Drugs classification should be scrapped, experts say
The UK Drugs Policy Commission says classifying illegal drugs on a “danger scale” of classes A, B or C needs to be overhauled because they do not affect drug use.
The news comes ahead of a meeting this Friday when the Home Office’s independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will discuss whether to downgrade ecstasy from class A.
Ecstasy remains the third most popular illicit drug in Britain, with five per cent of young adults aged 16 to 24 saying they have used it in the last year.
The council, which is made up of 21 academics and drugs experts, provides advice to Governments on illegal drug use and is expected to recommend downgrading the drug from A to B.
Reports from the Police Foundation in 2000, the Commons Home Affairs Committee in 2002 and the Commons Science and Technology Committee in 2006 have all favoured the move.
However the Commission warned the council in a submission that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is likely to over-rule any decision to downgrade, in a re-run of the row over cannabis earlier this year.
Then, the council’s recommendation that cannabis should remain a class C drug was ignored by Miss Smith who decided to reclassify the drug on health grounds.
The Commission says: “The UKDPC does not want to second-guess the council’s final conclusions about ecstasy. However were it to recommend a lower classification then it is not unreasonable to anticipate a political response to that with cannabis.”
The Commission was heavily critical of what it describes as the “increased polticisation” of drugs’ classification.
Roger Howard, Chief Executive, UK Drug Policy Commission, told The Daily Telegraph: “The purpose and operation of the drug classification system has become increasingly confused amongst politicians and the public in recent years.
“The time has come for an independent wholesale review of the system to clarify how a scientific rating of drug harms should be used for drug classifications and for wider applications such as setting policing priorities or public health messages.”
Members of the commission include the chairman Dame Ruth Runciman, a former council member who chaired a Police Foundation inquiry which argued for ecstasy to be moved to class B seven years ago, Professor Colin Blakemore, the former chief executive of the Medical Research Council and David Blakey, a former Chief Constable and HM inspector of constabulary.
The council is expected to make its decision on ecstasy next year.