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[ACMD] Resignation 'threatens drug ban'

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  1. corvardus
    View attachment 13944 Another senior government drugs adviser has quit, hours before ministers were expected to ban a new "legal high".

    The resignation of Dr Polly Taylor from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has sparked speculation that the ban on mephedrone could be delayed.

    Lib Dem science spokesman Dr Evan Harris said Home Secretary Alan Johnson's ban would have to wait until the council was "properly constituted".

    The Home Office said it would not speculate on any delay to the ban.
    There has been media pressure to ban mephedrone, which has been linked in recent press reports to at least four deaths in the UK.

    But the law says any move to ban a drug must follow consultation with the Advisory Council.

    The council will make its decision whether the drug should be banned on Monday morning, and Mr Johnson was expected to announce a ban later in the day.

    However, the council's meeting will be overshadowed by the resignation of Dr Taylor - the ACMD's veterinary medicine expert whose post is required by law to be filled on the committee.

    She said she "did not have trust" in the way the government would treat the council's advice.

    Dr Harris said: "The 1971 (Misuse of Drugs) Act is very clear that before the government criminalises thousands of people by banning a drug they must take advice on drug harm and other matters from a legally-constituted advisory council.

    "If it is necessary to act urgently to ban mephedrone then, by provoking this resignation by their refusal to respect the scientists who offer advice, the home secretary will now be forced to wait a delay while the council is properly constituted."

    No letter

    A former secretary of the advisory council, Jeremy Sare, told the BBC the council would not be properly constituted until a new vet was appointed, which would take them at least "a few weeks".

    A Home Office spokeswoman told the BBC: "We have not received any form of resignation from any member of the advisory council, and we cannot speculate on any issues that could arise on Monday.

    "Whatever happens does not change the home secretary's commitment on mephedrone."

    In her resignation letter, Dr Taylor told the home secretary she was quitting because she did not have trust in the way the government would treat the ACMD's advice.

    "I feel that there is little more we can do to describe the importance of ensuring that advice is not subjected to a desire to please ministers or the mood of the day's press," she wrote.

    Mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant, is known by various names, including "M-Cat", and "meow meow".

    So far there is no scientific proof that mephedrone has been responsible for any deaths in the UK, and scientists are still trying to work out whether it is harmful on its own or if taken with something else.

    However, last week, the government's chief drugs adviser, Professor Les Iversen, strongly indicated that the ACMD would recommend classifying mephedrone as a Class B drug.

    Last October, Mr Johnson sacked his chief drugs adviser, Professor David Nutt, saying he had lobbied against government policy.

    The sacking led five other members to quit and an urgent review of the committee's working relationship with ministers.

    Dr Nutt, who has set up his own rival expert body, has warned that banning mephedrone could be self-defeating and that the evidence supporting a ban wasn't clear.

    He has urged the ACMD and ministers to wait for the verdict of an expert European body which is looking at the use of the drug across all EU member states.

    "This is a pivotal moment in UK drug policy," said Dr Nutt.

    "Given the plethora of 'legal highs' that could follow in mephedrone's wake, the way in which this issue is handled could well set the tone for many years to come."

    The Conservatives have called for the law to be changed to allow temporary bans of drugs while the scientific evidence is assessed.

    BBC News
    29/03/2010
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8592103.stm

Comments

  1. corvardus
    Rushing mephedrone ban is wrong

    Rushing mephedrone ban is wrong

    The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has been put in an impossible position on the classification of mephedrone

    The home secretary might try to brazen out Penny Taylor's resignation from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. If so, the government's claim that it values independent scientific advice will take another knock. Waiting to impose a ban on mephedrone until the ACMD reports is not the same as basing a decision on scientific advice. The Home Office had already decided to ban mephedrone. The ACMD's deliberations were mere window dressing. So it is worth considering how the process of classifying a drug generally operates.

    Under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act the home secretary is obliged to consult the ACMD about any proposed changes to a drug's classification.

    Following discussion with the Home Office, an ACMD working group will draw up a draft report, normally over a period of four or five meetings. It will then go to the full ACMD for agreement, after which the ACMD will write to the home secretary with its recommendation. This is painstaking, detailed and time-consuming work.

