Europe: British Science vs. Politics Battle Explodes As Top Drug Advisor Fired for Heresy

The British Labor government has created a firestorm of controversy with its firing of Professor David Nutt, head of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last Friday. Nutt was canned by Home Secretary Alan Johnson after the psychopharmacologist again went public with his criticism of the government for refusing to follow a science- and evidence-based drug policy.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/davidnutt.jpg
David Nutt
As of this week, after a weekend of furious back and forth in dozens of newspaper articles, two more members of the ACMD have resigned in protest over the firing, and a mass resignation of the 31-member body may come after a meeting next Monday. Johnson told parliament Monday that he had agreed to a request from the ACMD for an urgent meeting, but he also told parliament he had ordered a review of the ACMD to satisfy ministers that the panel is "discharging its functions" and that it still represents a value to the public.

The ACMD's charge is to "make recommendations to government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its regulations," its web page explains. "It considers any substance which is being or appears to be misused and of which is having or appears to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to cause a social problem. It also carries out in-depth inquiries into aspects of drug use that are causing particular concern in the UK, with the aim of producing considered reports that will be helpful to policy makers and practitioners."

In 2004 the Labor government down-scheduled marijuana on the Advisory Committee's advice, shifting it from Class B, the middle rank in Britain's drug classification scheme, to Class C, the least harmful. The maximum sentence for possession of a Class C drug is two years; for Class B drugs it is five years. Tensions between the ACMD and Labor began rising last year, when Prime Minister Gordon Brown reversed that decision, saying he wanted to send a strong message that use of the drug is unacceptable. Tensions rose again when the ACMD recommended that Ecstasy be down-scheduled from Class A (most harmful) to Class B, and the Brown government promptly ignored that advice too.

At that point, Nutt went public with his criticisms of then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. He also famously compared the dangers of Ecstasy to those of horse-riding, deeply offending both the horsey set and the Labor government. Smith told Nutt to shut up, and he managed to do so until last week.

Last week, in a lecture and briefing paper at the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, Nutt accused Smith of "distorting and devaluing" scientific evidence when she decided to reclassify marijuana. He also said that Ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.

"We have to accept young people like to experiment -- with drugs and other potentially harmful activities -- and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives," he said. "We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong."

Nutt's briefing paper included a ranking of various licit and illicit drugs by comparative harm. Heroin and cocaine were ranked the most harmful in Nutt's scheme, with alcohol fifth, marijuana ninth, LSD fourteenth, and Ecstasy eighteenth.

"We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for -- and whether they are doing their job," Nutt said.

That was too much for Home Minister Alan Johnson. He told parliament Monday that Smith had warned Nutt not to publicly disagree with ministry decisions again. "Well, it has happened again," said Johnson. "On Thursday October 29 Professor Nutt chose, without prior notification to my department, to initiate a debate on drug policy in the national media, returning to the February decisions, and accusing my predecessor or distorting and devaluing scientific research. As a result, I have lost confidence in Professor Nutt's ability to be my principal adviser on drugs."

Prime Minister Brown is standing behind Johnson. An official spokesman said the firing was based on the "important principle" that advisers should present advice to ministers but not speak out against their policy decisions. "It would be regrettable if there were other resignations, but this is an important point of principle," the spokesman added. "The government is absolutely committed to the importance of having independent advice and evidence presented by advisory bodies."

Nutt defended himself and attacked the government in a London Sunday times opinion piece. "My sacking has cast a huge shadow over the relationship of science to policy," he wrote. "Several of the science experts from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have resigned in protest and it seems likely that many others will follow suit. This means the Home Office no longer has a functioning advisory group, which is very unfortunate given the ever-increasing problems of drugs and the emergence of new ones. Also it seems unlikely that any 'true' scientist -- one who can only speak the truth -- will be able to work for this, or future, Home Secretaries.

One of the ACMD members who resigned, chemist Les King, said ministers were putting inappropriate pressure on scientists to make drug policy decisions based on political -- not scientific -- reasons. "It's being asked to rubber stamp a predetermined position," he said, warning that others could leave the council over the brouhaha. "If sufficient members do resign, the committee will no longer be able to operate," King said.

