Memorandum from the Maranatha Community
in association with the Council for Health and Wholeness
This document has been prepared in response
to the call for evidence by the House of Commons Select Committee
on Science and Technology on "Scientific advice, risk and
evidence: how government handles them."
This submission has been addressed to Mr Phil
Willis, Chairman, Select Committee on Science and Technology.
Email: email@example.com; phone 020 7219 2793.
The Maranatha Community
The Maranatha Community is a Christian movement
with many thousands of members throughout the country active in
all the main churches. Its membership includes a substantial number
of people involved in the health and caring professions and in
a wide range of voluntary work. Since its formation 25 years ago,
it has been deeply involved in work amongst those with drug and
alcohol problems, the elderly, the disabled and the disadvantaged.
It has taken the initiative in a broad range of projects directly
contributing to the health of the nation and it also has extensive
The Maranatha Community
UK Office, 102 Irlam Road, Flixton, Manchester M41
6JT Tel: 0161 748 4858 Fax: 0161 747 9192
Email: info-maranathacommunity.org.uk; www.maranathacommunity.org.uk
The Maranatha Community Trust is a registered charity
The Leader and co-founder of the Community is Mr
The Council for Health and Wholeness
The Council is a multi-disciplinary body embracing
doctors drawn from a variety of specialist disciplines, nurses
and various medical auxiliaries, counsellors, chaplains and others.
It has close links with the healing ministry of the Christian
church and is involved in a broad range of research projects.
The Council for Health and Wholeness is based
in the offices of the Maranatha Community. Its medical co-ordinators
are Dr Hans-Christian Raabe and Dr Linda Stalley.
2.1 The Maranatha Community and the Council
for Health and Wholeness welcome the inquiry by the House of Commons
Select Committee on Science and Technology examining the way Government
uses scientific evidence in formulating policies.
2.2 This submission focuses on Case study
2the classification of illegal drugs, especially the classification
of cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
2.3 When the downgrading of cannabis from
a Class B to a Class C drug was debated in both Houses of Parliament
in October and November 2003, strong scientific evidence was available
linking cannabis to serious mental illness including schizophrenia,
psychosis and depression. This link between cannabis and serious
mental illness has prompted the current Home Secretary, Charles
Clarke, to review the classification of cannabis.
2.4 Timeline of events:
October 2001The then Home
Secretary, David Blunkett, announces that he intends to downgrade
Cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug, and asks the Advisory
Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to report to him.
March 2002The ACMD reports
to the Home Secretary in their report, The Classification of
Cannabis under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This report recommends
the downgrading of Cannabis from a Class B to Class C drug.
October 2003The House of Commons
votes for a downgrading of cannabis from Class B to Class C to
come into effect from January 2004.
November 2003The House of
Lords votes for the downgrading of cannabis.
January 2004 The downgrading
of cannabis comes into effect.
March 2005The Home Secretary,
Charles Clarke, writes to the ACMD, asking them to reconsider
the classification of cannabis in view of evidence linking cannabis
with mental illness.
January 2006Home Secretary
Charles Clarke announces that cannabis should remain a Class C
drug, however announces an educational program about its health
effects and increased policing of cannabis offences.
2.5 In our submission we would like to present
evidence that at the time both Houses of Parliament voted for
the downgrading of cannabis, there was sufficient scientific evidence
available to avoid making an unsound decision and having subsequently
to consider a confusing u-turn on this issue.
2.6 The inquiry asks several questions about
policy making. We would like to comment on several of these questions.
3. SOURCES AND
3.1 Under this heading, the inquiry asks
the following questions:
Are existing advisory bodies being
used in a satisfactory manner?
Are Government departments establishing
the right balance between maintaining an in-house scientific capability
and accessing external advice?
The first question is answered in paragraphs
3.1 to 3.22 below, and the second question answered in paragraphs
3.23 to 3.26.