    After giving the report due consideration, the home secretary makes his or her response. There then comes the formal consultation, lasting 12 weeks, and a regulatory impact assessment. Both houses of parliament then need to approve any change, as does the privy council. Following this the new classification becomes law.

    In normal times the whole process takes a year and a half, sometimes longer. The deliberations that led to cannabis being reclassified from class B to class C in January 2004 came on the back of an ACMD-led review that lasted close to two and half years.

    But these are not normal times. We are in the middle of a mephedrone scare in the runup to a general election. The result of this toxic combination is the current farrago.

    Since the mass resignations in the wake of David Nutt's dismissal, the ACMD has been unable to function. New members, originally due for interview in April, are now hurriedly being put into place.

    A report has been rushed through a depleted technical committee. Most of the ACMD members will not even get to see it until today's meeting, at which they will be expected to make a potentially far-reaching recommendation on classification.

    The interim chair, Les Iversen, has been put in an impossible position. I can not imagine that any of the current ACMD members can be feeling too good right now. We are facing a rush classification of a drug, the harms of which are still little understood. Indeed, some are openly questioning the principle of a science-based drugs classification system. The whole thing is a mess.

    Yet even at this late stage there is a chance to do things differently. The European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, an EU body that provides factual analysis for member countries, is conducting its own study of mephedrone and is likely to report in July. This should give a far more rounded view of the evidence than the ACMD alone can provide.

    It is also about time that there was a serious debate about the alternatives to outright criminalisation. As David Nutt argued last week in the Evening Standard, legal, though regulated, supply of drugs like mephedrone, ecstasy and cannabis might be a better way of reducing the undoubted harms of drug taking than an approach that criminalises users.

    Criminalisation, at the end of the day, is a pretty blunt and ineffective mechanism for controlling certain behaviours deemed criminal. It is a thoroughly inappropriate means for seeking to protect individuals from the harms drugs cause, or ensuring they have the right kind of information to make informed choices.

    Richard Garside
    Guardian
    29/03/2010
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentis...-classification-advisory-council-misuse-drugs
  2. corvardus
    Mephedrone 'ban' government decision due

    The government says it will "act immediately" when it receives advice on mephedrone from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs later on Monday.

    Another senior government drugs adviser quit the council hours before ministers were expected to ban the drug.

    The resignation of Dr Polly Taylor had led to speculation that a ban on the "legal high" could be delayed because of rules about the ACMD's membership.

    The ACMD said it would notify the home secretary at 1600 "as planned".
    Mr Johnson is expected to announce a ban later in the day.

    There has been pressure to ban mephedrone, which has been linked in recent media reports to at least four deaths in the UK.

    But the law says any move to ban a drug must follow consultation with the Advisory Council.

    After the resignation of Dr Taylor, Lib Dem science spokesman Dr Evan Harris said Home Secretary Alan Johnson's ban would have to wait until the council was "properly constituted".

    But a spokesman from the Home Office said the ACMD was still able to fulfil its legal role.

    The interim chair of the ACMD, Les Iversen, said he would be issuing the home secretary with advice about mephedrone "as planned" on Monday. He said there were "serious concerns" about the drug.

    It was not the council's job to ask for emergency legislation but if Alan Johnson was "minded to take rapid action I don't think any of us would be unhappy about it", he said.

    Prof Iversen said the ACMD was "saddened and disappointed" that Dr Taylor - the council's veterinary medicine expert - had resigned.

    Dr Taylor said she "did not have trust" in the way the government would treat the council's advice.

    The post is required by law to be filled on the committee.

    Prof Iversen said the selection process for a replacement had already begun as her term of office was coming to an end. Interviews would take place "as soon as possible", he added.

    Scientific proof

    Earlier, Dr Harris said: "The 1971 (Misuse of Drugs) Act is very clear that before the government criminalises thousands of people by banning a drug they must take advice on drug harm and other matters from a legally constituted advisory council.

