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Ecstasy could be legalised, suggests top Canadian health official

Perry Kendall is not calling for the drug’s legalisation but believes a review of drug policies is merited.

File photo
File photo
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A TOP CANADIAN public health officer says pure ecstasy can be safe and regulated sales of the drug – similar to alcohol – would be more effective than efforts to control it as a criminal substance.

But Perry Kendall, chief health officer for British Columbia, denied earlier reports that he is calling for legalisation and government sales of ecstasy also known as MDMA. Rather he wants an evidence-based review of all drug policies.

“My position has long been that prohibition and criminalisation is not an effective way of reducing the harms of illicit drugs, keeping them off the streets, or keeping them out of the hands of vulnerable populations.”

Scores of recent deaths linked to ecstasy –  84 young people died in British Columbia alone since 2008  - are due to contamination or overdose, he told AFP on Thursday.

But medical research on hundreds of patients treated with MDMA has proved “that a pharmaceutical-produced drug, in the appropriate dosage (and) setting can be safe,” he said.

Black-market sales of illegal drugs puts “billions of dollars in the hands of criminal gangs” and exhausts police resources, he said.

Most countries ban ecstasy, and most North American police forces have a zero-tolerance policy to the drug.

But governments should examine policies to reduce drug use through regulation, which would have the benefit of making illegal manufacture and sale unprofitable, said Kendall.

Stressing that he was speaking hypothetically, he said that as with alcohol sales controls would be needed, such as “access through government-licensed stores, pharmacies, or by prescription.”

“Designer drugs that are currently on the street have absolutely unknown purity and quantity, and they can be associated with overdose deaths,” said Kendall.

- (c) AFP, 2012

Read: Cigarettes and alcohol: less experimenting, more abstinence by Irish teens

Read: Taking new illicit drugs is like playing ‘a dangerous game of roulette’

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