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Why was David Nutt sacked?

Mark Easton | 22:15 UK time, Sunday, 1 November 2009

It is the question that is buzzing around the scientific community tonight - why exactly did the home secretary ask his most senior drugs adviser to pack his bags?

Prof NuttAlan Johnson said today it was because Professor David Nutt had been "lobbying" against government drugs policy. But the former chair of the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs says that all he was doing was publicising scientific research into the relative harms of illegal drug use and other pursuits.

So where exactly is the line that was crossed?

The Home Office was offering no help on this tonight, other than to refer me to the letter that Alan Johnson sent Professor Nutt asking him to stand down (see my previous posts, Nutt faces sack and Nutt gets the sack).

In it, the home secretary states that "it is not the job of the chair of the Government's advisory council to comment or initiate a public debate on the policy framework for drugs".

In other words, the minister sees the relationship between his scientific advisers and his department as, essentially, a private one: you tell us about the "matters of evidence", as he describes them in his letter, and then shut up.

Professor Nutt, and I think many other scientific advisers to government, would question whether the relationship is quite that servile. Indeed, some argue that scientists have a responsibility to inform and educate the public about risk - even if ministers don't respond to their advice.

The BSE disaster in the 1980s and 90s is a case in point: some advisers and government-employed scientists said they told ministers that they feared the disease in cows could spread to humans - warnings that were not published nor heeded until it was too late.

John and Cordelia GummerThe science did not fit in with the Ministry of Agriculture's policy that British beef was entirely safe. Remember John Gummer trying to shove that burger into his daughter's mouth outside Parliament in 1990?

Advice about BSE was, of course, advice on risk - just as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs offers expertise on the relative risks of different illegal drugs. After the huge inquest that followed, the official BSE Inquiry report had something to say on the relationship that should exist between ministers and a Scientific Advisory committee.

The inquiry concluded that "scientific investigation of risk should be open and transparent" and that "the advice and the reasoning of advisory committees should be made public". Without such openness, it was said, people would not believe government.

Everyone

What some scientific advisers are telling me is that they are anxious that this is almost the opposite to what Alan Johnson is currently arguing. Far from using independent experts to "lend credibility to public pronouncements about risk" (in the ACMD's case, the risk from illegal drugs), the home secretary wants them to stay silent because "it is important that the government's messages on drugs are clear and as an adviser you do nothing to undermine public understanding of them".

David HumeThe two resignations today suggest Professor Nutt's sacking may prove to be an important moment in the relationship between government and the experts who advise it. It almost feels as though a campaign is beginning, academics rallying behind banners calling for a restatement of the principles of the Age of Enlightenment!

An interesting recruit to the cause is Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the government who on Friday went public to support the home secretary because he thought that Professor Nutt had "crossed the line". However, on the Today programme the following morning, having read the letter demanding the professor clear his desk, he had changed his tune.

"When you hear the reasons that Alan Johnson is saying that he asked David to resign, I have much less sympathy. The reasons he is giving are effectively saying, it seems to me, he shouldn't put advice in the public domain. Absolutely wrong."

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Sir David also referred back to the BSE crisis and said that it had "undermined scientific advice within government precisely because the scientists were seen to be muzzled by the politicians". Trust in advice had only been restored, he said, "because we have been seen to be putting it into the public domain".

This is an argument that has implications for every scientist and academic who provides research or advice for government ministers - and they have been talking about little else for the last two days.

They want clarification and reassurance. Where is the line that David Nutt is supposed to have crossed? Is it wrong to publicise scientific advice if it contradicts government policy?

Home OfficeThere is also a question about the role of the ACMD. As I revealed here last year, the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had decided against reclassifying ecstasy before she had taken delivery of the council's report. What is the point of scientists giving up their own time to conduct years of painstaking and detailed analysis if ministers are not going to take any notice?

I expect the ACMD's next schedule meeting on 10 November may see the remaining members of the council asking for written assurances from the home secretary as to how government sees their role. If they are not content with his replies, the future of the committee would be in doubt and the whole relationship between government ministers and scientific advisers thrown into question.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:53pm on 01 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Because he told the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth !!!

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  • 2. At 11:05pm on 01 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    We are at a cross roads with drugs especially cannabis.

    Its curious as this does not reflect American policy on cannabis anymore. We actually stand apart from the USA now could the government be thinking that the cannabis movement will soon gain such ground here in the UK, after all this is now becoming just as much about civil and medical rights as it is about the class of a drug. As medical preparations come on to the market there is less and less of an excuse to criminalise cannabis users who use and grow for medical reasons. We are slowly moving into an arena were small medical companies could be setup to possess cannabis into all forms of medical preparations, if the government were to refuse a licence to such companies then they would be creating a monopoly which in turn would be a criminal act would it not ?

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  • 3. At 11:32pm on 01 Nov 2009, SteveRolles wrote:


    Johnson is entirely wrong to suggest Nutt has crossed a line into politics. The issue with Nutt's sacking is something wider - whether or not you agree with his or the committees analysis is beside the point (there should, rightly, be disagreement and debate on such things). It is about his freedom to state his/the committees views/research publicly, and also to highlight his concerns when, in his considered opinion, the Government behaves irresponsible regards those recommendations.

    Recall the last of the ACMD cannabis reviews: the committee did a detailed study at the request of the Government, in their own unpaid time, but had Brown saying publicly - before he had received their response - that he was planning to upgrade cannabis to B. Surely that sort of contempt for the scientific process, one in this case actually enshrined in the law (for all its faults), is appropriate cause for the prof to publicly raise concerns about. likewise the PM talking about lethal skunk, likewise the Home secretary clearly saying the public opinion had moved the decision (ie the Daily Mail), likewise the Government saying they would ignore any call to reclassify ecstasy downwards bfore seeing the ACMD report, and so on.

    The distinction between science and policy/politics that Johnson keeps flagging up is entirely spurious - the ACMD makes policy recommendations, as a political entity (established under the MDA, and operating out of the Home Office, tasked with advising ministers) based on evidence. Thats the point.

    Professor Nutt and the ACMD are, of course, not beyond criticism by any stretch. Whilst the work they do is excellent (the drug harm reviews and the pathways to problems report of 2006 for example) they have also shied away from some of the more difficult questions regarding the wider efficacy of linking the drug rankings to a hierarchy of criminal penalties. There are lines in the sand, in terms of questioning the broader legal framework, that they have been reluctant to cross. But these are issues for debate and Nutt has at least signaled these are debates worth having; he supported a review of the classification system (announced by Charles Clarke then canceled by John Reid - on the basis that he 'beleived' the current system worked fine), and recently supported a mature debate on legalisation/ regulation. Just a debate, an examination of the facts - hes a scientist; why wouldnt he?

    But the current furore however is nothing to do with that. What we are witnessing is the Government attempting to silence views that do not fit with their political program, and drug warrior messaging built around fear, get tough drug war rhetoric and law and order populism. This has nothing to do with evidence based public health policy and everything to do with political positioning in the run up to an imminent election. They, not Nutt or the council, are playing politics with a highly sensitive health issue.

    Chasing headlines or votes over evidence and science can cost lives, and the Government should rightly be condemned for this cynical posturing. It is entirely appropriate for the committee and its chair to publicly air their concerns over this dismaying development. I profoundly hope the backlash against this decision will help prevent such inappropriate interference with free scientific debate in the future, whether you agree with Nutt and the committees findings or not.

    see the cannabis and classification sections here for more discussion and analysis of how this issue has evolved over the last two years: http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2008/11/transform-blog-best-of.html

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  • 4. At 11:34pm on 01 Nov 2009, vagueofgodalming wrote:

    Isn't it partly the ambiguity of the drug categories? The scientists see them as a factual description of the harms; the politicians see them as statements of what we are going to do about the drugs. So when a scientist says a drug doesn't factually cause the harms associated with a category, the politicians interpret this as lobbying for them to do something different about the drug than what they are at the moment.

