Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Governments have a dangerous attitude toward drugs

leave a comment »

David Nutt was chairman of the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he was dismissed last week by the UK home secretary. Nutt writes in New Scientist about why the government’s attitude toward drugs is dangerous:

If there is one thing that politicians can and should do to limit the damage caused by illegal drugs, it is to take careful note of the evidence and develop a rational drug policy. Some politicians find it easier to ignore the evidence, and pander to public prejudice instead.

I can trace the beginning of the end of my role as chairman of the UK’s official advisory body on drugs to the moment I quoted a New Scientist editorial (14 February, p 5). Entitled, fittingly enough, "Drugs drive politicians out of their minds", the editorial asked the reader to imagine being seated at a table with two bowls, one containing peanuts, the other the illegal drug MDMA (ecstasy). Which is safer to give to a stranger? Why, the ecstasy of course.

I quoted these words in the Eve Saville lecture at King’s College London in July. This example plus other comments I have made – such as horse riding is more harmful than ecstasy – prompted Alan Johnson, the home secretary, to say that I had crossed the line from science to policy. This, he said, is why I had to go.

But simple, accurate and understandable statements of scientific fact are precisely what the advisory council is supposed to provide. Why would any scientist take up some future offer of a government advisory post when their advice can be treated with such disdain?

As well as ignoring its own advisers, the UK is falling out of step with international trends. When Portugal softened its drugs laws in 2001, drug use remained roughly constant, but ill health and deaths from drug taking fell. Decriminalisation quietly crept up the agenda in Vienna this year at a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, where governments heard new, independent evidence on how the harms of criminalisation were outweighing the benefits. In August, President Felipe Calderón of Mexico approved a law decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs. And just last month, Eric Holder, the US attorney general, instructed federal prosecutors to stop hounding medical users of marijuana in the 14 states where such use is legal…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 November 2009 at 11:18 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.