3.2 In the case of drug policy, the main
advisory body is the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
An analysis of the composition of the ACMD when it initially reported
on the classification of cannabis in early 2002 (from Peter Franklin
in "Renewing One Nation", 2002.) raises serious
concerns about this body for the following reasons (however, we
note that the composition of the ACMD has changed since their
report on the classification of cannabis was issued in March 2002).
3.3 There were hardly any scientists and
no recognised schizophrenia specialist on this body.
3.4 There was a significant imbalance in
the membership. The majority of members were from groups and organisations
that promote a "liberal" drug policy or may even support
legalisation of drugs. There were no representatives of groups
or organisations that advocate a prevention-based drug policy.
3.5 The majority of ACMD members had a potential
conflict of interest in that they were in receipt of government
funding for the organisations they represented.
3.6 There were around 32 members of the
AC MID according to the Home Office web site (the different listings
provided were inconsistent).
3.7 Four ACMD members were key figures in
the Drugscope organisation, the foremost pro-liberalisation pressure
group in Britain:
Roger Howard, chief executive of
Sylvie Pierce, chair of the Drugscope
Joy Barlow, until recently a member
of the Drugscope board.
Vivienne Evans, head of Drugscope's
alcohol and drug education team.
3.8 Two ACMD members were on the steering
committee of another pro-liberalisation pressure group, the UK
Harm Reduction Alliance (UKHRA):
3.9 Five ACMD members were patrons of the
Methadone Alliance, which is linked to UKHRA, and not only wants
drugs liberalised but made more easily available on the NHS:
Lorraine Hewitt (again).
3.10 Eight ACMD members were among the listed
members of Action on Hepatitis C, another pro-liberalisation group
allied to UKHRA and the Methadone Alliance:
Martin Blakeborough (again).
Lorraine Hewitt (again)founder
of Action on Hepatitis C.
3.11 Thus a total of thirteen members of
the ACMD were leading members of proliberalisation pressure groups.
Lorraine Hewitt and Joy Barlow are members of no less than three
different pro-liberalisation pressure groups each.
3.12 All of these pressure groups are linked
to numerous other pro-liberalisation pressure groups including
Transform, the Drug Users Rights Forum and the International Harm
Reduction Alliancefrom which various former members of
the ACMD have been drawn.
3.13 More than 20 of the ACMD members are
members of the drugs policy establishmentinvolved in government
funded research, treatment, education or campaigning.
3.14 Only seven members of the ACMD at most
appear to have no financial interest in the direction of government
drugs policy. Of these, only three or four are scientists.
3.15 The ACMD had no members from organisations
that oppose the liberalisation of drugs, such as the National
Drug Prevention Alliance or DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).
3.16 There were no recognised specialists
on schizophrenia such as Prof Robin Murray on the ACMD, nor any
leading experts on brain function such as Prof Susan Greenfield,
nor any of the foremost researchers on cannabis in the UK, such
as Prof Heather Ashton.
3.17 These facts are disturbing because
the ACMD is presented as a neutral, objective and scientific advisory
3.18 Not surprisingly, the ACMD recommended
the dowgrading of cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug. Still,
the report warned about the adverse health effects of cannabis
that "since cannabis use has only become commonplace in the
past 30 years there may be worse news to come".
3.19 The poor handling of scientific evidence
by the ACMD as well as failure to consult with the relevant experts
is shown in the following incident: It is quite astonishing that
the Chairman of the ACMD, Sir Michael Rawlins, claimed in a letter
to The Times of 23 January 2004 that relevant evidence linking
cannabis to schizophrenia published by Prof Robin Murray in November
2002 had been taken into account when the ACMD issued their report
recommending the downgrading in March 2002. We quote from Prof
Murray's letter to The Times, 28 January 2004:
Sir, Sir Michael Rawlins (letter,
January 23, 2004) reiterates the view of the Advisory Council
on the Misuse of Drugs, which he chairs, that there is little
evidence of a causal link between cannabis and schizophrenia.
