Friday, December 04, 2009

Transform submission to the Home Office review of the ACMD

Transform have prepared a response to the Home Office review of the ACMD available in pdf here*. The introduction is copied below.

Introductory Comments

Transform is supportive of the concept of an independent expert Government advisory body on drugs and drug policy. In such a highly emotive and politicised policy area as drugs, the existence and independent functioning of such an entity becomes all the more critical; able to objectively review and speak to the evidence and make pragmatic recommendations on key questions based on science and rational analysis, rather than politics or ideology.

Whilst Transform have been impressed by the consistent level of expertise, thoroughness and rigor of the ACMD’s outputs, we have also been critical of them on a number of fronts, both analytical and procedural. Some of these criticisms are outlined – with proposed solutions – in this submission.

However, it has become clear that the ability of the Council to function properly is critically, undermined by the nature of its constitution within the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), and its corresponding operation within the ambit of the Home Office. The discussion and proposals made in response to the questions posed by this review can hopefully offer some short term improvements, but are essentially band-aids for the wider malfunctioning of a system in urgent need of root and branch reform.

We have touched upon the more profound systemic problems with the ACMD, the classification system and the MDA throughout the following discussion as they inevitably frame other responses – but have not explored them in the depth they deserve as they are clearly beyond the remit of this narrowly defined review.

We would, however, hope that one of the recommendations to emerge from this process is for the review of the classification system, promised to Parliament by the then Home Secretary in January 2006 and then dropped by his successor, be revisited and undertaken with some urgency. The proposed review enjoyed, as far as Transform is aware, universal support in the drugs field, as well as from two Select Committees, and indeed the ACMD itself. The reasoning given by Government for abandoning the review - that it ‘believes that the classification system discharges its function fully and effectively and has stood the test of time’ - is entirely unacceptable given the widespread consensus beyond Government that the system is not fit for purpose.

*The online version has some small typo/corrections to the submitted version

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