Leading article: A sensible drugs policy

Share
Related Topics

Another rancorous row about the classification of illegal drugs is looming. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs met yesterday in London to discuss whether ecstasy should be downgraded from Class A to Class B. Experts will present evidence to the organisation's panel and a report will be issued next year.

The incoming head of the ACMD, Professor David Nutt, has pointed out that ecstasy is less harmful than cocaine or heroin, which would support the case for reclassification. But senior police officers have written to the council warning that ecstasy should remain a Class A drug. The Home Office has also made it clear that it sees no case for a reclassification.

It is not hard to foresee where this process is likely to end. The Government set a precedent earlier this year by ignoring the recommendation of the ACMD over the classification of cannabis and returning that drug to the Class B category. But the arguments for a different approach to dealing with ecstasy is strong.

Ecstasy is certainly not harmless, and there are clear examples where it is linked to the deaths of users. But the threat it poses to health certainly does not merit it being bracketed with heroin and crack cocaine, which kill far more. The fact is that the present rating system of harm suffers from a serious credibility problem.

For another thing, the present law is being flouted on a staggering scale. Possession of ecstasy, as a Class A narcotic, carries a maximum sentence of up to seven years and dealers can face life imprisonment. And yet it is estimated that some 250,000 people in England and Wales regularly take the drug.

There is an assumption, shared by many in the police, that downgrading a drug will encourage young people to take it, that it would send out an undesirable "message" to the public. But it need not be this way. If a reclassification is combined with public education and advertising campaigns warning of the risks of taking a narcotic, the overall message could still be negative. Social pressures can change or affect choices, as we have seen with the public smoking ban.

The reduction of social and physical harm ought to be the guiding principle towards drugs policy. This is the approach that has been recommended by, among others, the House of Commons' Select Committee on Science, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the UK Drug Policy Commission. If we want to make our drugs laws more respected and more effective, that is the road we need to go down. The reclassification of ecstasy would be a good first step on that journey.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review