He claims that "Most of Professor Robin Murray's research
was known to the advisory council at the time that it was producing
its cannabis report." This is remarkable since the ACMD `s
report was released in March 2002, but our first research on this
topic was not published until eight months later, in the BMJ of
November 23, 2002.
It was unfortunate that the ACMD
did not include a recognised schizophrenia expert to alert it
to the growing number of patients with cannabis-related psychosis.
Nevertheless, the ACMD report could be defended in March 2002,
since at that time there was only one report in the scienflfic
literature suggesting that prolonged cannabis use increases the
risk of later schizophrenia. However, subsequently five new studies
have implicated heavy cannabis use as a contributory cause ofpsychosis.
Is it not time for the ACMD to examine
the new evidence in detail and consult with the scientists who
Robin M Murray (Professor of Psych
iatry), Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, SE5 8AF.
3.20 In addition, from our own correspondence
with Sir Michael Rawlings, it is clear that the ACMD chose to
disregard evidence-based warnings about the mental health risks
associated with cannabis. On the 2 April, 2004 we drew Sir Michael's
attention to evidence linking cannabis with mental illness and
Professor Ghodse's warning that "It is quite worrying that
we might end up in the next 10 or 20 years . . . with our psychiatric
hospitals filled with people who have problems with cannabis".
Sir Michael's reply of the 19 April, 2004 stated that the ACMD
had "concluded that there is little sign ificant evidence
of a causal link between cannabis use and the development of mental
illness, particularly schizophrenia . . I am of the view that
any new evidence produced since the production of the ACMD's cannabis
report does not affect the overall weight of evidence on their
conclusions about health risks."
3.21 As the make-up of the ACMD at the time
of the report had no recognisable experts in the issues raised
in the evidence, we conclude that in this instance the Government's
use of the advisory panel was most unsatisfactory.
3.22 The second question we answer in this
section is: Are Government departments establishing the right
balance between maintaining an in-house scientific capability
and accessing external advice?
3.23 We were, and remain, seriously concerned
that the Home Office repeatedly refused to see eminent and leading
scientists and others involved in research on cannabis, drugs
and mental health in October 2003, prior to the debates in both
Houses of Parliament. A team of leading scientists and representatives
of other organisations who would be affected by the proposed reclassification
were keen to meet the Home Secretary in autumn 2003 prior to the
planned downgrading. Our organisation was in frequent contact,
both by phone and by fax to senior civil servants within the Home
Office in order to facilitate such a meeting. All requests for
this meeting were turned down by the Home Office. The group included:
Prof Robin M Murray, Professor
of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, London. Professor Murray
has published a large amount of original research on the link
between cannabis and mental health, including schizophrenia.
Prof John Henry, Imperial
College of Science, Technology and Medicine; Academic Department
of Accident and Emergency Medicine, St Mary's Hospital, London.
Professor Henry is an expert on the toxicology of illicit drugs.
Prof Heather Ashton, School
of Neurosciences, Division of Psychiatry, University of Newcastle.
Professor Ashton was possibly the first UK researcher to examine
the effects of cannabis on mental health.
Prof Cohn Drummond, Professor
of Addiction Psychiatry, Department of Addictive Behaviour and
Psychological Medicine, St George's Hospital Medical School, London.
Dr Clare Gerada, Head of Substance
Misuse Training, Royal College of General Practitioners, London.
Apart from her official function, Dr Gerada has seen at first
hand the effect of widespread cannabis use, especially among the
young in Lambeth.
Mr Hamish Turner, HM Coroner
for the Torbay and South Devon District; Past President, Coroners'
Society for England and Wales. As a coroner, he has first-hand
experience of the effect of cannabis, especially on young people.
Jan Berry, Chairman, Police
3.24 Despite the eminence of this group
of scientists and others, and the appropriateness of their fields
of expertise to the subject under inquiry, the Home Office refused
to meet them.
