[back] Prof Colin Blakemore#

Policies 'failing for 40 years'
By David Derbyshire
(Filed: 24/05/2002)

Heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis should be legalised and licensed by the Government, a leading neuroscientist said yesterday.

Prof Colin Blakemore, a professor of physiology at Oxford University, said this week's report into the future of drugs from the Home Affairs committee did not go far enough. He urged ministers radically to overhaul drugs laws.

"Whatever your own opinion on drugs is, whether you are a permissive liberal or a staunch conservative, it is very clear that the policies of the last 40 years have abjectly failed by any criteria," said Prof Blakeman.

"The medical dangers of most illegal drugs have been exaggerated to some extent and the strategies of the past have tended to try to scare people out of drugs. The more drug use is growing, the more suspicious young people have become of these scare stories.

"I'm not saying there are any benefits of taking drugs, but the vast majority of people who dabble with illegal drugs come through the experience without being substantially damaged. They go on to complete their education and keep down jobs."

Instead of the classification system, in which ecstasy and crack cocaine were Class A drugs, all drugs should be ranked in order of risk. Alcohol and tobacco, which killed hundreds of thousands of people a year, would be near the top, he said.

"You can't restrict access for young people if the supply is in the hands of criminals. The state should take over the supply of all drugs, or license the supply, and users would have to register. It would be a way of controlling the purity, quality and regulating dosage."

His comments came before Beyond Cannabis, a debate sponsored by The Daily Telegraph, at the Cheltenham Science Festival. Prof Blakemore will be among drug experts and scientists taking part at the Everyman Theatre, on Saturday, at 6pm.