Yesterday the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) announced that after a careful review of the scientific evidence, ecstasy should be downgraded from Class A to Class B. The UK Government were quick to react by sticking their fingers in their ears and going ‘LA LA LA’.
In a letter to the ACMD, Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: “Ecstasy can and does kill unpredictably. The Government has a duty to protect the public and firmly believes that ecstasy should remain a Class A drug.”
Sadly, this is the kind of reaction we have come to expect from the government when it comes to drugs, their position on which can’t now be argued as anything other than wholly ideological. Last year, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith reclassified cannabis from Class C to B, ignoring evidence from 23 scientists at the ACMD. It’s worth pointing out at this point that the ACMD aren’t a lobby group – they are the Government’s own scientific advisors.
The drug debate in the UK is now in such a piss-poor state that any hope for rational argument is gone. Labour MP Austin Mitchell summed things up pretty well:
“Things have gone from bad to worse, there is no possibility of an honest discussion now. Anyone who sticks their head above the parapet and calls for a rational consideration of the drug laws gets it shot off and kicked around by a horde of lunatics.”
He’s not exaggerating. If you want to experience the full head-in-sand mentality of the UK authority’s approach to drugs, look no further than this discussion on BBC Radio 5 Live between Police Chief Superintendent Ian Johnston and Danny Kushlick of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation (skip to 2hrs 54min). I’ve selected a couple of choice quotes:
IJ: What message is it going to send out to young and vulnerable people if we downgrade this?…
DK: Ian, what kind of message do you think alcohol and tobacco being legal sends out to young people?
IJ: We’ve gone down the tobacco and alcohol argument before.
DK: Yes, and the reason they’re legal is the same reason that the US decided to re-legalise alcohol in the thirties, because the trade had been gifted to the Mafia…
IJ: I agree with some of that, but we’ve got what we’ve got.
In other words: what we have shouldn’t change according to little things like evidence, and in fact, let’s not debate it at all.
DK: There’s no evidence to show reclassifying downwards encourages people to use.
IJ: I don’t agree with that at all.
DK: That’s what the figures show. That’s what the Home Office figures show.
IJ: Well I disagree with that point, because as far as I am concerned we are sending out the wrong message to young people.
Simply breathtaking. This isn’t just a debate about kids getting kicks, it’s about the major cash artery of organised crime both in the UK and abroad, it’s about the war in Afghanistan, and perpetual conflicts in Colombia, Mexico, West Africa, it’s about the treatment of addicts, the health of our nation, people languishing in jail for life, and the Government seems to want no part in even discussing solution to those problems, let alone learning the facts of them. I recommend visiting the excellent Transform Drug Policy Foundation blog for all your informed-debate-on-drugs needs. God knows you won’t find it in Parliament.