Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/04/04/brown_class_b/

Brown ignores scientists and pushes pot reclassification

Papers? What scientific papers?

By Joe Fay

Posted in Science, 4th April 2008 10:02 GMT

Gordon Brown is rolling ahead with plans to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug, after opting to follow the common sense advice of his police chiefs rather than the Home Office’s own scientists.

Brown had asked The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, an “independent” body with web and physical addresses at the Home Office, to “review” the positioning of cannabis, after increasing alarm that stronger strains of the drug were damaging the mental health of users.

In particular, there have been worries that skunk and other super-strong strains can trigger schizophrenia in susceptible individuals, and that the country is facing a spike in new cases due to increased drug use by the young. The Association of Chief Police Officers has lobbied hard for the drug to be effectively recriminalised.

The Advisory Council met to consider the evidence earlier this week. According to sources at the meeting who spoke to (naturally) The Guardian, the meeting considered a Home Office document which showed that skunk and other superbrew types of cannabis now dominated seizures of the drug. The committee also heard evidence from scientists from Keele University that between 1996 and 2005, levels of schizophrenia had actually dropped in the UK. Since 2000, the level of psychoses has also dropped.

According to The Guardian the authors say this data is "not consistent with the hypothesis that increasing cannabis use in earlier decades is associated with increasing schizophrenia or psychoses from the mid-1990s onwards".

Somehow, this evidence failed to convince the committee to fall in with Brown and ACPO’s common sense line. Instead, the committee has irrationally decided there is no case for upgrading cannabis from Class C to Class B.

The details of the meeting have not been officially disclosed, and the Home Office line is that it will make a decision when it receives the Council’s official evidence at the end of this month.

Luckily, Brown has decided he doesn’t need to wait for the scientific evidence, and is pressing ahead with a campaign to reclassify pot anyway. Brown has spent the week describing cannabis use as “unacceptable” and Downing Street was apparently telling journalists yesterday that the drug would be bumped back into Class B, complete with a maximum sentence for possession of five years.

Following this week’s media reports, ACPO declared yesterday that it stood by its recommendations that cannabis be reclassified, adding: “ACPO recognises the independence of the ACMD and following its formal report, will await the decision of the Home Secretary with interest. Rather than comment further on speculation at this time, we will provide a fuller response then.” ®