UK: "Illogical" drugs classification under fire Guardian Unlimited Classification system should be changed to reflect more up-to-date knowledge, says report by MPs The system for classifying illegal drugs in Britain, which determines how users are punished, is unscientific and illogical and should be completely overhauled, according to a report from MPs to be published this week. It will call for sweeping changes that could see substances such as ecstasy and magic mushrooms, which campaigners have long argued are in the most serious Class A with little reason, downgraded, and drugs assessed more realistically according to the harm they cause. The House of Commons select committee on science and technology will also demand the publication of a paper prepared by Professor David Nutt, a senior member of the government's advisory committee on drug misuse, which makes radical recommendations to ministers about how drugs should be classified. Nutt is understood to have argued for an entirely new way of assessing banned substances based on sound science rather than - as is the present case - historical quirks, political opinion or research that could be 30 years old. His findings remain confidential so far. The issue hit the headlines after Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary, agreed to review the decision taken by his predecessor David Blunkett to downgrade cannabis from Class B to Class C, prompting complaints from police that people no longer understood it was illegal and from doctors that its possible impact on mental health was not being taken seriously enough. Clarke eventually decided not to reclassify cannabis but ordered a review of the whole system - which had been virtually completed but had not been published when he quit the cabinet in May. His successor, John Reid, has not published the report and officials are concerned that it may be shelved. A source close to the committee inquiry said that the issue was too important to ignore. 'Given the evidence, the committee had no conclusion other than to call for sweeping changes,' the source said. Drugs are currently ranked either A, B or C depending on the severity of the harm caused. But scientists testifying before the committee argued that in some cases, such as ecstasy, while it was known that users died it was still not clear what caused the deaths. Meanwhile, deaths from magic mushrooms were so rare as to be almost unknown. Yet both were classified alongside heroin, which regularly causes fatal overdoses. Ecstasy was classified in 1977, when little was known about it, while fresh magic mushrooms - as opposed to the dried form, in which they become hallucinogenic - were not even illegal until last year. The committee heard there was little evidence that the classification level of a drug served as a deterrent to users. There was some evidence from the US that classifying a drug in Class A simply encouraged the price to be driven up, making it more profitable for organised criminals to become involved in smuggling it. The select committee report will pose a challenge not only to the Home Office, where Reid takes an instinctively tough line on drugs policy, but to the Tories. Some members of the shadow cabinet are understood to be anxious to reopen the debate about drugs and to support a thorough overhaul of classifications, but the shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, takes a hard line on drugs. David Cameron did suggest during his campaign for the leadership that he supported a broader review of drug classification - as a backbencher, he signed up to another committee report suggesting the classification of ecstasy should be reviewed. He is thought, however, to have agreed with Davis when reappointing him to his shadow post that he would have free rein to be tough on drugs policy.