Pubdate: Sun, 04 Jan 2009
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2009
Author: Tom Whitehead
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


A recommendation to downgrade Ecstasy is expected to be put to the
Home Secretary by her own drug advisers later this month.

Home Office sources believe The Advisory Council on the Misuse of
Drugs (ACMD) will call for the drug to be moved to Class B, even
though it was blamed for at least 30 deaths last year.

However Jacqui Smith will almost certainly dismiss the official
recommendation and keep the drug as Class A alongside the most
dangerous substances such as heroin  and cocaine.

It comes as critics accuse the ACMD of being influenced by pro-drug

Mary Brett, spokeswoman for Europe Against Drugs, said:  "The present
ACMD includes few members who take a  definite drug-prevention stance.
It is imperative that  a committee of this importance needs to be
properly  balanced."

David Raynes, a member of the National Drug Prevention Alliance said
the ACMD should be "an impartial centre of expertise carefully
weighing evidence and public good" but added: "Recent behaviour leads
me to believe it is being controlled by a few ideologues, pursuing a 
broadly liberal and pro-drug, legalisation agenda."

Downgrading Ecstasy would see dealers face 14 years instead of life
in prison and the maximum penalty for possession would fall from
seven to five years.

The ACMD voted on possible reclassification in a closed session in
November and is due to reveal the result of that decision in a report
to Ms Smith later this month.

The chairman of the body, Prof David Nutt, has previously said the
drug "probably shouldn't be'' in the top band, suggesting it is less
dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

But the Home Office is expected to ignore an ACMD recommendation for
the second time after last year dismissing calls to keep cannabis as
Class C.

The drug will return to Class B later this month amid concerns over
growing health risks.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Ecstasy can and does kill
unpredictably; there is no such thing as a "safe dose". The
Government firmly believes that ecstasy should remain a Class A drug.

"The Home Office has not requested ACMD to review the classification
of ecstasy (MDMA). It is doing it at the request of the Science and
Technology Committee."

Critics have also called into question the ACMD's fitness to advise
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