31 October 2009

Fired for telling the truth

The Government's decision to sack Professor David Nutt, the chief drugs adviser, is appalling, and shows what can happen to people if they don't toe the line of the police state, even if it happens to be complete garbage.

Nutt was accused by Home Secretary Alan Johnson of 'undermining the scientific independence of the council'. Why? Because he happened to voice an independent scientific opinion - that cannabis was actually less harmful than nicotine or alcohol. Given the relative numbers of people who use all three drugs, I would wager that alcohol is by far the most harmful (although I would need to check the evidence to be sure, something that David Nutt has done, and Alan Johnson and Gordon Brown haven't).

The real reason David Nutt was sacked is because he dared to use his own brain rather than doing what Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson do, which is just to regurgitate whatever the Daily Mail tells them. Drugs policy in this country is dictated by the tabloid press - and it is a shameful failure. Reclassification of cannabis to Class C when David Blunkett was Home Secretary was a step in the right direction; reclassification back to Class B is a ludicrous retrograde step. Full legalisation is the best way to go - and would also allow the product to be subject to quality controls, which would mean less of the extremely strong 'skunk' varieties (which can, in some cases, cause psychotic episodes) would make it out into the market.

More problematically, David Nutt feels that drugs legislation should be decided by an independent committee along the lines of the Monetary Policy Committee which sets interest rates. I can see some logic in that but taken to its logical conclusion it would mean the death of democracy - policies would just be decided by committees of experts. There are big problems with that (particularly if the experts fall into the hands of corporate lobbyists) but given the crap that mainstream politicians talk about some of these big issues, you can understand why intellectuals like Nutt get frustrated by all this.

I hope the government's whole drugs advisory board resigns and leaves them with no experts - presumably they would have to replace them with a list of advisers specified by the Daily Mail. It would serve them right.

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