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  • 5. At 11:48pm on 01 Nov 2009, rockhallfame wrote:

    He was fired because Alan Johnson doesn't care about the scientific facts. His notions of morality have greater import for him. Here is why that is tragic:

    The criminalisation of drugs is an immensely unfair act of prejudice regarding the character of those who wish to indulge. it presupposes they are of morally lesser value.
    sadly criminalisation has made this a self-fulfilling prophecy. 'illegal drugs' are now the remit of the criminal fraternity, and thus easily associated with immoral values.
    there is a huge amount of hypocrity in the arguments of anti-marijuana persons. for most, it comes down to their MORAL imperatives, which are in this instance completely only relevant to themselves. unfortunately for them, the science is in on the health issues. so now all they really have is their selfish and frightened desire to project their own morality on society.

    Prof. Nutt called Johnson and Brown out. They threw up their misguided moral safeguards, and in doing so lost what few and dying shreds of confidence the scientific community and, I DESPERATELY HOPE, the people had in them.

    Thank you, Mark Easton, for giving this issue the attention it deserves. Many of us are hoping this may finally be the time the inequalities in drug policy are properly addressed by our government, instead of the traditional response of obstinance and indifference. These forums are greatly appreciated.

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  • 6. At 00:00am on 02 Nov 2009, copperDolomite wrote:

    This is not about drugs. It is about the political misuse and abuse of science and scientists.

    How many years does it take for a young school-leaver to reach the dizzy heights of postdoctoral research in biological sciences? It was a minimum of 7 years study in my day. Win yourself a postdoctoral position and you are still considered a mere trainee. In some parts of Europe, you will not reach that stage until you are 30 years old. Prof. Nutt is not only a highly qualified scientist, he trained in medicine too. He understands his subject.
    How many of our MPs can compare with that? Scientists are intelligent, highly trained individuals. Take a look around the Parliament. Just how many of our MPs place value not only on spin, but pseudo-science too.

    To have this political interference appear this weekend, of all weekends is frankly laughable. People were named as witches and burned at the stake. Thankfully, the Enlightenment arrived here in Europe and with it, and understanding for the need of evidence, not spin, not opinion. See this BBC web page.

    There is not one single reason why Prof Nutt should be silenced. Not one, and certainly not by the paltry, patronising politicians of the UK.

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  • 7. At 00:10am on 02 Nov 2009, morini66 wrote:

    There is a long and painful history of governments, of any hue, ignoring scientific advice, even when they themselves asked for it. The Wilson government commissioned a report on cannabis, which they then suppressed and smeared because it didn't return the conclusions they desired.
    Similarly the media coverage of skunk has been ridiculously inaccurate, but allowed ministers to justify imposing their pre-determined measures. Ben Goldacre has covered this in detail in his "Bad Science" (an excellent and surprisingly entertaining read).
    I for one hope that these sackings and resignations will lead to science having more clout and being less easily side-lined by governments when it doesn't report what they wish. Perhaps independence for ACMD a la NICE?

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  • 8. At 00:11am on 02 Nov 2009, BulletMonkey wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 9. At 00:11am on 02 Nov 2009, DrWatsan wrote:

    The main reason (unstated by the Home Secretary and would be denied anyway) that Professor Nutt has been given the sack is not merely his correct opinion on cannabis harm classification - based on the scientific evidence and the ACMD majority recommendation that the drug cannabis be classified Class C relative to other harms caused by other ‘illegal’ drugs but ALSO ‘legal’ drugs including alcohol and tobacco and that the Government’s ‘artificial separation’ of other ‘non-drugs’ notably alcohol and tobacco should ALSO be included since those ‘legal’ drugs cause MORE harm to the health of people and society than cannabis (but the Government ignore and deny this).

    The Government just want robotic Yes men (and women) and scientific committees who will rubber stamp their New Labour political decisions*!

    Moreover, Professor Nutt is carrying out drug trials with a new drug that can induce the same ‘pleasurable’ intoxicating effects of alcohol (see BBC Horizon, October 2009) but without the associated aggressive and anti-social behaviour and health damage caused by drinking the lethal ‘legal’ drug - alcohol.

    Clearly this new drug would be a major threat to the alcohol (Government supported) drinks industry’s profits; and the Government’s £8 billion per annum tax duty from the sale of alcohol in the UK; so too is Professor Nutt’s scientific opinion on the real damage and harm caused by alcohol (and tobacco) to people’s health etc.

    Government policy: profits before health; don’t mention the harmful effects on health due to alcohol or tobacco and don’t express a scientific opinion on alcohol and tobacco harm unless the Government ask for one (hardly likely!)

    Re-classifying cannabis to class B is a red herring to divert attention away from other more harmful legal drugs – notably alcohol and tobacco - that cause more harm and damage to people and society than cannabis.

    *Those working on private contract for the DWP and carrying out the Incapacity Benefit so-called ‘capability test' are called ‘approved doctors’!! Most are jokers, after a quick buck! They (the DWP) ignore GP medical reports and Hospital reports – i.e. real medical evidence.

    A bit like the Government ignoring scientific evidence based reports from the ACMD and Professor Nutt!

    At the DWP they are called a ‘Decision Maker’ – in the Government they are called Home Secretary!

    Full support to Professor Nutt!

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  • 10. At 00:14am on 02 Nov 2009, DrWatsan wrote:

    SCIENCE AND MORALITY

    Read this in relation to ‘question of science’ and Professor Nutt’s ‘morality’ especially in relation to the Government’s ‘‘artificial separation of alcohol and tobacco as 'non-drugs’.’’

    In a paper written for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) at King's College, London, based on his earlier lecture, Professor Nutt said: "I think we need to educate people about drug harms in relation to the harms of other activities in life, so that it is possible for them to make sensible decisions about relative harms."
    "If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you're probably wrong."

    "We have to fully endorse harm reduction approaches at all levels and especially stop the artificial separation of alcohol and tobacco as 'non-drugs'.

    "While I'm not a moral philosopher, it seems to me difficult to defend a moral argument in relation to drugs if you don't apply it to other equally harmful activities."

    "No one is suggesting that drugs are not harmful. The critical question is one of scale and degree. We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for – and whether they doing their job?’

    Richard Garside, director of the CCJS, said: "Professor Nutt’s briefing gives us an insight into what drugs policy might look like if it was based on the research evidence, rather than political posturing and moralistic positioning." (Source: the Daily Telegraph, 29th October 2009)

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  • 11. At 00:32am on 02 Nov 2009, Srsweenie wrote:

    Im sure the majority of the public (or at least, the majority of those who've came across drugs at some point, rather than those who think 'all drugs are the same, and produce phsycotic thieving criminals') would agree that Cannabis users do not pose a significant risk to society. I have never personally encountered a user who could be considered a threat to the public, and while im not denying there could be some (although whether they are agressive due to the Cannabis, or another factor is up for debate), there is no denying the huge gulf between anti-social smokers, and anti-social drinkers.

    And it is this point which annoys me about the classification of the drug. Being a higher classification than necessary only results in police wasting time dealing with the student with some in his back pocket, rather than more important matters. If there is very little public safety concern over Cannabis, then the only reason it is a banned substance is the effects on the health of the individual...surely not a matter for the police to be dealing with, im sure you'll agree.

