As part of their current review of the classification of MDMA (‘ecstasy’) the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) wrote to UKDPC in July 2008 with an invitation to submit written evidence. UKDPC is in no doubt that the Advisory Council’s review will be of the highest quality, based on rigorous scrutiny of the best available scientific evidence. In this respect, we recognise that it would be difficult for any contribution from the Commission to ‘add value’. Furthermore, the Commission has not produced any work to date that can be usefully referenced to inform the specific issue of ecstasy classification.
However, we believe that the recent debate over the issue of cannabis classification and the subsequent decision by the Government to reject the Advisory Council’s advice to keep cannabis in Class C raises a range of deeper questions about drug policy than simply which class a drug should be placed in. For example, it challenges the role of expert advisory bodies and the analysis of scientific evidence in the formulation of policy.
It also demonstrates a lack of clarity and understanding in some quarters about the purpose of the classification system and the ways by which “harm” is assessed. Therefore this paper does not offer evidence that is specific to the classification of ecstasy but aims to demonstrate that a wider review of the classification system is now overdue. In reaching its final conclusions on ecstasy, we hope the ACMD will not miss the opportunity to highlight the wider issues outlined in this paper concerning:
(a) the purpose of the classification system; and
(b) how best to make decisions about classifications.