3.25 Lord Alton of Liverpool expressed serious
concerns about the refusal by the Home Office to meet these eminent
and expert people in his contribution to the debate on the reclassification
in the House of Lords. (House of Lords Hansard; 12 November
2003: Columns 1496) The government minister, Baroness Scotland
of Asthal, failed to comment on this issue during the debate.
4.1 In this section the inquiry asks the
What mechanisms are in place to
ensure that policies are based on available evidence?
4.2 We submit that, at the time both Houses
of Parliament voted for the downgrading of cannabis proposed by
the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, sufficient scientific
information was already available to question the recommendation
to downgrade and at least delay this decision until further evidence
was available. We particularly note that, if policy is supposed
to be based on the precautionary principle, then a decision to
downgrade should not have been taken.
4.3 There is evidence going back many decades
that cannabis is associated with mental illness including schizophrenia
and psychosis. For example, Dr Karel Gunning, a Dutch doctor working
in Morocco in the 1950s, points out that a condition called "cannabinism"
was in evidence. This involved serious adverse mental health effects
including "madness" following the use of cannabis. (Dr
Karel Gunning, personal communication, 2002). There have been
many studies published that have pointed to a possible link between
cannabis and psychosis, some of them published over 35 years ago.
(Talbott JA, Teague JW. Marihuana psychosis. Acute toxic psychosis
associated with the use of Cannabis derivatives. JAMA. 1969; 210:
299-302.; Keup W Psychotic symptoms due to cannabis abuse; a survey
of newly admitted mental patients. Dis Nerv Syst. 1970; 31: 119-26,'
Bernhardson G, Gunne LM Forty-six cases of psychosis in cannabis
abusers. Int JAddict. 1972, 7. 9-16). In a study published
over 20 years ago of 1,325 young adults aged 24 to 25 years, adverse
mental health effects of cannabis were described. (Kandel DB.
MarUuana users in young adulthood. Arch Gen Psychiati'y. 1984;
4.4 In November 2001, the Maranatha Community
published a booklet "Cannabisa warning". This
document was sent to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the
Secretary of State for Health and other political and church leaders.
In this document, evidence was presented regarding the adverse
physical health effects of cannabis, including brain damage, heart
and lung disease and the triggering of cancer. The document also
warned about the adverse effects on mental health, including triggering
schizophrenia and psychosis and the risk of addiction. (The
Maranatha Community.' CannabisA warning. November 2001)
4.5 In November 2002, a major consultation
examining the adverse health effects of cannabis was held in the
House of Lords, chaired by Lord David Alton. In this conference,
Professors John Henry, Heather Ashton and Cohn Drummond presented
evidence regarding the adverse effects of cannabis on physical
and mental health. The latest evidence including three studies
published in the British Medical Journal linking cannabis to schizophrenia
and other mental health problems was presented. In total, 14 experts
from different backgrounds as well as former cannabis users and
relatives of cannabis users presented evidence. The proceedings
of this consultation were submitted to the Prime Ministers Office
("Cannabisa cause for concern?Consultation
in the House of Lords, November 2002," available from the
4.6 The following is based on a presentation
by Professor Robin Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry, given
in a consultation convened by the Maranatha Community in the House
of Commons on 21 October 2003, ie, well before the House of Commons
voted for the downgrading on 29 October 2003.
4.7 Recent research into cannabis consumption
and mental disorder shows that there is growing evidence that
cannabis actually causes psychosis. Patients with recent onset
of psychosis are twice as likely to have used cannabis compared
with a population without psychosis. While alcohol consumption
and consumption of illicit drugs other than cannabis was roughly
equal in both groups, cannabis was used by 39% of psychotic patients
but only by 22% of non-psychotic controls. Psychotic patients
are more likely to consume cannabis than the general population,
but until recently the reasons for this have been unclear. Indeed,
many psychiatrists continue to believe that their patients take
the drug to counteract the negative symptoms (lack of interest
in life, poor concentration, etc) of the illness or the effects
of medication. Furthermore, those psychotic patients who continue
to use cannabis have a worse outcome than those who don't.