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  • 12. At 00:32am on 02 Nov 2009, BioMedResearcher wrote:

    Speaking as a research scientist in the biomedical field, I find the actions of the committee chair and the media entirely inappropriate. The job of the committee was to report to the government and to provide their informed view regarding, amongst other things, the relative danger of commonly used drugs. The chair of the committee is “outraged” because he believes that government should base the classification of drugs solely the relative probability of drugs causing harm or death. However, this simply reflects a desire by the former chairman of the committee that this should be the case. There is absolutely no reason why the government should use these statistics as the sole input to drug classification, and indeed, they never have. In this case, Professor Nut has repeatedly appeared on TV citing various statistics, including the relative probability of dyeing from taking ecstasy or horse riding. Unfortunately, this simplification does not do the subject justice and, to Government ministers operating with real people in the real world, these undisputed facts are not the only consideration. Take for example, cannabis. No, it doesn’t kill you. Yes, tobacco smoking is more dangerous. However, if you take cannabis, you almost inevitably do smoke and may well have started smoking in a desire to try cannabis. In addition, imagine yourself the parent of an unemployed teenager, who spends all day in their room smoking cannabis, and seems lethargic, exhibits mood swings, or even mental health issues, precipitated by high level use of very strong forms of the drug. Try telling them that suppliers of that drug should not be dealt with severely. Many drugs do not kill you, but they contribute to a malaise that undermines normal social interaction and contribution. The government have every right to consider the social implications and the concerns of their electorate in making drug classifications. Finally, and as with the behaviour of General Sir Richard Dannatt recently, I am left wondering whether Professor Nut’s comments (and that of the media) are underpinned by political bias. Personal comments regarding Gordon Brown and the labour party, which stray well beyond this issue would suggest that Professor Nut is not a life long labour supporter!

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  • 13. At 00:41am on 02 Nov 2009, erikhiga wrote:

    To say that marijuana is less detrimental to society than alcohol and tobacco is to speak the absolute truth. To deny this truth is complete ignorance. What is the difference between a problem drinker and somebody who smokes too much reefer? Ask your local police station how many arrests they made this weekend that were related to alcohol and people who had consumed too much alcohol. Most people who are arrested for marijuana related offences are not really guilty of any crimes other than possession and distribution of an illegal substance. You can't tell me that alcohol isn't worse than marijuana.

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  • 14. At 00:45am on 02 Nov 2009, eulogy wrote:

    We do get the politicians we deserve.
    However, most are fully paid for.
    The evidence clearly illustrates that, in order of danger to individuals and society, the most dangerous substances known to us are, in order of importance:
    ALCOHOL
    TOBACCO
    ALL OTHER DRUGS

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  • 15. At 00:46am on 02 Nov 2009, DrWatsan wrote:

    BioMedResearcher, read the following from the ACMD:-


    ''Anxiety and depression

    12.10 The Council remains unconvinced that there is a causal relationship
    between the use of cannabis and the development of any affective
    disorder (Sections 8.12 and 8.13).

    Gateway theory

    12.11 The Council does not consider the risks of progression to Class A drugs as a consequence of using cannabis to be substantial; and considers
    that such risks are likely to be less than those associated with the use of alcohol and tobacco (Section 8.14).''

    [Page] 31

    Source: ADVISORY COUNCIL ON THE MISUSE OF DRUGS, REPORT TITLE: ‘CANNABIS: CLASSIFICATION AND PUBLIC HEALTH’, Year: 2008

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  • 16. At 00:50am on 02 Nov 2009, DrWatsan wrote:

    BioMedResearcher, read the following from the ACMD:-



    ''Social harms


    12.13 The evidence available to the Council does not suggest that cannabis use is a substantial cause of acquisitive crime (Section 9.3).

    12.14 Anti-social behaviour is an unlikely consequence of the known
    psychological effects of cannabis itself (Section 9.5). There is, however, a clear perception among the public that cannabis is associated with anti-social behaviour. In the opinion of experts on the Council,
    anti-social behaviour is probably largely exacerbated by alcohol [SIC]. It is therefore possible that the public regard smoking cannabis in the
    presence of others as, in itself, a form of anti-social behaviour.''

    [Page] 31

    Source: ADVISORY COUNCIL ON THE MISUSE OF DRUGS, REPORT TITLE: ‘CANNABIS: CLASSIFICATION AND PUBLIC HEALTH’, Year: 2008


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  • 17. At 00:56am on 02 Nov 2009, the_town_cheese wrote:

    seems like the latest in a long sequence of events whereby the government seem to be shooting themsleves in the foot. what next we may well ask? maybe taking over directly the system for entries to the eurovision song contest, employing two seemingly incompetent characters and allowing them to concoct some facile ditty called..oh....something like..'my lovely horse'?

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  • 18. At 01:07am on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Biomed ....
    In addition, imagine yourself the parent of an unemployed teenager, who spends all day in their room smoking cannabis, and seems lethargic, exhibits mood swings, or even mental health issues, precipitated by high level use of very strong forms of the drug.

    Frightening isn't it but that's the price of illegal cannabis. but there is no need to imagine this is there? its a reality of this government and this governments drug policies. You would also have to be a really bad parent to have let it get that far but is that also the governments fault? They have not listened to the facts or they have not faced the facts.

    Which ever way you see it the brown clown and Mr A JointSon(?) are putting children at harm with this message. If cannabis really is this bad why is it freely available to children you wouldn't hire a pedophile as a teacher so why expose children to drug dealers ?

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  • 19. At 01:08am on 02 Nov 2009, badgercottage wrote:

    All drugs are dangerous, but it seems that government thinks that some drugs are more dangerous than others using a benchmark that appears to be be questioned by this episode. On the one side, we have dangerous drugs that are taxed to pay for a) occasional advice by government (eg drink drive campaigns) and b) for the NHS to pick up the pieces of addiction, and on the other side dangerous drugs that are illegal, and by that fact lead to crime and a lack of control over the content of the chemicals that make up those drugs.

    As an ordinary citizen and taxpayer, I resent paying for the crime and the mechanisms for picking up the pieces of this second group of dangerous drugs. However, whilst the government maintains a stance that some drugs should remain illegal (whatever the social and economic costs of that policy), the government should listen its scientific advisors, however uncomfortable their views.

    As it happens, I have a view that all drugs should be legalised and then the revenue taxed and supply controlled accordingly. But whatever view anyone takes on this subject (and I appreciate that my views are not necessarily mainstream), we now have a government that is saying that scientific advisors have no say in policy nor in contributing to the education of society as a whole about the dangers of drugs, and will be sacked if those views are contrary to the government line. Surely the government should be seeking advice from bodies such as this rather than to dictate what they should or shouldn't be saying?

    And if government does decide to take on this approach, surely we need a non-governmental body, such as a charity, to provide society with the advice it needs about the dangers of all drugs?

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  • 20. At 01:09am on 02 Nov 2009, rockhallfame wrote:

    12 biomedresearcher
    are you alan johnson? or an affiliate or spokesman of some sort? its just that you exhibit a belief in many of the scientifically refuted harms of cannabis.. may i refer you to http://www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana/factsmyths/#More_Information, in case you werent interested in the ACMD findings or recommendations.
    if your problem was a professional one i would suggest that any professional infringements made by Prof Nutt were outweighed by the principles at stake. johnson should have accepted that the government got this one wrong, again, and should have at least re-addressed the reclassification issue. instead he did the cowardly thing and fired a respected scientist who was trying enlighten society as to the genuine relative harms of drugs. weak.

