Select Committee on Science and Technology Fifth Report

8  Conclusion

107. In this case study, which forms part of our broader inquiry into how the Government handles scientific advice, risk and evidence, we examined the role that scientific advice and evidence have played in the classification of illegal drugs. The classification system purports to rank drugs on the basis of harm associated with their misuse but we have found glaring anomalies in the classification system as it stands and a wide consensus that the current system is not fit for purpose. We were also concerned and disappointed by the attitudes of the ACMD and the police towards the classification system. In addition, we identified a pressing need for greater transparency, both in terms of the workings of the ACMD and the role that scientific evidence plays in informing the Home Secretary's decisions about classification. We have recommended that the Home Office put in place mechanisms for independent oversight of the ACMD and suggest that the departmental Chief Scientific Adviser is best placed to initiate this process.

108. The problems we have identified highlight the fact that the promised review of the classification system is much needed and we urge the Government to proceed with the consultation with further delay. We have proposed that the Government should develop a more scientifically based scale of harm, decoupled from penalties for possession and trafficking. In addition, we have argued that there is an urgent need for greater investment in research to underpin policy development in this area. We conclude that, in respect of this case study, the Government has largely failed to meet its commitment to evidence based policy making.

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