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Deadline: 30th June 2014

For those that don’t know, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is the UK’s official body for advising ministers - usually the Home Office - on drug policy. This is the second time it has included a call for the decriminalisation of personal possession of all drugs in a consultation. Hopefully it will consider doing a proper report on this subject - to which the Home Secretary would be obliged to [properly?] respond - but their timetable is packed, and largely determined by… the Home Secretary.

Transform nails all the key points.

Will no one rid the Minister of these troublesome experts?

The UK's ACMD advises to perma-ban MXE and introduce a category ban on other arylcyclohexylamines

In March 2012 the ACMD advised that methoxetamine be subject to a temporary class drug order. Methoxetamine was marketed as a legal alternative to ketamine until a temporary class drug order was implemented in April 2012. As is now required, the ACMD has followed its initial assessment with a consideration of methoxetamine in the context of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; I enclose the report with this letter.

The chemical structure of methoxetamine bears a close resemblance to that of both ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP, “Angel Dust‟, a class A drug), which both produce well-documented and serious adverse effects following both acute and chronic usage.

The ACMD considers, from the available evidence, that the harms of methoxetamine are commensurate with Class B, of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971); and it should be scheduled under Schedule I of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations (2001) (having no known recognised medicinal use). The ACMD also recommend that a number of closely related analogues of ketamine and phencyclidine, some of which have already appeared on sale as “legal high alternatives‟, be controlled by means of a generic chemical description detailed.

Full letter here.


The teaser trailer for the upcoming feature film “All Critics Must Die.”

The ACMD and decriminalisation

The Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into drug policy is still in progress but the written submissions to it have now been released. There are many excellent submissions (and flawed but interesting ones such as the Home Office’s), but that of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs deserves special attention.

Its final point relates to “Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by the Select Committee in 2002 (The Government’s Drugs Policy: Is It Working?, HC 318, 2001- 02) and the Justice Committee’s 2010 Report on justice reinvestment (Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, 2009–10).”

Criminal Justice interventions which involve young adult drug users gaining a criminal record or a custodial sentence may not be the best use of public resources, given the ‘life limiting effect’ or negative impact this may have on a young adults future employment and life prospects.

The majority of drug users are late teenagers or young adults, living in urban areas with men being twice as likely to use as women. The 2010/11 British crime survey showed that levels of ANY drug use are higher amongst the 16 to 19 yr olds (23%), with levels of Class A drug use highest amongst 20-24yr olds (8.2%). Men are also twice as likely to use drugs as women.

In the British Crime Survey 2011 respondents were asked where they acquired their drugs, over half (53%) of drug users said the obtained them from a friend or member of their family, over a fifth (21.4%) from someone else they knew and 21.8% said they got them from a dealer.

Young adults (particularly young urban and Black Minority and Ethnic (BME) men) are disproportionately impacted upon by criminal justice drug interventions. Their lives may be negatively impacted by being caught in the criminal justice system for simple possession offences, drug dealing amongst ‘friends’ etc causing a disproportionate, negative impact on their lives.

In responding to the Government’s drug strategy consultation in 2010 the ACMD considered the question, “Do you think the criminal justice system should do anything differently when dealing with drug misusing offenders?” The ACMD believes that there are further opportunities to be more creative in dealing with those who have committed an offence by possession of drugs for personal use (in cases where there were no additional criminal offences). The ACMD considers that such approaches might be more effective in reducing drug-related harms to individuals and society, reduce repeat offending and reduce the costs to the criminal justice system.

The ACMD propose potential diversion into drug education/awareness courses (similar to those for speeding drivers) or possibly other, more creative civil punishments e.g. temporary loss of a driving licence.

The ACMD recognise that such a diversion proposal would require extensive consultation with education and treatment agencies and support from the police, probation and criminal justice stakeholders before this could be formalised but there is evidence of considerable support for such diversion measures already e.g. ACPO.

The ACMDs proposal is in the context of an awareness that a proportion of offenders - primarily for possession of cannabis - are already dealt with by way of a Police caution issued on the basis of the offender’s admission of guilt of a criminal offence. The ACMD consider that some form of drug education / awareness / treatment might better reduce drug-related harms than increased penetration into the criminal justice system. The ACMD state that if there were other trigger offences (e.g. theft, burglary etc.) then the appropriate criminal justice procedures and sentences would normally apply, which could include community sentences and imprisonment. In June 2011, the ACMD responded to the Sentencing Guideline Council’s Consultation on Drug Offences Guidelines in similar vein.

