Not informing the drugs debate

7:59 am - January 26th 2009

by Sunder Katwala    

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Today Programme. 7.10am slot. The Deputy Chair of the Magistrates Association, a John Fasselfelt, is on.

The Association has fully welcomed – indeed, vocally campaigned for – the government’s decision to upgrade cannabis to a plan B drug, which comes into effect today. But their complaint is about the sentencing guidelines which come with this. They aren’t as serious for possession as for other class B drugs. Less cases will get into a court setting, he complains. That’s unfair. What if you were caught with cannabis and I had some other class B drug, he asks James Naughtie.

Who reasonably asks what, for information, are those other Class B drugs with which he is sure cannabis must be treated identically.

“You’ve got me there”. He hasn’t got the foggiest. Not a clue.

“I’m not a big user of Class B drugs”, he says. (No, just an expert advocate on what drugs should and should not be in that class). Well done.

Here they are.

The lesson: perhaps the government might listen a little more to its scientific advisors (whose advice was ignored in this case), and a little less to the chuntering magistrates.

Cross-posted from Next Left

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Reader comments

Christy – ketamine’s only a class C? That stuff is scary! Psychiatrically useful, but scary.


I completely agree and it makes a nonsense of the whole classifcation system when the so called “experts” cannot name the correct categories for drugs.

I noticed this on another radio programme a couple of weeks back. I have posted about it here:


Ketamine’s a class C but ecstasy’s a class A?

@ 1 & 2: You expected it to make sense?

@ 1 and 2: What 3 said.

The only thing we all know about the list is that it’s bonkers, and bears no relation whatever to the actual harm of the substances (to the individual or society) except for most of the class A’s. And you’re not allowed to put tobacco or alcohol next to them to compare, that’s bad apparently.

6. Green Socialist

As long as drugs policy is left to tabloid led politicians, we shall always have this mess.
They really don’t know what they are doing!
Legalise and licence soft drugs and treat addicts as people with an illness not criminals.

except for most of the class A’s.

Hmm. Ecstasy and ‘shrooms are pretty harmless. LSD and coke about up there with booze. Heroin and crack somewhat worse.

And who on earth *injects* speed…?

Yeah, it was heroin and crack that are hard to argue as belonging in A.

Injecting speed?! Sweet moley, I have a difficult enough time on my current sugar intake.

Laws don’t reflect reality, Laws reflect what the government thinks will get them re-elected.

After lowering Cannabis from Class B to Class C, Cannabis use went down but complaints from the Daily Mail went up.

So, instead of sticking with the advice of their own Scientific Advisors and their own starkly plain crime statistics they raise it back up to Class B for the tough on crime crowd.

The drug dealers must be celebrating today.

10. Green Socialist

pre 1911 (I think) there were no illegal drugs.

As people have said government policy appears to come from Daily Mail editorials, not scientific advice.

The biggest reason (other than to appease the Daily Mail) for re-classifying the drug as Class B seems to be the increased usage of the skunk variety, which is more powerful than yer average weed. If cannabis were simply legalized, this would not be a problem as it could be effectively regulated so as to maintain certain standards. On top of this, the tax revenue generated could go to towards preventing the usage of drugs that are actually harmful.


Most of the hysteria surrounding TEH KILLER SKUNK 25 TIMES STRONGER!!1 is absolute bollocks though.

Ben Goldacre from off of Bad Science wrote a good post on this a while back:

Can we elect Ben Goldacre President of the world?

13. Shatterface

Skunk might be more powerful than ordinary weed but in most cases that means we just smoke less.

My favourite drug’s alcohol, preferably as part of a real ale (support your local brewery!) but I’d admit it’s more dangerous than almost any other drug on the list: it has far more long-term effects than coke, for instance.

You’ve more chance of poking an eye out with an ecstasy tablet than harming yourself with it in any other way.

Ketamine’s for date-raping horses though.

14. Alisdair Cameron

Injecting speed’s a bit passé, as it were,but folk did/do practice it: had an ex who’s wayward old man not only injected it but did so into his eyeball…
On this topic,
a) who the hell elected ACPO and the magistrates assoc, and more tothe point, their professional standing within the system should preclude them from lobbying. can’t remember who (Unity, ukliberty) suggesting that they’re used in fact by Govt to give the impression that folk other than the Govt back the illogicality of so much new labour policy. True, I think, and ACPo especially is used to float repressive or retrograde measures which the Govt then adopts a ‘watered-down’ version, thereby appearing less extreme,when the whole thing’s a facade to mask an illiberal direction of travel.
b) Politicians ignore experts and all of the evidence, believe they know better. Very New Labour

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