The green green grass of home

At last a local outbreak of common sense. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, an independent expert body established under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that advises government on drug related issues in the UK, has come out against UK government proposals to reverse the 2004 downgrading of cannabis from a class B substance to a class C substance.

I don’t know what irks me more about this government – the puritanical, kill-joy zeal with which it tries to hunt down and eradicate every vice, even those that do not impose material harm on third parties, or its inability/unwillingness to get its brain in gear once its emotions are engaged/the smell of elections is in the air.

Criminalising the sale or use of drugs that don’t cause psychotic behaviour likely to inflict substantial harm on others is hopelessly illiberal – an unacceptable restriction on freedom of choice and on personal responsibility of mentally competent adults. It is also stupid, because unless you are willing to line up all drug users against a wall and shoot them after a fair trial, criminalisation is ineffective and does more harm than good by creating new crimes, criminals and criminal activity.

The following Table shows that, should cannabis get reclassified from class C to class B, a cannabis consumer – even one who does not inhale – could, if (s)he were apprehended and confronted with an unsympathetic Crown Court judge, face up to five years in the slammer. A more extravagant waste of financial and human resources is hard to imagine. I also have never understood the reason for the unequal treatment of sellers and buyers of illegal substances. If ever it took two to tango, it is in a market.


So when there is a small chink in the armour of the overbearing nanny state, as there was in the UK when cannabis was reclassified to a lesser offence in 2004, one can but rejoice. Reversing this decision, regardless of whether it is because the prime minister’s inner Puritan bossyboots got the better of him or because of a desire to mollify the redtops, would be a retrograde step.

So a muted cheer for the ACMD.

Maverecon: Willem Buiter

Willem Buiter's blog ran until December 2009. This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science; former chief economist of the EBRD, former external member of the MPC; adviser to international organisations, governments, central banks and private financial institutions.

Willem Buiter's website