Blair to allow random drug tests in schools


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has revealed plans for random drug testing in schools amid a shake-up of the country's drug laws aimed at targeting dealers and suppliers.

Mr Blair said his government would issue guidelines to teachers next month to give them the power to do random drug tests on students.

"We can't force them to do it but if heads believe they have a problem in their school, then they should be able to do random drug testing," Mr Blair said.

Britain relaxed its laws against cannabis last month, downgrading the drug to a "lower risk" Class C - the same as tranquillisers and anabolic steroids - meaning possession of a small amount will not necessarily lead to an arrest or fine.

But penalties for dealing and supplying the drug were toughened to a maximum 14 years in prison. The government said it wanted to focus its limited resources on suppliers.

Critics of the Labour government's drugs policy said it was muddled and sent the message that cannabis use was not a serious offence.

Britain has one of the highest cannabis usage levels in Europe with about 40 per cent of 16 to 34-year-olds saying they have used the drug in the last year, according to DrugScope, an independent drugs body.

Nine per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds said they used cocaine in 2001 and 12 per cent said they tried ecstasy.