Scientist and Labor MP Robert Winston said Nutt had a "very reasonable" point about the relative dangers of legal and illegal drugs, and that he was disappointed by the firing. "I think that if governments appoint expert advice they shouldn't dismiss it so lightly," he said. "I think it shows a rather poor understanding of the value of science."

Reuters reported Saturday that the firing is causing consternation in scientific circles. Scientists told the news agency the decision could undermine the integrity of science in policymaking, including critical areas like health, the environment, education, and defense.

"Scientific data and their independent interpretation underpin evidence-based policy making -- and nobody rational could possibly want a government based on any other type of policy making," said Chris Higgins, chair of an advisory committee on spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease.

Maurice Elphick, a professor of animal physiology and neuroscience at Queen Mary, University of London, said politicians should look elsewhere if they wanted data to back social policies and allow science to maintain objectivity. "If, however, politicians really do want to have an objective assessment of the relative risks to health of different recreational drugs, then they should listen to what the medical scientist has to say, not sack him." he said.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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"It's the (GBP) money, stupid!"

A brief look at a tax revenue chart shows that Great Britain presently collects about 10 billion pounds (Sterling) from tobackgo product taxes each year.

This must be understood as a bribe to H. M. Govt. to suppress cannabis, legalization of which would bring with it unambiguous legality of vaporizers, long-stemmed one-hitters and other dosage-miniaturization equipment, now easily suppressed on specious grounds of being associated with "dangerous drug" cannabis, which can doom the profitable hot-burning overdose $igarette marketing empire.

David Nutt

People in the anti-drug war movement should NOT be supporting David Nutt. He advocated vaccinating infants for drugs!

NEWS ARTICLE:

Professor David Nutt, a leading government drugs adviser who sits on the committee, said anti-drug vaccines for children are likely to be among the panel's recommendations when it reports next March.

Professor Nutt, head of psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol and a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said: "People could be vaccinated against drugs at birth as you are against measles. You could say cocaine is more dangerous than measles, for example. It is important that there is a debate on this issue. This is a huge topic - addiction and smoking are major causes of premature death."

Not quite accurate......

The above misses the mark somewhat.......

On becoming PM, Gordon (the moron) announced that cannabis would be re-reclassified. It was one of the very first things he did.
He went on to say, very specifically, that cannabis would be reclassified, and that the ACMD would be asked to look at the effects of "skunk", as it was Gormless Gordons belief that it was causing mental illness.......... the usual nonsense.
Have you spotted yet why Nutt was so annoyed....?
Anyhow, it was all bullshit: the gov. had asked for the Home Office to look into the issue of increased cannabis potency, and they had done so and reported back. Not too bad a study, with little to report, other than nothing out of the ordinary was going on.... cannabis up a bit in "strength" and that was abou it.... not what Gordon or New Labour wanted to hear, so it was not really talked about..... just for a change....
Its my belief that the issue regarding cannabis potency is totally misunderstood........ the UK belief is that its akin to comparing drinking a pint of beer with drinking a pint of whiskey, ludicrous, but its how its talked about................
So, throughout the long long process, both Gordon and Smith {the then Home Secretary} repeated their clear intention to re-reclassify cannabis back up to a Class B drug........ many many times, and, on the publication of the ACMD Report, they went ahead and did it........I DONT EVEN THINK THEY READ THE ACMD REPORT, however, their rhetorik was straight out of Daily Mail's editorial pages...... purile drivel of the worst sort.
Of course, the ACMD report stated very clearly the evidence collected, and their balanced view..... and its reccommendation: do not re-classify cannabis to a Class B drug. Period.
Gordon and Smith simply denounce the Report, as they knew better, and re-reclassified cannabis up to a Class B standing.... 7 years for posession and 14 years for supply/production............ ludicrous..... at each re-classification the stupid politicians, for that is what they have demonstrated repeatedly they are, have upped the penalties........ madness.
Meanwhile 60 people a day die as a direct result of alcohol in the UK..... but we do NOTHING about that........

