringing drugs into the country.

The study has been hailed as a "watershed" and "wake-up call".

Former Scottish health minister Susan Deacon and top Scotland Yard cop John Yates were among the experts on the commission.

MSP Deac on said: "It is time to get real and face up to the facts. Simply talking tough on drugs doesn't get results."

As well as replacing classifications with a "harm scale", offering heroin addicts prescriptions, decriminalising cannabis and new restrictions on alcohol and cigarette sales, the proposed overhaul would encourage the jailing of those who still go off the rails.

The number of rehab places would be increased, while there would be drug education for children as young as five.

Drug abuse should be treated as a health and social problem rather than a crime, the RSA said.

The publication of the report sparked a divided reaction.

The Home Office gave a cool response, insisting the current strategy "has been a success and significant progress has been made".

Graeme Pearson is director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland's lead officer on drugs.

He insisted it was not his experience "that use of illicit substances can be harmless".

But others welcomed the report.

The Metropolitan Police said it reflected their drugs strategy with the "emphasis being placed on harmcaused by the supply and use of illicit drugs".

Martin Barnes, of Drugscope, added: "We support the call for a new legal framework based on relative harms, which includes alcohol and tobacco, while maintaining a distinction between legal and illegal substances." And Steve Rolles, of campaign group Transform, claimed: "This really is a rational response to 30 years of dramatic failure."

Former top cop Tom Wood, who now heads the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action teams, described the report as "a breath of fresh air".

He added: "It is very clearsighted and it gives us a lot of food for thought. I think it has zeroed in on quite a lot of the major issues for Scotland and for the UK."

But former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith accused the RSA of being "complacent".

He added: "They have also failed to do their homework by not surveying the views of drug addicts - who want recovery and drug-free lives - not managed dependency on methadone."

Danger list

1.Heroin

2 Cocaine

3 Barbiturates

4 Street methadone

5 Alcohol

6 Ketamine

7 Tranquillisers

8 Amphetamine

9 Tobacco

10 Prescription opiates

11 Cannabis

12 Solvents
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 9, 2007
Words:574
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