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  • 21. At 01:21am on 02 Nov 2009, DrWatsan wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 22. At 01:44am on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 23. At 01:45am on 02 Nov 2009, Jen wrote:

    If we have 'legal' and 'taxed substances in alcohol and tobacco, then why not regulate supply of cannabis, tax it and there is no problem.....Or is there?

    Yes, I've had to deal with my offspring in a severely drunk state on a couple of occasions-not much fun. I've also watched my son's mental health deteriorate from regular cannabis use (3 times or so a week) over a 3 year period. He is past that all now-but I believe his difficulties are a symptom many young people share of the pressures which are on them from a pretty young age now. All the binge drinking and cannabis smoking was all he was able to do to briefly alleviate the pressure. He now has to use medication to control his bi polar disorder. I am just so very thankful that he didn't go as far as heroine or cocaine.

    Morally, drawing a line on what constitutes a harmful drug is a very difficult call and may bear no relation to the scientific statistics and data. A scientist delivers the facts, but we do expect our government to make the moral call. I'm also pretty sure that Professor Nutt's statistics have already been produced in other studies, so his 'revelations' were hardly earth shattering!

    I have no problem with either Professor Nutt's nor the government's giving us their viewpoints. But equally, I see no useful purpose in sacking him nor Professor Nutt's purpose in presenting his findings as contrary to the stance of the government! Surely it would have been better for them to work together to treat the cause of people using drugs (legal or otherwise)? Taxing or fining people is obviously not the solution-getting to the 'why' is surely far more important? Doesn't this warrant more research and positive action irrespective of personal points of view?

    Perhaps Professor Nutt could undertake valuable research into why so many of us need props like these drugs and could suggest ways to address this?



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  • 24. At 01:49am on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Mr Jointson has 8 days left to put his name down for this bit of education goes a long way

    http://www.reformconference.org/

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  • 25. At 01:59am on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    hmmm Badgercottage i did post links to both Release and ENCOD bu the got refered :)

    anyway if you facebook they are there or they have www's you can visit

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  • 26. At 02:06am on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Tigerj what age was your son during this time as I know a lot of kids including my own son who have suffered depression during the secondary school years to the point were he resat his 1st year of 6Th form because of it. No he does not use cannabis but he did feel that 40% of his education was useless to his life and it was suffocating him.

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  • 27. At 02:51am on 02 Nov 2009, winks666 wrote:

    Hi, as journos with access to public info at your fingertips maybe you could follow up Dr Nutts assertion on Friday that a few people would die this weekend from alcohol related illnesses, fights, car accidents, etc. Plus the money wasted on drunk drivers, court time for drunk and disorderly etc. and stand them up against comparable data for people dying of drug O.D.s, admissions to mental clinics for psychosis/schizophrenia, from weed, and ravers dead from L.S.D. and ecstasy.Then guess the numbers indulging, or work out an average, impossible I know, but do the maths and see which is more deadly and what the cost off all this is. Not easy, but it would be very interesting statistically, from a scientific perspective of course. Please try, as lives are at stake, and this persistant ignorance of government is insufferable and is destroying lives needlessly.
    P.S. GOOD LUCK a libertine.

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  • 28. At 03:11am on 02 Nov 2009, WildGardener wrote:

    Let's take a positive view on this. So far as we know, Dr Nutt and his two fellow resignees (if that is a word) are all still alive.
    That's more than could be said after the late Dr Kelly's attempt to inject some rational scientific judgement into government spin about WMD.

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  • 29. At 03:13am on 02 Nov 2009, winks666 wrote:

    I was hoping that Obama might have had the cohones to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. Legalise drugs to deprive the Taliban etc of a revenue stream, tax all drugs and control quality, thus ending countless unwinable wars, on drugs, extremists etc. It would end Columbian and Mexican drug wars, literal ones that is, plus the fake war being fought in every major U.S. city.A serious bit of blue sky thinking, but with the booze and fag lobby so strong it is amazing people like Dr Nutt are funded at all. Also if weed is so bad then how come half of Rizzla products are obviously solely produced to be used for smoking weed. All their new products for over 20 yrs. have been exclusively aimed at producing the perfect joint.Not 1 new tobacco innovation has appeared since the seventies. So they obviously can see well into the future and understand the only hope for their biz is eventual legality. Meanwhile they opperate in a nudge nudge wink wink kind of twilight zone. No offence rizzla, the silver king size are pukka, but has anyone EVER made a roll up with them?

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  • 30. At 03:37am on 02 Nov 2009, speniboy wrote:

    I neither drink nor take cannabis, but, simple facts:

    1. Alcohol causes major damage to all the bodies organs, and causes huge amounts of deaths.

    2. Cannabis causes much less damage to the body, and deaths due to cannabis are very low.

    3. If alcohol was only discovered now, it would be a Class A drug. Highly toxic, dangerous & addictive.

    So why do we constantly have the debate on cannabis, which on the basis of the above facts should already be legalised, when the debate should be on the classifaction of alcohol.

    As I say, I use neither, so I am impartial, so I see the whole debate as farcical.

    The problem is, we are brought up to believe that 'drugs' are cannabis, cocaine, and heroin (the 3 main ones). Too many people therefore class cannabis on the same level as cocaine and heroine. People need educating on the facts.

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  • 31. At 03:51am on 02 Nov 2009, Jmccann666 wrote:

    As mentioned is some of the comments here, the example of the dangers from smoking as clear evidence that we should listen to scientists, I for one remember all too clearly that scientists, medical practitioners and the Health and Safety Commission described passive smoking as nothing more than nuisance particulates and was not a danger. Thalidomide is yet another example where the experts of the science community solemnly decreed that there was no link between Thalidomide and birth defects.
    The bottom line is that Politicians are answerable to the electorate, if after all we find that the dangers from cannabis are being underestimated who will Professor Nutt be answerable too? No doubt his answer would be along the lines that he only gives advice and does not make policy.
    The real damage that Professor Nutt has caused is that our Politicians may steer clear of asking scientists for advice or their opinion.

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  • 32. At 04:26am on 02 Nov 2009, DrWatsan wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 33. At 06:25am on 02 Nov 2009, DavidD wrote:

    Mr Johnson has inadvertently stated in public what we already suspect about politicians, that politics is about manipulating the truth for their own ends.

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  • 34. At 08:03am on 02 Nov 2009, Charles wrote:

    Back in 1997 the new Labour Government decided that the better way of dealing with the interest rate decisions was to make it the responsibility of the Bank of England via an independent committee of experts. This has worked well, and keeping politicians well away from decision making of this sort has worked very well. So it's a pity the same politicians can't manage to apply proven experience to other areas such as drugs policy. After all, we might just find we didn't need the constant interference of politicians in such matters, and that we could be much better off letting those who actually know what they are talking about and dealing with on the basis of research and fact shaping our nation's policies.

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  • 35. At 08:10am on 02 Nov 2009, Forlornehope wrote:

    There was a recent report on bullying bosses that found, not surprisingly, that they were usually aware of their incompetence and took it out on their more qualified subordinates. Now we have here an ex-postman and an Imperial College Professor. If there ever was any chance of AJ for PM this should have sunk it.