The ACMD is aware that, subsequent to its submission, it has been incorrectly suggested by some that this was a proposal for decriminalisation. The ACMD was, and still is, clear that its suggestions relate to the discretionary diversion of certain offenders from further penetration into the Criminal Justice System, diverting them into an alternative community-based intervention that may be more effective and more cost effective. This is not decriminalisation because the ACMD consider that the possession of drugs is a criminal offence and should remain a criminal offence.

I hope the committee will respond to the ACMD’s suggestions. Even though the council might not consider this to be ‘decriminalisation’, the differences are smaller than one might think.

'Decriminalisation' is a word that's caused considerable confusion. Not only can it be used to refer to legalisation of supply, but even when just discussing possession it can refer to a large range of policies.

Portugal has de jure decriminalisation of possession. But it’s still an offence, and has to be under international law (for now). Users are sent through what could almost be described as a parallel criminal justice system, with the power to fine users, but which usually uses its discretion and does not (cf what the ACMD recommend). I’ve spoken to lawyers who are in fact concerned about a non-judicial body handing out sanctions, and who point out that the UK has no framework for administrative offences.

Then there’s de facto decriminalisation. In the Netherlands, for example, cannabis possession (and purchase from coffee shops) is still illegal, but is “tolerated”. Despite what the ACMD say above, most people would consider this decriminalisation.

Similarly, the ‘tolerance’ can exist at the level of the judicial system rather than the police. One option would be to simply have a presumption that the Crown Prosecution won’t prosecute for simple possession, on the basis that it’s not in the public interest.

A final example is the Mandatory Cautioning Scheme recommended by the Law Commission in New Zealand (which has a similar framework to the UK). If I recall correctly, it suggested that those caught in possession of an illicit drug would be given a caution and educational/treatment information. The number of cautions one could receive before being prosecuted would depend on the class of drug - e.g. 3 cautions for Class C - thereby insuring that resources are directed mostly at users of the most dangerous drugs (if the classification system is sensical). This, incidentally, is not too different from the UK’s current warning system for cannabis. One of the reasons given for the NZ proposal was that it took out the element of chance (or discrimination) that is the flipside of police/judicial discretion. Again, this system wouldn’t technically be ‘decriminalisation’ but for most users would actually involve fewer repercussions than Portugal’s de jure decriminalisation.

As with legal regulation of drugs, there are a huge range of policy options within prohibition. A consensus is emerging that more severe punishment of users at best achieves nothing, but trying to categorise part of this continuum of options as “decriminalisation” is not particularly easy or helpful.

Prohibition or the complete lack of it...

Drugs policy is something that I have always taken a particular interest in. In fact, I have already written about it several times on this page. So, at the risk of sounding a little obsessed, I think it’s worth returning to the subject.

Today (July 3rd), Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announces her intention to ban the herbal substance known as ‘Khat’. Of course, she hasn’t taken the decision lightly, she sought advice from the ACMD (Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs). The problem is, she hasn’t quite heeded their advice; in fact, she has done the exact opposite. After extensively reviewing the evidence the ACMD concluded that Khat should remain a legal substance. 

"The ACMD considers that the evidence of harms associated with the use of khat is insufficient to justify control and it would be inappropriate and disproportionate to classify khat under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.”

Following their advice would be tantamount to endorsing evidence based drugs policy; clearly a step too far for the political class. With £13.8 million worth of khat imported into the UK a year, the substance currently generates £2.8 million in tax for the public purse every year. That money has now been handed to organised crime. Who knows how much more it will cost to police its use, manufacture & associated crimes, and to house those who are sentenced as a result of the above. So, instead of investing £2.8 million in our schools, hospitals, or, even better, investing the money in substance abuse recovery programs. The government has decided to waste far more money on hopelessly attempting to police the market.

But is it really hopeless? The simple answer is -Yes. A recent article in the Guardian brought this point home particularly well. You see, nowadays, you can buy any drug you want online. That means, if your child has access to the internet, they also have access to crack-cocaine. ‘Silk Road’ is one of several sites that operates as an underground market for illicit substances. It sells everything from cannabis to, well, crack-cocaine! That is, delivered to your door. 

