It’s always exciting when a drug is banned, but the recent announcement by the Home Office concerning the imminent banning of the former ‘legal high’ methoxetamine set unprecedented levels of excitement and confusion by making it a new kind of illegal.
Under the previous system, if the British Government wanted to ban a drug, they had to consult their gaggle of scientists, doctors and other assorted experts collectively known as the ACMD, ignore their views, sack them for objecting to being ignored, appoint a new panel and then do what they were always going to do by banning the drug anyway. This circumvented cumbersome bureaucracy, and also allowed ministers to transcend any remaining ties to objective reality by applying such bans to chemicals the existence, let alone the effects, of which had not yet been proven.
Methoxetamine, purportedly synthesised by the intentionally mysterious underground chemist ‘M’, has emerged in the past two years as a “bladder-friendly” alternative to ketamine, but is more widely known for raising the stupid-drug-name bar which everyone thought had peaked with “meow meow”, being dubbed “mexxy” and “roflcoptr”. Needless to say, the putative toxicology information presented to promote the drug is highly questionable, as should be obvious
More recently methoxetamine has got the British tabloid press frothing after its alleged involvement in the death of two people. Needless to say the postmortem revealed both had methoxetamine and alcohol in their blood at the time of death. At the time of writing, no move has been made to ban alcohol.
Methoxetamine is the first substance to be banned under what’s called a ‘temporary class drug order’, a new measure enshrined in legislation in November 201. Making a substance subject to an order effectively bans it for 12 months, offering the government the welcome opportunity to ban the banned drug all over again in a years’ time.
- “Yes! Even more crimes to solve!”
This isn’t how they put it. In their words the introduction of an order is to allow time for the ACMD to perform tests and decide whether it should be permanently controlled. During this time the manufacture, supply and consumption of such a substance subject to an order, the effects and impact of which are necessarily unknown, is punishable by prison sentences up to 14 years and an unlimited fine, the current penalty imposed for supplying class B drugs such as amphetamines.
But perhaps after said testing period the ban might be lifted? Current Home Secretary Theresa May recently announced in somewhat less than neutral terms, an upcoming review of legislation concerning ketamine, stating that the review was prompted by “heightened public concern about the popularity and potential harms of ketamine” and considering the last major report into the legal status of a controlled substance resulted in cannabis being re-upgraded to a class B drug against the advise of the ACMD, it is looking unlikely that a radical rethink of drug-policy is taking place by our elected leaders in Westminster Palace.
This time the ACMD implicitly admit that methoxetamine appears to be more dangerous than ketamine and with the review of ketamine looking likely to result in an upgrading, the carefully charged words spoken at the start of the ban set the tone for when in 12 months time, methoxetamine is permanently controlled.
Since ketamine was made a class C drug in 2006, its use has risen dramatically indicating that the ban has made no impact on use and has actively driven people onto what the ACMD believe is an even more harmful drug, methoxetamine. As such, the decision not to let methoxetamine remain legal will, at best, have no impact on trends of use and at worst drive users to increasingly unsafe substances.
This seems as good a time as ever to remind you that prior to his election, David Cameron actively spoke out against the absurdity of the war on drugs. I await his intervention on this matter imminently.