Hard News by Russell Brown

The anomalies are astonishing

The publication of a "controversial" expert report on drug classification - prepared for, and ignored by, the British Home Office - is creating some chatter in the UK press this week. And so it should. It includes an attempt to logically rank the popular drugs of recreation and abuse in terms of their potential for harm.

The results are fascinating. Heroin and cocaine top the list, but alcohol slots in at number five, ahead of ketamine, and tobacco makes number nine.

The position of amphetamines at number eight probably reflects the fact that inhaled methamphetamine (which in my experience ranks alongside alcohol in making people dreadful) hasn't caught on in Britain. The ranking of cannabis above solvents seems pretty kooky. Ecstasy is at #18 and "magic mushrooms" fail to make the Top 20.

Bear in mind, then, that fresh psilocybin mushrooms were rocketed from nowhere into Class A status in Britain last year, which means their possession could potentially attract a 14-year jail term. The same thing happened here in the 1980s, and a good deal of police time has since been wasted chasing scruffy young men around public forests. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, dried mushrooms are for sale in shops and some cafes will make you a cup of mushroom tea from little mushroom teabags.

Meanwhile, a report from Canada says thirty per cent of young offenders have brain damage caused by their mothers' drinking while pregnant.

Does it make sense? No. Present drug classifications bear little relationship to actual risks. This isn't surprising: this is a sphere where the rules are often made in an atmosphere of short-term moral panic. The flat-out scramble to reclassify Ecstasy into the A schedule of our own Misuse of Drugs Act being a good example of that.

As a Guardian leader put it, "the anomalies are staggering." We could do with an evidence-based rethink just as much as the British. What's standing in the way? Oh, the usual: politicians and the media.

More prison bloggage from Selwyn. The long comments thread accompanying blog 2 is fascinating.

Three funny fake news stories from Lyndon Hood, as seen on Scoop.

Rather good take on The Don from a Young Labour mailing list. Not nasty, just jolly.

And amid the inevitable feast of rogering of Mel Gibson on YouTube, the Australian-produced Mel's Big Spray stands out by explaining why it's a good thing. Very funny.