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  • 36. At 08:26am on 02 Nov 2009, nebula52 wrote:

    Johnson's latest actions merely reflect the hubris of a government that has been in power too long - whilst the likes of Johsnon attempt to smother dissent, overlooking the fact that it is the strength of arguments and not Soviet style censorship that win political support, they merely undermine their own political credibility; if Johnson is up to the job he has been given, why did he feel the necessity to remove an advisor because of something they said? Johnson talks about being sucked into "hopeless dispair" with relation to drug use - perhaps he might like to explain how thousands are to escape the hopeless dispair brought on by the gross economic-mismanagement of his boss?

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  • 37. At 08:31am on 02 Nov 2009, andrew wrote:

    Have any scientists corrected you when you tell us they are unpaid? They may not receive a salary but are they really allowing the public to believe there is no benefit to being an advisor, that it does not lead to opportunities they would not otherwise receive? I don't trust any of the names hitting the headlines.

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  • 38. At 08:36am on 02 Nov 2009, bully_baiter wrote:

    Dr Nutt was employed to advise and he has taken that to mean that if his employers will not listen then the public need to know he has been ignored. Mr Johnson may feel justified in sacking him when he should be chewing on the knotty problem that his Government's policies have created.

    Cannabis prevention is "impossible", and so, in truth, is almost any other drug we care to name. A lot of time, effort and misery could be prevented by changing our legislation to make "drug abuse" the crime - not "drug use".

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  • 39. At 08:44am on 02 Nov 2009, Ashill wrote:

    Isn't there a point here about politicians taking a wider view?

    Prof Nutt is talking about the relative health risks of different drugs (some legal in the UK, some not).

    The Home Secretary is talking about the seriousness of crimes committed in connection with the illegal drugs - a different issue.

    Organised criminal enterprises can be involved in the growing and distribution of cannabis in the UK. In that context it makes no sense for the drug to be Class C - just a bit illegal.

    It could be made legal (removing the involvement of criminal gangs probably) or it could be made more seriously illegal, as a Class B drug rather than a Class C one. That is a political decision (set against the context of health risks and other matters) to be taken by the Home Secretary.

    If Prof Nutt wants to talk about the classification of drugs (rather than simply the health risks attached to them) then he is talking politics rather than science, and that is not the role of the ACMD.

    Ashill

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  • 40. At 09:04am on 02 Nov 2009, ianthepain wrote:

    An irreverent term for experts like Professor Nutt are the MAD Doctors. Other opinions need to be considered by Government, the opinion of Carers-Users-Police-Hospital Trusts-Outreach Workers to name some. The idea that the country should be under the control of Scientists is Nuts.

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  • 41. At 09:10am on 02 Nov 2009, dontmakeawave wrote:

    From what I gather, Professor Nutt has been propounding his views on relative risk for at least two years. Suddenly he is sacked. Why? Could it be his views are inconvenient in an election year with an already allegedly unpopular Government?

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  • 42. At 09:10am on 02 Nov 2009, goodsteinp wrote:

    I certainly suppport the majority view that Professor Nott has done nothing wrong and that his sacking was absolutely disgraceful. The Government has clearly adopted the old adage "I've made up my mind, don't confuse me with facts".
    However, many posts include the naive belief that this simply reflects the incompetence of the Labour government and that an immediate election would solve everything. The equally blinkered comments from Alan Duncan Smith and his colleagues this morning make it perfectly clear that the Conservatives will happily seek to suppress scientific evidence that they consider unpalatable - as indeed they did with Mad Cow Disease.
    The only main political party which appears to take a quite different approach are the Lib Dems; sadly their chances of becoming the majority party at the next election seem extremely low at present.

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  • 43. At 09:32am on 02 Nov 2009, Hastings wrote:

    There are other sides to this story which are being ignored:

    This group, set up in the 70s, is to "advise" the government, NOT tell them what to do

    They are charged with coming up with recommendations about the categorisation of drugs (so that judges can use it as an expert reference) - recommendations that MANY experts have disagreed with over the years.

    Professor Nutt also has a record of saying idiotic and ill-informed things about drugs and drug use over the years and some very hard-working, coal-face drug workers have been very critical of him.

    He maybe an expert in the "science" of drugs, and that science is very important, but he is NOT an expert in the social implications of drug use. There have been many homes wrecked or made terribly difficult because someone in the household has a heavy use of cannabis.

    The government has to take into account a thousand opinions, and the political choices are important too. The public and the media are very bad when it comes to supporting decisions that they don't understand, and policies that do not have public support tend to fail.

    A good scientist understands that they are just one part of a vast jigsaw.

    A bad scientist is arrogant and thinks that only their opinion matters.

    I am afraid that Nott has proved himself to be the latter.


    Note: Comparing cannabis with either smoking or alcohol is a ridiculous thing to do. Each of these have their own set of problems and need to be dealt with individually in their own right.

    Saying that Cannabis is okay because it is less harmful than alcohol is VERY bad science!

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  • 44. At 09:33am on 02 Nov 2009, stevekimberley wrote:

    Let's not forget the government's out-of-hand rejection of the recent Cambridge Primary Review, the most fundamental review of primary education for forty years and which which was widely welcomed by the teaching community:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8309153.stm

    I haven't lost faith in the government's advisers - I've lost faith in the government!

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  • 45. At 09:38am on 02 Nov 2009, kencharman wrote:

    Leaving aside its narcotic properties, it is the legal status of cannabis that is bound to excite the Liberatti. Once again sober judgement is trampled under as the lynch mob stampedes for the establishment. But there are counter arguments that the aggrieved should consider. Professor Nutt's motives are best known to him but his methods are beyond mis-interpretation. In describing risk he has made comparisons. And, he has selected his own emotive comparisons that make his point in a way that has to be considered political. If we really want to play the comparison game we need to compile a league table of comparative risk and slot horse riding and cannabis into their proper relative positions. I concede that some group of academics somewhere is probably already submitting a research funding request to do this, but it would be a nonsensical waste of time and money because society does not need that level of precision in order to make what is effectively a value judgement.

    Incidentally, it is ok to make value judgements.

    For reasons that are historical, irrational, emotional, etc etc our society, through its mass identity, democratically elected government and laws finds it acceptable to permit, condone and encourage horse riding whilst condemning cannabis consumption. This is a fact. For those who seek to change the status quo we have very well established means to campaign for change. Whilst a substantial minority of people in the UK use cannabis (including many from the middle class) the majority do not and this majority is oppossed to further liberalisation of drugs. So, before overturning the wishes of the majority our politicians need to take advice from many sources and be very very sure of themselves. The scientific experts are just one source. I can agree that the views of the scientists should not be mis-represented but the important point here is that even if cannabis is scientifically proven to be less harmful than horse-riding or alcohol or tobacco most people in the UK would prefer it to be classified as a drug that is dangerous to our society. They don't have to justify their views with science. They can just take a value judgement. If Professor Nutt and the Liberatti want the majority attitude to change they should campaign openly as is their right in this democracy. If the majority of the public remain unconvinced by the science the Liberatti should accept the verdict. The alternative to this is that the UK disappears even further along the road of government by "experts". This is more dangerous that any drug. If this process continues the experts from Think Tanks, Policy Units, Institutes, Advisory Panels etc etc will suffocate democracy by eliminating public debate. There are already far too few opportunities for the public to influence policy and decisions. Experts need to be told their job is to convince the public first and not just fast track the politicians and senior civil servants who govern the country. Of course this exposes experts to uncomfortable risks. The history of experts getting it wrong is vast. Wasn't Professon Sir Roy Meadows a famous expert and scientist? And, as we all know, many experts have their own hobby horses which is exactly why the rest of us shouldn't be excluded from debate. If we the public are hypocritical and irrational our best defence is to compel experts to take the trouble to guide us and influence us and if they can't we should retain possession.

