Row brews over ecstasy downgrade call
The government’s narcotics advisory body called on Wednesday for a cut in the penalties for using and selling the dance drug ecstasy, a recommendation the Home Office has already said it will ignore.
The 31-member Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said in a report that ecstasy should be downgraded to a class B drug from the most serious class A category.
“After looking at all the evidence presented to us and considering the harmfulness to individuals and society alongside other drugs within the same classification, the ACMD concluded that (ecstasy) should be reclassified to a class B drug,” said the advisory council’s chairman David Nutt.
At present, ecstasy is classified along with heroin, crack cocaine and LSD, with possession leading to as much as seven years in jail.
A change to Class B would put it on a level with amphetamines and cannabis, with a maximum five years for possession.
But the Home Office has made it clear it will oppose any move to a downgrade.
“The government firmly believes ecstasy should remain a class A drug,” a Home Office spokesman said.
Last year, the government rejected the advisory council’s recommendation to keep cannabis as a class C drug. The Home Office cited fears over the damaging effect of the stronger “skunk” variety for its decision.
Nutt was forced to apologise last week for saying that horse-riding was statistically more dangerous than ecstasy.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had ordered Nutt to retract and said she was surprised and disappointed by his remarks.
But Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne said Smith had overreacted to an academic article trying to put the dangers of drug-taking in context.
“There is no point in the government employing expensive experts if it just rubbishes their advice,” he said.
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