Home Office

74. Advice from the ACMD forms just one input to decisions about classification taken by Ministers. It is inevitable that in this sensitive and high profile policy area, these decisions will be susceptible to influence by factors such as media pressure and perceptions of public opinion, as well as harm. Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope and member of the ACMD, emphasised the importance of "the political context, the way the media covers these issues and the fact that when we deal with the issue of drugs and drugs policy it is very difficult on almost any level to have an informed, objective, evidence based discussion".148 He argued that "politicians are nervous about drugs policy; they are nervous about being seen to make changes", citing the example of the reclassification of cannabis: "in terms of the system overall it is not that big [a change], but that was not the way it was reacted to politically or in the media".149

75. In view of the political sensitivities associated with policy making on topics relating to drug abuse, it is particularly important that Government decision making processes are as transparent as possible. Parents Against Lethal Addictive Drugs argued that this was not happening at present: "There is no transparency concerning which types of scientific and

145 Ev108

146 As above

147 As above

148 Q 439

non-scientific evidence have been considered relevant, how this has influenced policy making and how conflicting rights and responsibilities of stakeholders have been balanced during policy making".150 As discussed in paragraph 81, the Home Office also has a tendency to see classification decisions as vehicles for 'sending signals' to the public. We acknowledge that in this sensitive policy area scientific advice is just one input to decision making, The Home Office should be more transparent about the various factors influencing its decisions.

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