Re: RE: Brown accused him of sending out mixed messages
Matt Bryant's analysis seems, to me, quite incorrect. There are some crucial facts missing that make a significant difference.
Firstly, and crucially, cannabis used to be Class B. This was until Home Secretary David Blunkett, in line with the advice from ACMD, downgraded it to Class C. That was, I think, in (or around) 2002.
It could have been left at that. Matter settled.
But no. Gordon Brown wanted the reclassification reversed. And so a succession of Home Secretaries, under Gordon Brown, have looked at, pursued, and sought to defend the reversal of the earlier reclassification. Wacqui Spliff did a particularly bad job of this, the fruits of which include the current storm.
Secondly, the ACMD isn't a purely scientific advisory body. While there are scientists on it, there are also police and others as well. According to their terms of reference:-
"It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, and to give to any one or more of the Ministers, where either Council consider it expedient to do so or they are consulted by the Minister or Ministers in question, advice on measures (whether or not involving alteration of the law) which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken for preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with social problems connected with their misuse, and in particular on measures which in the opinion of the Council, ought to be taken."
As for dealing with adverse press, it should be really quite easy for the government to spin things the right way round. Having cannabis at Class B would suggest that Class C drugs were significantly less harmful - is that the message that the tabloids want to send to young people? Likewise, having ecstasy and heroin in the same class, Class A, suggests that heroin isn't that much worse than ecstasy - is that what the papers want the government telling young people?
Instead, the government's spinning it so horrendously badly, it's unbelievable. They argue that to have cannabis in Class C risks sending a message that cannabis is okay, acceptable. But that argument only makes sense as long as Class C is supposed to be the class of acceptable drugs - is that really the message the government wants to send? Likewise, having ecstasy in Class A, along with heroin, says it's nearly as bad as heroin, and therefore (equivalently) heroin isn't much worse than ecstasy - is that really the message the government wants young people to get?
I don't entirely disagree with all of Matt Bryant's kind of analysis, though. To me, it looks like this drugs fiasco is another case of 42 days. With 42 days, Gordon Brown wanted to show that he was tough on terror. Reversing the reclassification of cannabis is much the same, but with drugs instead. It's supposed to show that he's tough on drugs. Trouble is, as with 42 days, he's got the problem that he's fundamentally on the wrong side of the facts and the wrong side of the debate.
From an anti-prohibitionist perspective, this fiasco is quite wonderful. Mainstream prohibitionism is clearly in decline, while a new, broad, post prohibitionist consensus seems to be emerging. Prohibitionists seem to be splitting into two groups: the pragmatists who increasingly accept that prohibition isn't working; and the dogmatists who stubbornly insist on sticking with hard-line prohibition. While the pragmatists are becoming part of the emerging, post prohibitionist consensus, the dogmatists are increasingly seen as some kind of lunatic fringe - government and Tory opposition included. It doesn't help the dogmatists' cause that they keep wanting to do crazy things like deliberately overrate cannabis and ecstasy to "send a message".
The emerging post prohibitionist consensus appears to stretch from long-standing, ideological anti-prohibitionism, all the way to the kind of post prohibitionist pragmatism that's emerging from mainstream prohibitionism. It's broad, and seems to be increasingly the majority consensus, outside of which Gordon Brown has managed to maroon himself.