    Finally, Professor Nutt is induging in more politicised mischief in his comparisons with alcohol and tobacco. It is not a crime against science but it is a crime of history that these dangerous substances are so freely available and accepted within our society. They are therefore defended by history and not science or risk. To remove them or reclassify them would require transformational change that is too disruptive. The CMO has shown Professor Nutt the right way to tackle this situation. Sir Liam Donaldson has influenced government. By pressing for controls on tobacco consumption and stating that alcohol should attract much higher tax and prices he is forcing the pushers (manufacturers and retailers) to retreat. For the present the CMO understands that a reduction in consumption is the best we can realistically hope for. However, the dire situation with these drugs does not create a precedent based on fairness and equality for legalising another. The fact that cannabis use is so widespread means the public is well enough informed through direct personal contact (either as a consumer or through their observations of consumers) to form a balanced opinion. And I am very sorry if the sponsors of cannabis feel aggrieved that the public's views are irrational, but I ask them to consider whether the Professors views are actually Nutt's.




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  • 46. At 09:48am on 02 Nov 2009, Novparl wrote:

    Mr Easton - are you verboten to consult the BBC web site? It tends to take a dim view of drugs. But plenty of stuff on enjoying wine. (Horror!)

    Also, are you verboten to use Google? Try googling Cannabis & schizophrenia. The evidence is more complicated than you suggest. Why don't you contact Prof Robin Murray of the Maudsley for a psychiatrist's view? Or a number of other eminent psychiatrists?

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  • 47. At 09:51am on 02 Nov 2009, Megawatt58 wrote:

    David Nutt was sacked because instead of giving his advise and allowing the Government to decide any actions from it, he said they had to do what he said and act the way he wanted.
    I found the information he gave incorrect anyway. For instance, he said cannabis is less harmful than tobacco but how can it be when it is smoked with tobacco. I don't need to be a Professor to work that one out.

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  • 48. At 09:54am on 02 Nov 2009, Liz wrote:

    On a good day, our elected representatives handle advice from objective and well-informed scientists and produce policy that benefits the majority of our society. This is not a good day.

    Scientists must take care with how they perform their duties as government advisors, and policy makers must act in the public interest. If Prof Nutt's advice was being misused, he should have resigned his post and complained loudly. If the Home Office considers cannabis etc to be of more harm to society than just the straight biological facts suggest, then they need to present us with their reasons. We can always sack the politicians at the next election if we don't like it, and let's face it, we have been ignoring scientific advice on health matters for years.

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  • 49. At 09:58am on 02 Nov 2009, CatsToCoats wrote:

    Governments rely on scientific to lend credence to whatever hare-brained schemes they've already decided upon; either by blatantly ignoring the advice, or cherry-picking to get the ''right'' answer.

    Being a government advisor shouldn't be used as a gagging order, where no advisor can disagree with a predetermined government policy.

    That said, the rebel scientist could have a better name...
    ''I'm a Nutter'' is a slightly dodgy rallying cry!!!
    (cue T-shirt design) ;)

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  • 50. At 10:05am on 02 Nov 2009, kaybraes wrote:

    The man committed the cardinal sin in the eyes of this government, he told the truth . In the Nu Labour utopia, this is not allowed. This could lead to the populace expecting others, even politicians to tell the truth, the results are unthinkable, how on earth could Labour operate if people went around telling the truth? The evil scientist got off lightly ,due to the boundless mercy of Archangel Johnston, guardian of truth champion of integrity shadow leader of the Labour faithful.

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  • 51. At 10:10am on 02 Nov 2009, Jen wrote:

    Community Criminal #26

    my son was 15 when he really began exhibiting signs of pressure. Started on cannabis at about 16. He was suffering mentally from the age of 8 - caused by my ex husband-and seeing a psychologist from 12 at his own request because of my ex husband. (this is not the place for me to go into more detail than this). At 14 he refused to see him anymore. He was a very bright child, but burned out and developed paranoia which made him very angry and terrified of failure. The pressure from his school to succeed exacerbated the problem I think, and he ran away from home for a time. He flunked Uni 2 years on the trot and is now an amazing chef!

    He openly admits the cannabis was a bad thing but at the time the only thing which soothed him. It was a symptom of his distress rather than a bit of fun. Very dark times, and as a parent I felt useless as I watched him suffer. Loving him dearly wasn't enough to help him. I'm just so glad he has made it through and didn't get into harder stuff.

    He's turned his life around, but there are so many young people who suffered like him who never get past it. There are people who use cannabis as a recreational thing, but many who need it on a daily basis to cope with life. I have no idea how they get hold of it, but I do worry why it becomes a need.

    I guess legalising it would mean more controls could be applied, but I am no psychologist or scientist. Addressing the 'why' would be much harder but surely ultimately more worthwhile than simply moving it up or down a list? We need scientific advisors, even if they are contentious. They are experts and surely they need to be able to state their evidence without fear of reprisal? Who is next, climate change scientists? Defra scientists? Health scientists?

    Sacking Professor Nutt seems almost like censorship to me. We are all grown ups and able to make up our own minds when given the facts. There are arguments both for and against the classifications of drugs, but ultimately, it's personal choice to use them or not. perhaps both Professor Nutt and Alan Johnson should have respected each other's points of view a little more?

    The argument over alcohol, tobacco and cannabis will rage for a long time-it's not an issue which will be resolved quickly, if ever. Yet I'm certain that working together is the key.

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  • 52. At 10:58am on 02 Nov 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    Mark Easton.

    "The Home Office was offering no help on this tonight.."

    it would be nice if the BBC could open a discussion on this sort of thing happening; often -- too often -- I hear news anchors both on the BBC and on Channel 4 news repeating the words 'but no one was available for comment' almost like a mantra.

    surely, if government ministers make a controversial decision they ought to be obliged to provide a spokesperson to explain their position; I think they rather rely on the media circus moving on to another 'hot' topic before they're being held to account.


    copperDolomite #6.

    "This is not about drugs. It is about the political misuse and abuse of science and scientists."

    hear, hear.

    spot-on, all about political expediency, propaganda and manipulation of facts and populace.

    the Home Secretary and his 'mates' would do well to bear in mind that Dr David Kelly and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death have not been forgotten, neither will we forget Prof David Nutt and his colleagues.


    Gurubear #43.

    "Professor Nutt also has a record of saying idiotic and ill-informed things about drugs and drug use over the years and some very hard-working, coal-face drug workers have been very critical of him."

    my, my, character assassination? if he has "a record" I'm sure you can provide references for these allegations?

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  • 53. At 11:25am on 02 Nov 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    kencharman #45.

    "There are already far too few opportunities for the public to influence policy and decisions. Experts need to be told their job is to convince the public first and not just fast track the politicians and senior civil servants who govern the country."

    I think you're making a very important point here, yes, the public needs to be educated and "on board" in order to maximise pressure on the state.

    however, practical problems: which forum could be used for this? the papers are privately owned and have their own agendas, the interweb is ill-suited because of the lack of 'quality control'. in reality, the BBC, because of its unique position as a Public Service Broadcaster, may well be the only viable platform.

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  • 54. At 11:31am on 02 Nov 2009, pabroon74 wrote:

    A couple of points.

    Firstly, cannabis and tobacco use don't always go together, so it isn't accurate to say you can never have one without the other (thus making cannabis automatically dangerous by association.) Those who express this view highlight their lack of knowledge on the various methods of getting the substance in to your body. Run a search on doing buckets or hot knifes if you're still not convinced. (Plus, the idea that a scientist would run research on one substance with another is facile. If they were to run tests on alcohol, would they also include a mixer, say; a slimline tonic perhaps?)