I first heard about ‘Silk Road’ a couple of years ago and it didn’t really surprise me. In almost every city in the UK you can find a drugs-delivery service, so it came as no shock to me that the market had digitalised. 

Now at this point, you may well be asking- How on earth would evidence-based drugs policy solve the problem presented by sites like ‘Silk Road’? To answer that question we have to dispel a pretty deep-seated myth, that is, that less-harmful substances, such as ecstasy, are a stepping stone to harder drugs, like heroin. The reality is that prohibition is the stepping stone between these two substances. When a minor accesses ‘Silk Road’ to purchase (lets say) cannabis, they become exposed to the sale of crack-cocaine. If cannabis was sold and regulated in a market much like alcohol (a far more dangerous substance) they would cease to be exposed to harder substances.

Evidence based drugs policy, with harm-reduction at its core, wouldn’t do away with sites like ‘Silk Road’ but they would stop our children being exposed to seriously harmful drugs and they would redirect a huge revenue away from organised crime and into the public purse. Win-win. 

TLDR? Evidence based drugs policy is the One. 

ACMD Report on Khat-

Guardian article on ‘Silk Road’-

Thanks for reading this article! Please feel free to leave a comment below or share this post on Facebook or Twitter. 

Visit: to buy cannabinoids and incense blends whilst they are still legal

This is a letter written by the head of the ACMD (The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) Les Iverson, who lets face it is no Professor David Nutt. Its pretty clear to see that good old Les is just out to keep the wonderful Mr Cameron PM happy

Anyways to the point, this letter has been sent to The Home Secretary Theresa May MP with the recommendation to ban synthetic cannabinoids in the UK. This ban could be passed as soon as tomorrow but is more than likely going to take a week or two, maybe longer, but we are not holding our breathe 

Here at (One of the UKs largest and most trusted Research suppliers of synthetic cannabinoids) we have reduced cannabinoids and incense blends to clear. 50% SALE ON ALL CANNABINOIDS like UR-144 in powder form, and incense blends containing compounds like UR-144, AM-2201, AM-694, MAM-2201, STS-135, AKB-48 and more

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Weekly Roundup Mar 31: Acronyms Abound

ACMD, INCB, NYPD, etc…the weekly roundup is here (the INCB article is especially worthwhile):

The ACMD and Decriminalization

As with legal regulation of drugs, there are a huge range of policy options within prohibition. A consensus is emerging that more severe punishment of users at best achieves nothing, but trying to categorise part of this continuum of options as “decriminalisation” is not particularly easy or helpful.

Narcotics Watchdog Tuns Blind Eye to Rights Abuses
Patrick Gallahue, IPS

In a dialogue with civil society leaders in early March, Hamid Ghodse, president of the INCB, was asked, “Legal sanctions in different countries include extrajudicial murder, extrajudicial killings, torture – (is) there no atrocity large enough that you could possibly step outside your mandate and say something?”

To which Ghodse replied, “No, 100 percent not. Because, just basically, we are not there to express our opinion.”

This is a stunning admission from the head of a quasi-judicial monitoring mechanism and, in the view of Harm Reduction International, seriously flawed in its legal reasoning.

Claiming that rules relevant to international drug control do not interact with human rights law is a bit like saying that traffic regulations and criminal law never intersect. In fact the idea that laws exist in their own self-contained bubble undermines the very principle of the Rule of Law as a cross-sector social foundation.

New York Police Officers Defy Order to Cut Marijuana Arrests
Alice Brennan and Ryan Devereaux, Guardian

Police officers in New York are “manufacturing” criminal offenses by forcing people with small amounts of marijuana to reveal their drugs, according to a survey by public defenders.

Nearly half of New Yorkers picked up for small amounts of marijuana possession in recent months were not displaying the drug before they were stopped, the study shows, despite an order by New York police chief Ray Kelly that officers should not charge people in such circumstances…

Panetta Declares 150,000 Deaths (Give or Take) in Mexico’s Drug War
Laura Carlson, Americas MexiBlog

The Mexican daily La Jornada ran a somewhat confusing front-page article today, headlined “150,000 Deaths in Mexico for Narco-Violence: Panetta”. The paper notes that the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made the statement at the first meeting of defense chiefs from Canada, the United States and Mexico, held in Ottawa on Mar. 27…

Since the official number is closer to 50,000, the Americas Program decided to track down the 150,000 statement…