Nutt was pissed off by this.... as anybody would be........ months of hard objective work........ its ignored, denounced, and thoroughly rubbished by all politicians............ irrespective of party. Absolutely typical for the UK: they still dont get it, even after all the hoo-ha about their obscene expenses and how they have ripped tax payers off, and its the same now regarding Nutt and Cannabis..... they appear to be living in some kind of alternative universe to the rest of us.
So, it was the annoucements by Gordon and Smith, from befoe the ACMD was even asked to report, and then throughout the process, of what the outcome would be {IRRESPECTIVE OF THE REPORTS FINDINGS} that got to Nutt....... and the rest of the ACMD, and its now bled over into all scientific advice personnel......... who wonder what on earth is the point in providing a report only for it to be a complete and utter waste fo their time, plus they will be ridiculed if there is any hint of not supporting the governments stance, on anything..........

I have wondered since the announcement to re-reclassify, just how the members of the ACMD have felt, and I have said so on many occasions.... as an academic I feel for them.
Its just taken a while for Nutt to get his stuff together and have a go: big pats on the back for Professor Nutt!!!!!!

What a mess it has caused, and, the ONE objective Nutt had in all of this has been the desire for an adult, open and honest debate about our drug policies and how we address the issue in general....... simply put, none of it makes any sense, and, the Schedule Classification system is NOT there to "send messages", which in point of fact, is total nonsense...... and this has been pointed out on many occasions and in many papers, academic ones!

The whole thing is a farce, and Gordon is simply an idiot and a bigot, displaying his "calvanistic" background in his vile bigotry.

So much for the claim by Labour of "evidence based policy" regarding drugs: its simply a lie, yes, a lie.

Trofim Lysenko is laughing in Hell

Looks like the Commies did win the Cold War after all. Lysenko prostituted science for the sake of the Russian Communist ideologues during the Cold War, and was amply rewarded, while better men literally went to the wall for insisting on factual information, politics be damned, and it set Soviet biological sciences back decades.

Now the same kind of thing is happening in the UK over illegal drugs. As happens regularly in the US, I might add. You have to wonder just how much collusion is taking place right now; I'd like to see the phone logs.

Cannabis Lysenkoism is an Economic Disaster

The heretication of research scientists in the U.K. and the United States is little more  than an obstructionist propaganda trick for prohibitionists.  Prohibitionists don’t want people to hear or read anything that will put a positive spin on illegal drugs.  In the end their scheme denies everyone a virtual diamond mine in chemical and biochemical facts that can lead to new discoveries in plant medicine and biology in general.

British and U.S. drug propaganda diverts a vast amount of scientific talent available in each country away from policies that support health to policies that result in unnecessary sickness and death, mostly to prohibit the recreational use of a relatively benign herbal remedy.  In this case cannabis use is recreational if it’s just someone unwinding from a tough day at the office.

The good news is that excellent research on cannabis and other illicit, uncontrolled substances is emerging from university research labs throughout the rest of the world.  It will be these foreign countries that reap the huge profits thanks to new discoveries by their talented grad students who go on to work for competing foreign corporations, continuing their research on the mysteries and benefits to be found in psychotropic chemicals.  Tough luck, U.S. and U.K.

The real catastrophe for prohibitionists is that for all the damage that’s done by their meddling in science, the propaganda not only fails, its utter stupidity creates a blowback effect.  California now stands ready to blow back by ending cannabis prohibition in its 2010 state election.

Giordano

Brazil, India, China, and

Brazil, India, China, and Japan are rising superpowers. This isn't about drugs this is about dominance. Biotechnology, cognitive technology, network & information technology... advancements will be dependant on cognition enhancement at the molecular level which entheogens at this point clearly provide as a side-effect to mystical insight (Johns Hopkins psilocybin study). Too bad these foreign powers are too busy buying up the prisons in the US... Now what does that mean? Sinking ships don't need helmsmen people, any way you slice it. Collapse is impending as the government is revealed to be a fraudulent agency masquerading as an authority. They will put you in prison, they will forclose your country and they will send the sweatshops here. You didn't think all that forced labor was an accident or an ill conceved economic policy did you? Welcome to capitalism dominated by communists. Just get out while you can, there will not be justice (we are right but that never stops persecutions).

Hopefully they get the hint before WWIII. (Remember that the American Revolution was started when England wanted to over tax the tea, and we still drink coffee because of it...) Somehow US slept with UK too much and now its just the same joke in the emperors seat. As an American I look forward to learning Chinese and Portuguese as cultural dominance will follow from cognition augmentation which will have the immediate effect in the technology sector.

Synopsis: we are fucked any way you slice it.

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