So...on the announcement itself, well it comes as no surprise as regular readers will know. The details leaked to the BBC were scant and Downing street has hurriedly denied that this is the whole story. It probably isn't.
I fully expect the ACMD report to make a series of other policy recommendations along with their inevitably thorough analysis. They will emphasise the risks, focussing on mental health issues. They will certainly repeat their calls for a big public education push - no doubt highlighting the particular dangers raised by the increasing prevalence of stronger cannabis - probably with specifics about how it should be targeted at the most vulnerable groups. This, they will argue, is likely to be a more effective response than increasing penalties. They will re-emphasise that the classification system is about ranking relative harms (and not sending out messages that suit politicians at election time).
They will probably call for research on various areas where the data is a bit thin and understanding either poor or emerging. They may dabble with some ideas like fixed penalties for possession offenses, but I doubt it. I also imagine that ACMD chair, as a last flourish before he retires, will make sure there are some fairly clear statements about how the review and the cannabis debate has been driven by tabloid and party political agendas (Nothing could be clearer than today's utterly ludicrous statement from drug warrior jack-in-the-box David Davis who says that Brown should not even have consulted them) .
What Brown will now do is moot, but he is no idiot and will have been well aware that the committee was likely to come to the conclusion it has, probably when he called the review in the first place (barely two years after the previous one - at which the c decision had been almost unanimous), and certainly before he made his comments earlier in the week at his monthly press conference. He now faces an entirely self made dilemma, as Philip Jhonston at the Telegraph has identified. He either overrules the committee and forfeits any last vestige of scientific 'evidence based' credibility his drug policy may still be clinging to, or he accepts their conclusions and leaves him self open to populist reactionary clowns like David Davis scoring points against him in the right leaning tabloids. I'm not remotely sympathetic as he has created this problem entirely for himself with his blinkered pre-election moral posturing. One thing is clear - this is all about politics now.
I suspect, but with only moderate certainty (and political idiocy never fails to suprise me), that Brown will use the ACMD report as an 'out' (I note the Guardian suggest otherwise). Maintain C, but launch a raft of measures, show he is 'doing something' and emphasize his view that cannabis use is illegal and unacceptable:
- a big education push (which will be politically driven rather than evidence based and therefore almost certainly pointless and rubbish)
- some ill thought out knee-jerk enforcement measures, probably focusing on evil 'cannabis factories', maybe some new police powers (to keep them happy).
- lashings of self righteous rhetoric about protecting the kids, evil, scourges, and so on.
And people who want to smoke will continue to do so. Cannabis will remain more or less freely available and the young people of this country will be even less interested in what authority figures have to say about it.
The ACMD cannabis decision: stay in class C
Gordon Brown on drugs: enemy of pragmatism friend of the mafia
Brown on Cannabis - it gets worse
submission to the ACMD review
Article on the classification system in Drugs and Alcohol Today
Transform media coverage
Unsurprisingly perhaps, given all the work we have done on this unendingly tedious classification saga, when the BBC's Danny Shaw got his scoop on the ACMD decision Transform were fairly near the top of the media pundit invites list. So its been quite a busy day and this being the Transform media blog, here's a list of Transform's media appearances:
- The Today Program, BBC Radio 4 (listen again to the 4 minute section here - real media format) - also featuring in news snippet at 8am
- BBC breakfast television (live sofa interview after a news item - then used in snippets throughout the day on news 24)
- BBC News 24 - studio interview
- BBC1 evening news (6 and 10 o'clock) prerecorded interview
- BBC Radio Scotland live interview
- Press Association multimedia interview
- Independent Radio News interview (syndicated around the country)
- various other local BBC radio
- BBC news website quote
- Guardian website quote
- Talk Sport radio