    Secondly, on the psychiatric point. It is very hard to tell if cannabis causes mental health conditions as it is entirely possibly that it's usage is a symptom as opposed to the cause of a pre-existing condition.

    On Prof Nutt being asked to step down? Clearly he said something that the politicos did not like. Whether you agree with his POV or not; when it comes to the health and safety of a loved one or your own-self; who's advice would you sooner heed; a scientist with a proven history and years of experience in his field or a ex-postman-cum-politician. Who do you think has the biggest agenda, hidden or otherwise?

    Cannabis can be damaging, but as has been said, relatively, it really isn't such a huge issue. In a system of finite resources re. criminality & general health; it should be a good bit further down the list than alcohol, tobacco although perhaps not horse riding.

    That is all.

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  • 55. At 11:40am on 02 Nov 2009, Mark wrote:

    I have a lot of sympathy for Dr Nutt. Broadly speaking, I agree with his harm-reduction analysis. He presents the evidence that exists and should not be sacked for having an opinion that somehow challenges government policy, even if he chairs a committee. There are some 30 members of that committee, and I'm sure there is disagreement among them.

    The correct response to a challenge by a scientific advisor, if you even bother to reply, is to reply with facts that support the government's position. If there are no facts, then clearly the government is in trouble, because they are ignoring evidence when they should be making the political case for a necessary reform and education of public opinion. But historically, this issue is a political hot-potato.

    Likewise, it is too simplistic to argue on the relative risks of cannabis in isolation from the risks associated with alcohol, for the simple reason that several research studies have shown that use of cannabis among the young is typically concurrent with use and abuse of alcohol.

    What this is illustrates is that the 'problem' is not necessarily the individual effects of alcohol or cannabis, both of which taken in moderation and in appropriate settings represent a very small risk, but the irresponsible consumption patterns of some youngsters when it comes to substance use in general. They'll clearly take anything that's available in as large a quantity as they can possible afford. Teaching kids about responsible decision-making and risk assessment is much harder than peddling the 'hard on drugs' mantra that's been keeping - dare I say it, the world's - politicians 'safe' on this subject for decades.

    You'd think the economic argument alone in terms of law enforcement costs would make politicians more sympathetic to the strong arguments of the 'harm reduction' movement, but I guess public opinion is at fault here. People might not realise, but politicians are generally well-informed on these issues, but of course they are also informed about voting patterns and the slippery nature of emotive political debates partly carried out through a less-than-helpful media.

    Still, this is a huge mistake by the Home Secretary. Has he taken 'personal umbrage' over this issue. Seems like it. Now this issue will be in the headlines for months, possibly even going into the election year.

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  • 56. At 11:51am on 02 Nov 2009, JoeBloggs_snr wrote:

    Well Mr Easton & the BBC have told us exactly what the score is - the Brown govt reneged on an understanding since the BSE trouble to put science at the heart of policy - time & time again the ACMD were sidelined ( Browns remarks - changing the cannabis rules before the advisory committee had considered its position, Jacqui Smith on ectasy and finaly Johnson) reverting to a 1950's "we know best" way of policy making. No wonder Prof. Nutt had had enough. His behaviour seems quite reasonable & fair.

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  • 57. At 11:57am on 02 Nov 2009, Darth_Vibe wrote:

    What ever happened to freedom of speach ???? Its not the drugs we need to be afraid of its the government. This governemt has killed more people with wars and false information than cannabis can or ever will!!!!....... I no who i would belive with 20 plus years reasearch behind them... and its not a jumped up MP, who only really wants to dip into the purses of hard working people.. SACK ALL THE MPS who stole.....and make a billion pound industry work for the people... It will happen its just a case of WHEN

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  • 58. At 12:05pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    Alan Johnson cannot defend his position in this instance. I wonder how many of our politicians have actually read and understood the Misuse of Drugs Act - very few I would imagine. It is right that Professor Nutt should use 'relative harm' as a base for classifying drugs, not moral hysteria. When something can affect your health I would rather have scientific fact than a moralising politician burying the truth to suit Govt policy. Oh, and my teenage daughter says that her and most of her friends think the Govts anti-drugs campaigns are a joke - they simply don't believe them - great!!!

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  • 59. At 12:18pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    I have to agree with a lot of what poster #55 - Mark has said. We need proper education on the whole drugs issue - no moralising and hysteria. I think the media should hang their heads in shame with some of the ridiculous headlines and misinformation they peddle to the public on the subject of drug use. We desperately need an honest debate about this issue and the media needs to play it's part in this. The Govt as well as all the other parties need to be honest for once - or is that too much to ask?

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  • 60. At 12:30pm on 02 Nov 2009, Darth_Vibe wrote:

    the other qustion i guess is who died and made jackie smith God!!!!!!

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  • 61. At 12:52pm on 02 Nov 2009, daniel wrote:

    The point is, which everyone seems to be making is: Is it wrong to publicise scientific advice if it contradicts government policy?
    I should hope not, policy should be made and based upon scientific evidence not political agenda!!!

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  • 62. At 12:56pm on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Well that new registration had me going there :P need to add a foot note to click here disable the pop up blocker or press CTRL when completing registration to allow the NEW window to open.

    Tigerjayj good to hear your son got things sorted out.

    With our current knowlage of the human endocannabinoid system it would seem as you put it cannabis soothed him for a while not surprising really as the natural cannabinoids control dopamine and serotonin production and uptake. At the ages 12-19ish the brain is being built by these as well as they lay down our shades of grey that we come to rely on to judge how the world works. How to deal with situations. This is why its so important to remove cannabis from the hands of children current thinking does not do this in anyway shape or form. If this government really cared they would fix the problem but unfortunately your son was a hoped for statistic to support this policy.

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  • 63. At 12:56pm on 02 Nov 2009, jameshg wrote:

    There is no truth, there is only politics.

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  • 64. At 1:04pm on 02 Nov 2009, hubert huzzah wrote:

    Government is dominated by people with no great understanding, appreciation or particular liking for science. Sacking Professor Nutt is easier than educating people about the nature of science which might cause them to question other policies. This is in the interest of all parties. Too many questions from the electorate might distract from the important work of government.

    The entire argument of "matters of evidence" is a legalistic interpretation of science that has no foundation in how science is done. It restricts scientists to an approved party line and ends the historic relationship between science and investigation. It is not a flaw of the current government. It is something that has been going on for years.

    Britain is losing its scientists. Science gathers little respect as a profession and is rarely rewarded for its fundamental contributions to the economy. Scientists can go and get better paid elswhere. The firing of a few scientists might seem inconsequential. Yet it betrays an almost ideological commitment to the perpetuation of the "Two Cultures" of CP Snow.

    When politicians ask scientists for "advice" they are, usually, asking for the "magic ingredient X" of soap powder advertising. They are not asking for scientific thinking to be presented in public. Because scientific thinking leaves questions unanswered - which would never do for politicians.

    Drug use is complex. Politicians and the media ask Scientists for soundbites and then proceeding to promote "policies" on that basis. They fail to understand - or even desire to understand - that Science is not a closed activity that resolves issues by rhetoric. Science is just a little too difficult for politicians and so they choose political solutions veneered with science.

    Is it any suprise that Scientists walk away from unpaid advisory roles that banking advisors would expect to be paid to occupy because they are the "brightest and best" and deserve reward. Yet look at the comparative damage of Professor Nutt against RBS. A scientific perspective on the banking crisis would suggest that Bankers present a higher risk than Scientists, yet there is a certainty that Westminster will not be involving bankers only in "matters of evidence" for future policy.


