Key advisers attack new drugs policy

The government was at loggerheads with its own advisers last night over its new drugs policy.

An influential Home Office-backed committee raised serious doubts about the consultation process behind the 10-year strategy which will be unveiled in April. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) described the process as ‘self-congratulatory and generally disappointing’ and questioned the credibility of much of the evidence presented to government.  

A spokesman for the Home Office said last month that the consultation process, which is being conducted by the polling agency Mori, had been ‘open’ and had included a wide range of views.

But the council said: ‘We consider that an opportunity has been missed to address the public health problem relating to drug misuse and the balance with law enforcement and the Criminal Justice System…The consultation would benefit from extending further to the wider social harm of drug misuse.’ 

It also said: ‘It is of concern that the evidence presented, and the interpretation given, are not based on rigorous scrutiny. It is not acknowledged that in many cases the information is uncertain and sometimes of poor quality.’ 

Last night politicians said the council’s response raised questions about whether the government was more interested in spinning its record than tackling the war on drugs. ‘The failures of the government’s drugs policy are laid bare for all to see when their own advisory committee condemns the Home Office as being misleading and self-congratulatory,’ said Liberal Democrat leadership contender Nick Clegg. ‘When will the government wake up and acknowledge something many members of the public know: we are losing the war on drugs?’ Clegg said  

Steve Rolles of think tank Transform, which advises the UN on drugs policy, said: ‘The consultation process behind the new strategy has been woeful.’ Last month Transform branded the consultation process a ‘sham’, saying the government had already made up its mind to continue with its current strategy. 

Concerns about the direction of the government’s next drugs strategy come as senior police officers warn that cannabis now presents a greater ‘long-term’ threat to Britain than cocaine. The increasing strength of high-grade ‘skunk’ combined with growing evidence of major criminal involvement in its production was fast becoming an issue of mounting concern. Hospitals recently revealed that the number of mental health admissions as a result of cannabis use had risen by 73 per cent.

 Source: The Observer December 2, 2007

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