DrugScope, has today responded to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommendation that synthetic cannabinoids, found in mixtures known as ‘Spice’, should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
‘Spice’ products, which attempt to imitate the effects of cannabis, are widely available on the internet and in so-called ‘head shops’. The products are not currently illegal to manufacture, supply or possess in the UK. The plant-based mix, which does not contain tobacco or cannabis, is coated with synthetic cannabinoids that mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient in cannabis.
DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes said:
“DrugScope supports the advice that ‘Spice’ products should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, on the basis that the substances are likely to have potentially similar effects and harms as cannabis. While more research is needed on the short and long-term risks associated with the use of ‘Spice’, it is consistent with the Misuse of Drugs Act to control substances which have the potential to cause significant harms - ‘Spice’ falls into this category. However, the move is unusual in that it is based on evidence of potential effects and harms rather than evidence of actual harms to individuals and society.
“Evidence suggests that ‘Spice’ products are readily available via the internet and in so called ‘head shops’. Making the substances illegal may remove the incentive for the manufacture and supply of ‘Spice’ as it will be no longer be available as a ‘legal’ alternative to cannabis.
“‘Spice’ products are manufactured to mimic the effects on the brain of cannabis but chemically they are different, hence the reason why they are not currently covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. The Advisory Council recommends changes to the legislation to include variations in, and potentially new chemical forms of, substances that seek to mimic cannabis.
“While we support this pre-emptive move, it does highlight important questions about the scope and purpose of the Misuse of Drugs Act and the ability of the legislation to cover so called ‘legal highs’ and to keep up with the development of new synthetic drugs. The ACMD’s recommendation to classify ‘Spice’ alongside cannabis means that the substances will become Class B drugs, despite the Council’s view that cannabis should be a Class C drug.
“In light of recent decisions by the Government not to follow the ACMD’s advice on cannabis and ecstasy classification and the need to respond appropriately and proportionately to new substances and harms, it is time that the classification system was reviewed. Such a review was promised by the Government in January 2006 and subsequently abandoned.”
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