Tuesday 30 March 2010

Illegal Drugs: Mephedrone: Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Mephedrone (and certain other drugs) will become illegal.  I think, rightly so.  See NHS; Home Office.  The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 s.2 permits changes to the drugs/substances proscribed to be made by Orders in Council.  For example, from 26th January 2009, Cannabis was reclassified as a Class B drug.

Addendum 1st April:  Now "naphyrone" is making an appearance.

Addendum 2nd April:  It appears that Naphydrone might be the next to be "banned".  The Guardian reports that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of  Drugs (ACMD) is to launch an urgent investigation into the whole range of legal highs now available in Britain. It will look at setting up an early warning system to identify new drugs that emerge on the market and quickly limit their spread.

Further addendum - 2nd April:  It seems that all is far from well in the ACMD.  The Times 2nd April reports of resignations of members and one is related to the mephedrone advice to the Home Secretary.

Addendum - 16th April:  Here a link to the Order amending the law so that 4-methylymethcathinone (commonly known as mephedrone) becomes Class B.  [Certain other drugs are also addressed].


  1. "I think, rightly so."

    On what basis?

  2. gyg3s - the information supporting the Home Office view (and, as it happens, my own opinion) is to be found via the links supplied. There are also reports like this:

    Mephedrone Death

    Government would be very irresponsible if it did not act on the ACMD opinion. Of course, they are accused of "knee jerk" reaction if they act. In fact, ACMD was requested to look into cathinones by Alan Johnson's predecessor (Jacqui Smith) so it is not as "knee jerk" as perhaps it all appears.

  3. Banning is not the same as stopping people taking it though.

  4. Tom - I agree. The law can only seek to dissuade. I would readily acknowledge that, in relation to other drugs, the dissuasion has not been entirely successful. However, I don't wish to take the the "whether to legalise drugs" debate any further just now.

  5. Ed (not Bystander)30 March 2010 at 21:59

    According to research, what Cialdini put in his chapter "Scarcity" in "Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion", banning things makes them more desirable.

  6. "The law can only seek to dissuade"

    I respectfully disagree. In simple terms the law is a boundary; cross it and one is liable to prosecution.

    As far as drugs legislation is concerned we have read in the papers that police [CPS] will prosecute dealers so young users will not be given a criminal record. This is a disgrace. If law is in place to make possession illegal and public statements contradict the law`s application why have the law. There is enough legislation not being applied and which should be removed......Personally I am on the side of decriminalisation. Licensed outlets supplying those 18+ with info at hand for those who want to come off. I won`t rehearse the arguments; your readers will be well aquainted with them.

  7. I was interested in the response from ACPO

    I agree that crossing the line makes one liable to be prosecuted but we do not automatically prosecute all offenders. In relation to the young there is the scaled approach to consider. However, I would hope that we do not get to the position where young offenders are not sanctioned in any way for possession. It needs to be dealt with at both the supply and user level.

  8. "ACMD opinion"

    The gov appears to act entirely contrary to this opinion; hence undermining the law. It brings to mind the jurisprudence around the Nazi informer trials.

  9. This link - - Home Office - contains a statement from Professor Iverson (Chair of the ACMD) - "Today (i.e. 29th March), the ACMD has made a series of recommendations to the Home Secretary to control a range of cathinone derivatives, including mephedrone, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class B drugs."

    Given this statement, I don't quite see how the government are acting against the ACMD opinion.

  10. There is a deep-seated psychological comfort in banning inanimate objects as though they are amenable to punishment.

    What happens is a high profile case occurs where mephedrone allegedly causes a death, and this creates an anger in people. People respond to this anger by lashing out against the substance or object in question, and seek to punish the substance by criminalising it.

    The problem is, obviously you can't criminalise an inanimate substance, only the people who are already suffering from it, and they were supposed to be the ones being helped. It is therefore inherently self-defeating.

    This was apparent when there was talk of reclassifying ecstasy as class B or C. Leah Betts's father was immediately clear that this was an outrageous idea. But why? All keeping it class A could have meant in practice was that had his daughter survived she would have been liable to 7 years imprisonment instead of 5 or 2. Surely this was not really his desire? Presumably not, but if you view it as the substance itself he was seeking to punish, it makes sense in those terms. But it still won't work and still isn't possible to do so.

  11. Please see the addenda to this post which I added this afternoon (2nd April). The inner workings of the ACMD now appear to be somewhat worrying. Members have resigned including one in relation to mephedrone. Of course, the committee's role is to advise in the context of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

    The Act can only "criminalise" suppliers and users and provide for forfeiture of proscribed substances.

  12. "...I don't quite see how the government are acting against the ACMD opinion."

    The committee is not peopled by competent members: they've all resigned (your updates noted).

  13. gyg3s - This a worrying situation. It appears that the government still intend to bring an Order before Parliament to ban the cathinones. However, the basis for doing so now seems less secure than it appeared to be earlier.

    I am not sure that the ACMD members are "incompetent" but some have resigned and appear to be very unhappy with either the design-making processes or political pressure/interference. I'll try to keep tabs on this story. It is a serious issue and Orders proscribing substances need to be based on sound objective evidence of likelihood of substantial harm. I think that evidence exists but faith in the ACMD and government are now at low ebb.

  14. "incompetent"

    I use the word to refer to the lack of a skill set that is peculiar to a particular task.

    For example, one of the earlier resigners was a chemist with expertise in the synthesis of 'designer drugs'. Other members all had different skill sets to bring to the committee. As the resignations began the purpose of the committee was hamstrung.

    Other commentators have used the word inquorate. I think that this is misleading. It suggests a homogeneous group of people with interchangeable knowledge and skills. This is not the case; each member is an expert in a particular aspect drugs policy. The absence of one member brings into question the competence of the whole and the credibility of any subsequent ruling.

  15. I would hope that we do not get to the position where young offenders are not sanctioned in any way for possession.Leah Betts's father was immediately clear that this was an outrageous idea. But why? All keeping it class A could have meant in practice was that had his daughter survived she would have been liable to 7 years imprisonment.

    Best Attorney