4.8 Can cannabis consumption actually cause
schizophrenia? In 1987, a study of 50,000 conscripts into the
Swedish Army revealed that those who admitted at age 18 to having
taken cannabis on more than 50 occasions were six times more likely
to develop schizophrenia in the following 15 years. (Andreasson
5, et al. Cannabis and schizophrenia. A longitudinal study
of Swedish conscripts. Lancet. 1987 (8574).' 1483-6.) These
findings have been largely ignored. However, in the last 18 months,
a number of studies have confirmed that cannabis consumption acts
to increase later risk of schizophrenia. A Dutch study of some
4,000 people in the general population showed that those taking
large amounts of cannabis at the initial interview were almost
seven times more likely to have psychotic symptoms three years
later. Critics argued that the findings of the Swedish and Dutch
studies could have been caused by those individuals who were already
odd and destined to develop schizophrenia, rather than by the
use of cannabis. Two further studies have, however, excluded this
hypothesis. An expansion of the Swedish Army study demonstrated
that the results held even when initial personality was taken
into account. It has become clear that the risk of developing
psychosis following cannabis use remains significant after controlling
for factors such as disturbed behaviour, low IQ score, cigarette
smoking, growing up in a city, and poor social integration. (Zammit
5, et al. Self reported cannabis use as a risk factor for
schizophrenia in Swedish conscripts of 1969. historical cohort
study. BMJ 2002, 325: 1199-2001.) In a general population
birth cohort study in Dunedin, New Zealand, it was found that
those who used cannabis at age 15 were 4.5 times higher risk of
developing psychosis by age 26. When the presence of psychotic-like
ideas at the age of 11 was taken into account, the risk of schizophrenic
symptoms at 26 was diminished, but was still important. (Arseneault
L, et al Cannabis use in adolescence and risk for adult psychosis.'
longitudinal prospective study. BMJ 2002; 325: 1212-3.) Cannabis
use in adolescence was a risk factor for experiencing symptoms
of schizophrenia in adulthood, over and above psychotic symptoms
prior to cannabis use, in addition, a strong developmental effect
was found. Early cannabis use (by age 15) was a stronger risk
factor for schizophreniform disorder than use by age 18. Furthermore,
cannabis use by age 15 did not predict depressive outcomes at
age 26 (indicating specificity of the outcome) and the use of
other illicit drugs in adolescence did not predict schizophrenia
outcomes over and above the effect of cannabis use (indicating
specificity of exposure).
4.9 There is a dose response effect with
higher doses of cannabis causing greater psychosis. If cannabis
is causally associated with psychosis, then we should expect to
find a dose-response relationship in which a higher dose is associated
with greater psychosis. Indeed, administration of Tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) can induce psychotic symptoms in controls and in schizophrenic
patients, but more so in the latter: normal individuals experience
a brief psychotic episode after intravenous application of THC,
however individuals who have been psychotic suffer a greater increase
in psychotic symptoms. Such a dose-response relationship was also
observed in the above mentioned study among Swedish conscripts.
Among the 50,000 Swedish 18-year-olds interviewed about their
drug consumption when they were conscripted into the army, the
relative risk of developing schizophrenia over the following 15
years was 2.4 for cannabis users compared to non-users at time
of conscription. This rose to 6.0 for heavy users. Of course,
it is possible to argue that the heavy users were already psychiatrically
disturbed at age 18, and were taking cannabis as an attempt at
self-medication. When this confounding factor was controlled for,
the relative risk was roughly halved to 2.9, but remained significant.
Furthermore, the Swedish findings have now been supported by four
other prospective studies. Of course, only a small proportion
of heavy cannabis users go on to develop schizophrenia. It seems
heavy consumption over prolonged periods is necessary and psychosis
develops particularly in those with some vulnerability.
