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This report, prepared for the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, presents the results of four case studies examining the evidence base for the classification of illegal drugs in the context of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It identifies the main evidence on the selected drugs (amphetamines and ecstasy, cocaine, magic mushrooms and cannabis) and examines the use of that evidence in classifying each drug. The report also briefly examines the classification systems in three other countries (the USA, Sweden and the Netherlands), giving information on the penalties and treatment regimes associated with them.

The report provides a short introduction to the history of drug classification in the UK and general issues surrounding the types of evidence used in classifying drugs. The case studies examine the evidence of physical, social, psychological and economic harm associated with each drug and the use of that evidence by in government in making policy. This report does not aim to provide a comprehensive review of all the evidence available for the drugs or countries; rather it provides an overview of the evidence on drugs and classification systems, to assist the members of the committee to direct questions to witnesses in areas of specific interest to them for more in depth view information. The report may also be of wider interest to Parliament and others.

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The research described in this report was prepared for the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology and was conducted by RAND Europe.

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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