Memorandum from Paul Flynn MP
1. As a long-standing campaigner on issues
relating to illegal drugs, I wish to make a short submission in
contribution to this case study. I would also note my support
for the submission made by Transform.
2. With very few exceptions, Government
policy decisions on illegal drugs appear to be largely evidence
3. The Strategy Unit, based in No 10 Downing
Street, produced a report in 2003 looking at policy to reduce
the harm caused by illegal drugs. After much pressure and with
the use of the Freedom of Information Act, the report was made
public in 2005. The report reached conclusions which were surprising
given the consensus about illegal drugs which tends to exist in
Government against legalisation. A summary was provided by Transform
(below) and concluded that current policies in the "war"
on drugs had failed.
Prohibition has failed to prevent
or reduce the production of drugs.
Prohibition has failed to prevent
or reduce the trafficking/availability of drugs.
Prohibition has failed to reduce
levels of problematic drug use.
Prohibition has inflated prices of
heroin and cocaine, leading some dependent users to commit large
volumes of acquisitive crime. Even if such supply interventions
could further increase prices, this could increase harms, as dependent
users commit more crime to support their habits.
(Strategy Unit Drugs Project TDPF Executive
Summary, Phase 1 Report: "Understanding the Issues")
4. It is clear that, in spite of the powerful
conclusions of this report, it has not been incorporated into
5. The announcement by the Home Secretary
to maintain the classification of cannabis as a Class C drug proves
that the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
has been considered and largely followed. In the same statement
the plea for the prohibition of the drug Khat was rightly rejected.
Ministers have not bowed to popular pressure in these instances.
6. Prior to the General Election 2005, the
Drugs Act classified magic mushrooms as a Class A drug. This is
contrary to evidence that the Home Office itself presented as
part of its argument supporting the change. In answer to a Parliamentary
Question, I was given a list of the evidence used. None of these
documents gave cause for concern.
7. The conclusions of the risk assessment
by the Coordination Centre for the Assessment and Monitoring of
new drugs (CAM) and the article by Hasler et al both suggest
that public health factors are not a main determinant of policy.
The CAM report states in its conclusion, "the use of paddos
does not, on balance, present any risk to the health of the individual"
and "the risk to public health is therefore judged to be
low." The Hasler article concludes "our investigation
provided no cause for concern that administration of PY to healthy
subjects is hazardous with respect to somatic health."
8. The policy appears to have been driven
by something other than evidence. Magic mushrooms present very
little danger to public health (the ONS records one death from
mushroom poisoning since 1993) and this policy ignores the fact
that traders in mushrooms were very clear that they could advise
customers about potential risks. The classification of one class
of mushroom could create more harm by encouraging an unchecked
trade more likely to involve those with malicious intent. Other
more dangerous mushrooms, not covered by the current law, could
be substituted for those that are prohibited.