4.10 Why should cannabis be a contributing
cause for schizophrenia? Psychotic symptoms in conditions such
as schizophrenia are mediated by dopamine, and recent evidence
demonstrates that 9-THC increases the release of dopamine from
the nucleus accumbens and the prefrontal cortex and raises the
level of cerebral dopamine. Interestingly, it has recently been
hypothesised that dopamine sensitisation plays a central role
in explaining both the craving for cannabis and the positive symptoms
(such as delusions, hallucinations, disorganised speech or behaviour)
4.11 A joint letter by Professor Heather
Ashton, Dr Clare Gerada, Hamish Turner and Dr HC Raabe was published
in the Independent on 23 January 2004, several days before Parliament
voted for reclassification. In this letter it was stated:
4.12 A person who uses cannabis by age 15
has more than a four-fold increased risk of developing schizophrenia
symptoms over the next 11 years compared with a person starting
to use cannabis by age 18. Eighteen-year-olds who have used cannabis
50 times have a nearly seven-fold increased risk of developing
psychosis over the next 15 years.
4.13 Up to 80% of new cases of psychosis
currently seen in some psychiatric hospitals are triggered by
cannabis abuse. Psychiatric services, especially in London, are
near crisis point due to cannabis-induced mental illness.
4.14 Over the past three decades, a doubling
of the prevalence of schizophrenia has been observed in London.
While it is too early to say whether this is due to the increase
in cannabis abuse over the past decades, this possibility cannot
be discounted on current evidence. (Dr C Gerada, Director of drugs
training programme, Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor
H Ashton, Division of Psychiatry, University of Newcastle, H Turner,
Immediate past President, Coroners Society of England and Wales,
Dr HC Raabe, GP. Letter to the Editor, Independent, 23.01.2003)
4.15 We therefore submit that:
sufficient evidence existed at the
time to seriously question the downgrading of Cannabis,
that this evidence should have at
least served to delay any decision to reclassify, if policy is
based on the precautionary principle, and
that in this instance, any mechanisms
that does exist to ensure policy is based on evidence failed,
with grave consequences for the mental health of thousands of
5.1 Under the third heading the inquiry
asks the following question:
Is risk being analysed in a consistent
and appropriate manner across Government?
Has the precautionary principle
been adequately defined and is it being applied consistently and
appropriately across Government?
5.2 We are concerned that risk is not being
analysed in a consistent and appropriate manner and that the precautionary
principle has not been applied appropriately.
5.3 As mentioned in the previous section,
there has been ample scientific evidence linking cannabis to many
adverse health outcomes including psychosis for many years. Therefore
the precautionary principle should be applied.
5.4 One definition of the precautionary
principle in the field of environmental health has been defined
in the Rio Declaration from June 1992:
Where there are threats of serious
or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall
not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures
to prevent environmental degradation. (UN Environment Programme,
The Rio Declaration, Principle 15 June 1992).
5.5 The UK is a signatory to the Rio Declaration
and therefore should adopt the precautionary principle into policy
making. While this declaration refers to potential environmental
damage due, for example, to man-made chemicals, this principle
should apply to drug policy as well. At the time of making decisions
and formulating policies, not all relevant scientific evidence
may be available for a full risk assessment.
5.6 From a public health point of view,
therefore, a precautionary principle should be adopted regarding
drug policy. In practice, this means that any drug is considered
potentially unsafe. Drug policy should be based on this assumption.
6. THE SYSTEM
6.1 We welcomed the announcement by the
Home Secretary to review the classification system of drugs. In
this inquiry, the Science and Technology Committee investigates
the classification of illicit drugs. The British system is based
on the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which classifies illicit drugs
into three classifications, Class A, B and C. Whilst, strictly
speaking, the remit of the Committee was not to examine the actual
basis of the drugs classification system, we submit that after
over 35 years this system needs to be replaced.
