Europe: Britain to Reclassify Methamphetamine as Class A Drug 6/16/06

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Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported Monday that the government's panel of drug experts, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), has recommended that methamphetamine be rescheduled as a Class A drug along with heroin, cocaine, and psychedelics. The council made the recommendation to Home Secretary John Reid following reports from police that meth labs have begun showing up in Britain.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, methamphetamine is currently a Class B drug, with penalties of up to five years in prison for possession and up to 14 years for dealing. As a Class A drug, meth offenses would bump up to seven years for possession and up to life for dealing. Class A designation also means police will be able to operate under a lower standard of evidence in prosecuting meth trafficking cases.

The ACMD acted after hearing from the Association of Chief Police Officers that the drug is being imported from the US and Southeast Asia, but there are also police reports that meth labs have begun appearing in the UK itself. The Metropolitan Police in London reported that it was aware of several significant meth dealers in the city's gay club scene, and that falling prices have led to it being sold to mainstream clubbers as a cost-effective alternative to crack or powder cocaine.

"Meth is arguably as much a hazard as crack cocaine and heroin, and more of a hazard than Ecstasy and LSD," said Detective Inspector Jason Atwood, author of the ACPO report. "Previous concern about reclassification and 'stoking up' media interest has been overtaken by events." Meth is different because it can be easily made at home, he said. "The chemicals are available within the UK and the internet gives endless guidance on making," he added.

Reclassifying meth makes sense given international data on the social and health impact of its use, said Harry Shapiro of Drugscope, the British drug charity and resource center. "Although rates of usage in the UK remain low at present, reclassifying crystal meth could have preemptive value in enabling police resources to be directed towards the drug as part of the strategy to focus on class A drugs," he said.

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Issue #440 -- 6/16/06

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