Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Role

19. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) was established by the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) 1971. It is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and its terms of reference, as set out by the Act, are as follows:

"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 a) for restricting the availability of such drugs or supervising the arrangements for their supply;

b) for enabling persons affected by the misuse of such drugs to obtain proper advice, and for securing the provision of proper facilities and services for the treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare of such persons;

c) for promoting co-operation between the various professional and community services which in the opinion of the Council have a part to play in dealing with social problems connected with the misuse of drugs;

d) for educating the public (and in particular the young) in the dangers of misusing such drugs and for giving publicity to those dangers; and e) for promoting research into, or otherwise obtaining information about, any matter which in the opinion of the Council is of relevance for the purpose of preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with any social problem connected with their misuse."23

The Act also requires the ACMD to consider any matter relating to drug dependence, or the misuse of drugs, which may be referred to it by Ministers. The Home Secretary is obliged to consult the ACMD prior to making any amendments to the Regulations to the MDA (including changing the classification of any drug), although he is under no obligation to follow its advice.

20. The Government's evidence during this inquiry made clear the pivotal role played by the ACMD in the provision of scientific advice on drugs policy. The Government told us that alternative sources of advice included "other published research, consultations with key stakeholders, and the advice and experiences of practitioners within the drugs field upon whom the issue of classification has a direct effect", but acknowledged the ACMD provided "the key advice on classification of drugs".24 Furthermore, in oral evidence, the Home Office Minister, Vernon Coaker, repeatedly implied that the very fact that the Government sought advice from the ACMD ensured that its policy in this area was evidence based. The Government's total reliance on the ACMD for provision of scientific advice on drugs policy gives the Council a critical role to play in ensuring that policy in this area is evidence based. It is, therefore, vital that the Council is fit for purpose and functioning effectively.

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