6.2 The classification system is based on
a comparative assessment of harmfulness. For example to place
cannabis in the same class as valium or temazepam, as happened
after reclassification, involves essentially a value judgement
that the two substances are broadly as dangerous as each other
and less dangerous than substances from class B or A.
6.3 As one can see with the discussion about
cannabis, there is an endless debate on the classification of
certain illicit drugs, whether a certain drug such as cannabis
(and many other drugs come to mind) should be classified in Class
C, or B or even A.
6.4 Obviously, the classification of a drug
is a complicated decision, as the total harm caused by a drug
is not just limited to the purely medical adverse effects, but
also includes the adverse effects on society, including crime
and the cost to the criminal justice system. A drug with a moderate
or perhaps even low medical risk may have enormously severe adverse
societal effects, especially if it is taken widely. A drug with
very high medical risk may have few adverse societal effects,
especially if only taken very rarely. It is therefore not surprising
that even experts will disagree on the appropriate classification
of an illicit drug.
6.5 The debate about reclassification in
itself creates confusion. Some members of the police had erroneously
believed that cannabis had been legalised. The announcement of
reclassification led almost nine out of 10 primary school children
to believe that cannabis was now legal and eight out of 10 pupils
thought it was now safe. (Life Education Centres, Children
confused about cannabis; Press Release 05.09.2002)
6.6 For these reasons, we submit that this
old classification system should be replaced with a simpler regime
similar to the Swedish approach.
6.7 In Sweden, there is essentially only
one class of illicit drugs. The severity of a drug offence is
determined by the amount of drug found on an individual. For example,
possession of up to 50 gm of cannabis is considered to be a "minor
offence" to have 2 kg of cannabis is a "major"
offence. A normal offence is the possession of between 51 gm and
just under 2 kg of cannabis. For heroin, the respective figures
are up to 0.39 gm "minor", 0.4-25 gm "normal"
and more than 25 gm "major". For amphetamines, up to
6 gm is considered "minor", 6.1-250 gm "normal"
and more than 250 gm "major". The sentencing is obviously
more severe in the major categories compared to the normal and
minor categories. Only in the minor category would a person escape
a prison sentence. Essentially, it is assumed that every dose
in excess of a single consumption constitutes dealing. For this
reason, this attracts a prison sentence. (Tim Boekhout van
Solinge. The Swedish Drug Control System. Cedro, Amsterdam, p
6.8 We need to point out that Sweden has
among the lowest rates in Europe for drug misuse of the major
drugs including cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy. (Source:
European Monitoring Centre for Drug European Monitoring Centre
for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA, various annual reports).
7.1 If the Government establishes an advisory
bodysuch as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugsto
guide decision-making on the classification of illicit drugs,
then the Government has to make sure that at least two criteria
are fulfilled. Regarding the Advisory Council on the Misuse of
Drugs and the reclassification of cannabis, neither of these criteria
The membership of this body must
be balanced in their views.
The membership of this body must
have the relevant qualifications and experience to guide the Government
in their decision-making.
7.2 Scientific evidence was badly handled.
The ACMD chairman claimed to have incorporated research papers
into the ACMD report that were actually published eight months
after the release of this report.
7.3 It appears that political considerations
took precedence over scientific evidence and over the precautionary
principle. This is shown by the determination of the then Home
Secretary, David Blunkett, to request an assessment of downgrading
from the ACMD, and by the refusal of the Home Office to meet leading
researchers on cannabis and mental health just before the vote
was taken in Parliament.
7.4 We submit that the current classification
system based on the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 needs to be replaced
with a simpler and more effective system, such as the Swedish
model. Sweden has among the lowest rates of drug misuse among
7.5 We submit that it is futile to pursue
discredited policies of so-called "harm-reduction" and
vital that the Government and the nation are totally committed
to the ideal of a drug-free society.