    "If it is necessary to act urgently to ban mephedrone then, by provoking this resignation by their refusal to respect the scientists who offer advice, the home secretary will now be forced to wait a delay while the council is properly constituted."

    A former secretary of the advisory council, Jeremy Sare, told the BBC the council would not be properly constituted until a new vet was appointed, which would take at least a few weeks.

    But a Home Office spokeswoman said: "Based on its current formation the ACMD is still able to fulfil its statutory role and provide advice on mephedrone today on which we can act."

    Although Dr Taylor's resignation was "regrettable", her role was to provide expertise in relation to controlled drugs in the field of veterinary medicine - and as mephedrone had no legitimate use in veterinary medicine, her advice was not integral to the ACMD's ability to advise the home secretary, she said.

    In her resignation letter, Dr Taylor told the home secretary: "I feel that there is little more we can do to describe the importance of ensuring that advice is not subjected to a desire to please ministers or the mood of the day's press."

    Mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant, is known by various names, including "M-Cat", and "meow meow".

    So far there is no conclusive scientific proof that mephedrone has been responsible for any deaths in the UK, and scientists are still trying to work out whether it is harmful on its own or if taken with something else.
    But there have been at least 18 deaths in England where cathinones - the group of drugs which mephedrone falls into - have been implicated, a ACMD meeting on Friday revealed.

    Seven provided post mortem evidence of mephedrone, and a further seven deaths in Scotland have been linked to the drugs.

    Last week Prof Iversen strongly indicated that the ACMD would recommend classifying mephedrone as a Class B drug.

    Last October, Mr Johnson sacked his chief drugs adviser, Professor David Nutt, saying he had lobbied against government policy.

    The sacking led to five other members quitting and an urgent review of the committee's working relationship with ministers.

    Prof Nutt, who has set up his own rival expert body, has warned that banning mephedrone could be self-defeating and that the evidence supporting a ban was not clear.

    He has urged the ACMD and ministers to wait for the verdict of an expert European body which is looking at the use of the drug across all EU member states.

    "What I hope we could get would be some sort of moratorium to stop this current hysteria about mephedrone," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

    "We don't yet know whether it's actually killed anyone," he said.

    The Conservatives have called for the law to be changed to allow temporary bans of drugs while the scientific evidence is assessed.

    BBC News
    28/03/2010
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8592103.stm
  3. bubbly nubs
    I am a little confused. Why are the articles saying that another member quit hours before the expected banning of mephedrone? It wouldnt have been banned today would it? 3 months is the waiting period SWIM thought.
  4. corvardus
    No the ACMD was meeting today to issue a recommendation to the government regarding Mephedrone. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 requires the government to wait on the ACMD's recommendations before acting.

    The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 also implies that certain members of the ACMD council possess certain professional qualifications. One of them was as a Vet. If any of the key members of the council are missing it is termed as "Inquorate" and therefore any recommendations that the council issues would be invalid.

    Hence why this is a news story. The vet resigned from the council before they could find a replacement and when they were due to give a recommendation. Thus rendering it inquorate. Thus the recommendation that the ACMD will be issuing at 16.30 will be in question.

    The question is, now, can the government lawyers find sufficient loopholes in the Misuse of Drugs Act to conveniently "ignore" the resignation of a key position and thus "conveniently" make the ACMD quorate and, therefore, the recommendation legal.

    It takes 3 months from the recommendation to legislation, which actually bans the substance, which is what you are thinking of.
  5. bubbly nubs
    Yes, I was aware of these procedures to a certain extent, especially after a lecture by Proff. Nutt. He is just wondering how the newspapers can say a ban will be expected today. Surely that is plain and simply incorrect. Not that it surprises me...
  6. corvardus
    Oh... the ban won't come today. None of the news articles I have seen say that. What is being said that they are going to ANNOUNCE a ban today. Meaning the home secretary will state that Mephedrone and likely obvious derivatives will be outlawed as soon as possible.
  7. Yaaaldi
    i must say that the second article from the guardian is almost spot on concerning this topic.

    well informed and makes the point clear that criminalisation is probably not the way forward with drugs policy in the UK
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