Monday, July 31, 2006

Commons Committee Slams Drugs Classification

The cross-party House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology has called for a wide-ranging reform of the drug classification system. The committee's report highlights the fact that the existing categorization is based on the criminal penalties as opposed to the physical and social harms associated with different drugs. The committee has called for a more scientific approach to drug categorization. This is a positive result for all those interested in a more rational approach to drug laws.

The full report can be read here.


Mark Pawelek said...

The BBC have an alternative scale of drug harms, by David Nutt and Colin Blakemore using a framework like this.

In a league of 20 drugs: alcohol (legal) is #5, and ecstasy (illegal class A) is #18.

We should slam that new classification system too. It uses a risk assessment that ignores the harms of prohibition such as:
a) criminalising drug users, including teenagers and trampling upon human rights;
b) fostering a violent criminal gang culture (which controls the drug trade);
c) violence and destabilisation of drug-producing countries such as Columbia, Mexico and Afghanistan;
d) the sale of low quality drugs made more dangerous by the cost-cutting measures of traffickers. For instance hundreds of drug users have died in the USA recently injecting fentanyl-laced heroin.

Home Secretary, John Reid once said: "Prohibition doesn't work, as the US found out many years ago." [Jeremy Vine programme (BBC Radio 2, 11 Nov 2004)]. It is time for him to show the courage of his convictions and to end it. Nobel prize winner: Gary Becker and other leading economists argue that legalisation could reduce drug use as well as harm.

The Select Committe report is here: BBC (PDF), PDF and, HTML. The PDF includes many supporting documents too.

Anonymous said...

That BBC rating is totally bonkers, why is ketamine so high?

And why are solvents less dangerous than cannabis? How many people does cannabis kill a year even indirectly, I'd be certain its less than solvents.

Mark Pawelek said...

Bob. You must address your complaints to David Nutt and Colin Blakemore who (mostly) wrote it. Pointless blaming the BBC. They are just reprinting what they've been told "independent experts" agree on.

Cannabis is probably so high because of the risks dues to: smoking in and of itself, psychosis to a small minority, dependence to a minority.

Risks due to illegal ecstasy should probably be higher. Most illegal ecstasy is mixed in with speed and other stuff; in the past, a tiny amount of it has been found with PMA in it.

You're not going to get an objective scale of risk because no such thing exists. As I said in my first post, they ignored the risks due to prohibition itself. Even the "independent experts" are constrained here by what they are allowed (by convention) to think or say.

Also: Note the small differences in the risks. Heroin the most risky is only 3 times more dangerous than the least risky drug. This tells us that both legalisers and prohibitionists are often wrong in promoting some drugs as health benefits (alcohol, cannabis) and others as demon killers.

It'd be interesting to include other risky activities and behaviour in this framework too for comparison: such as mountain climbing and obesity. I recall that Queen Victoria once wanted to ban mountain climbing.

Anonymous said...

Ahh, I see, I didnt realise that was the ACMD list, seems very strange to me. Though having said that I've heard mixed things about Nutt.

As for black market ecstacy being mixed with other chemicals, this isnt true and hasnt really ever been the majority. I've got a research paper looking into this, but I cant attach it.

Ali G said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.