Ecstasy - UK rejects advice to downgrade
A report by the UK Government's own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs that concluded Ecstasy should be downgraded from a Class A illegal drug to Class B has been rejected by the home secretary Jacqui Smith.
The report which was compiled over 12 months said that the health risks both mental and physical were "relatively few". They also found that the police and courts treated ecstasy use differently from heroin or crack cocaine and that its legal position should reflect this.
The Government is taking the same line in rejecting the advice of the Council as it did when the Council advised that Cannabis should not be upgraded in law to Class B but remain at the lower Class C. It believes that while accepting the findings it needs to send a political message to young people that the British Government does not encourage the use of these drugs.
In regard to ecstasy around 5m tablets are taken every month in the UK and there are around 33 deaths associated with its use though only 17 where it was the sole cause of death. Amphetemine which is classified as a Class B drug - lower than ecstasy - causes over twice as many deaths annually at around 70 per year.
The credibility of the official system of drugs classification suffered a fresh blow yesterday after the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, again vetoed a key recommendation from her own expert drug advisers, this time to downgrade the dance drug ecstasy from its class A status.
The Home Office junior minister Alan Campbell, explaining the rejection of the 12-month study by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which looked at more than 4,000 academic papers, said the government would not send a signal to young people that ecstasy was taken less seriously.
Professor David Nutt, the council's chairman, said its role was not to send messages to the public but to provide the home secretary and prime minister with evidence of the relative harm of different drugs. "I suspect that they accepted our evidence but I think that they have made a political decision not to reclassify," he said.