    Professor Nutt and many other scientists will take the reasonable and fair step of simply ceasing to do public science. The point of doing science vanishes if evidence based thinking is sidelined. Science is incompatible with the chances of retaining political office and politicians should realise that. Science is going the same way as manufacturing industry and vanishing.

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  • 65. At 1:16pm on 02 Nov 2009, Jen wrote:

    Criminal - Thank you for your comments. Absolutely fascinating what you say about teenage developing brains - I had no idea - after all I am just a Mum, not a scientist.

    Surely what you say should be enough to get the government to move forward with this? How many more teenagers are as vulnerable as my son was? How many more will develop a chronic mental disorder as a result?

    I think I am simply naive, but surely somewhere, someone will raise this issue and stop all the arguments back and forth about a category for a drug?

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  • 66. At 1:23pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    Tigerjayj:

    If the Govt really cared about our youngsters taking drugs they would listen to the scientists. There needs to be real shift in attitudes towards drug taking the legality issue. I lost a 28year old nephew a few years ago to a dose of bad heroin. If we put these dangerous drugs into the hands of criminals who just want to make money so cut the drugs with toxins then many more young people will die. Prohibition is never going to work. People will always do things and take things that are going to cause some harm. We need to educate properly.

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  • 67. At 1:39pm on 02 Nov 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    just finished listening to World At One on Radio 4, presented by Martha Kearney (who left me incensed, but that's another issue).

    the intersting point came when one of her interviewees mentioned that Professor Nutt had published the 'horse-riding and ecstasy' thing in a peer reviewed journal before he became chair of the committee, and that Jacqui Smith called him during his surgery hours to give him an ear-full.

    that would confirm the bullying stevejacobs7 detected and referred to in his post.

    so, it would appear that the only thing Alan Johnson is "guilty" of is cowardice when faced with the anger of his predecessor. hell hath no fury..., eh?

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  • 68. At 1:47pm on 02 Nov 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    #67 cont'd.

    forgot to mention (too excited!), Alan Johnson is due to make a statement in the House of Commons this afternoon.

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  • 69. At 1:49pm on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Im just a dad not a scientist either i only found this out after doing a lot of reading on anti depressants from there i educated myself.

    Yes cannabis is LETHAL but only to current political thought.

    bit more info for parents.on the endo cannabinoid systems sorry if some of it is a bit complext but a lot of the simple info is in PDF format which i cant link to.
    Start of human life
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159678
    Teanage years
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/work/adolescent.html

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  • 70. At 2:02pm on 02 Nov 2009, nakaserogirl wrote:

    Professor Nutt was sacked because the Government is desperately trying to ensure it stays in power. Maintaining a moralising paternalism plays well with right-wing newspapers and so with the voters who read them.
    Further, keeping people scared and ignorant makes them susceptible to control from above. Science provides us with the tools to make sense of the world for ourselves; to live healthier and more productive lives. Much of a grown-up life involves learning to handle risk. If we know more about what the drugs do, we can learn to estimate and handle the risks ourselves. Doesn’t the Labour Party want the masses to be better educated and more in control of their own lives? Apparently not. Let’s just note, by the way, that the Government recently dismissed another expert panel’s advice; the Primary School Review. Obviously the Government’s provision of inadequate primary education in classes of 30+ is the best it’s willing to do for us. How dare it call itself a Labour Party, then? Perhaps it’s scared that a strong people needs no leaders. No concentration of power; no concentration of capital; no privileged life-style for those at the top, whatever their party.
    Alan Johnston talks of people being sucked into a life of despair. It is to escape the despair around them, to fill their acres of unemployed, under-educated, isolated time in sub-standard housing with dreams of growth, happiness and fulfilment that people take drugs. People need to feel warm, physically and psychologically. Gas, electricity and communication technology are supplied by privatised companies routinely making vast profits; and so are illegal drugs.
    Sadly, the Government’s stance merely ensures the dealers’ profits. The professor was sacked because the Government, on so many levels, defends capital at our expense.

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  • 71. At 2:20pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    If anyone is interested - the e-petition is up on the No.10 website, asking for the reinstatement of Professor David Nutt - if you feel strongly about this then please take time to sign.

    petitions.number10.gov.uk

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  • 72. At 2:22pm on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Back-Prof-Nutt/

    can i post this ?

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  • 73. At 2:23pm on 02 Nov 2009, Ian Glossop wrote:

    Government 'messages' need to be clear - true.
    The Government's message on drugs however was clearly at variance with reality, clearly irrational and clearly ridiculous.
    Consequently it, and the policy behind it, was clearly ineffective and clearly undermining of the Government's credibility.
    In such circumstances advisors not only have the duty to advise in private that the policy is not evidence-based, they also have the right and duty, to the public, to say so in the public domain - irrespective of how this affects the Government's 'appearance' - and especially when the Government won't listen.
    It would appear that scientists and the public are far more principled than politicians generally and the Government specifically.
    And among the principles British society uphold most dearly are those of fairness and free-speech.
    That is why the Government must 'lose' this row, along with what remains of their credibility.
    But it is a political disaster of their own making - which shows an amazing lack of political astuteness as well as deficiencies in judgement and leadership.

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  • 74. At 2:28pm on 02 Nov 2009, dceilar wrote:

    The whole thing is a charade. The notion of 'war on drugs' is a nonsense which I'm sure politicians and media are fully aware of. It's only a 'war' on certain kinds of drugs. The 'war on drugs' is just an excuse the State uses to increase its social control. The alcohol and tobacco industries are legalised drug pushers that inflict far more harm on society and individuals than cannabis ever could. Prof Nutt made the grave error of telling the truth on the harms of these drugs. If he wanted to run a campaign against the government you would expect an academic lecture at a university is not the place to run it.

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  • 75. At 2:31pm on 02 Nov 2009, underwhelmed wrote:

    I think the real issue here is that we are supposed to be living in a democracy. That should mean more than being able to choose between a couple of local MPs every four years.

    It should mean that every citizen has an absolute right to question any government policy.

    It is absolute disgrace that an expert who has spent years researching his field should be sacked for stating the conclusions of his research.
    This incident reminds me of Galileo and his house arrest for his support of Copernicus' theory.

    Unfortuntately for Alan Johnson, Professor Nutt's research does not magically disappear simply because he has been sacked.

    I think as a society we have to examine to what level can the government be expected to regulate every potential danger to an individual's life?

    They claim the current drug policy exists to limit harm to our society (which is clearly not true otherwise they would be more inclined to listen to the ACMD's conclusions and perhaps have a truly informed debate) and yet they maintain the obvious hypocrisy of making billions from a lethal and addictive poison despite the deaths, injuries, broken homes, lost productivity and anti-social behaviour that results from it's use.

    Professor Nutt's statement on the relative risks of Horse riding vs ecstasy is not stupid at all. Why is it perfectly legal for me to throw myself from a hilltop with nothing but a large sheet of nylon and ropes to stop me plummeting to my death or to swim out from the beach on a cold december day - both of which are highly dangerous activites likely to result in my death (since I can neither paraglide nor swim) but growing a plant in my conservatory could result in a 5 year jail term?

    I ride a sports motorcycle which can reach 60mph in under 3 seconds and has a top speed of 185mph for pleasure which poses a far greater risk not only to myself, but to others as well, than posessing cannabis could ever do.

    We all know the current prohibition doesn't work, and what's more as others have mentioned, the moral hysteria which surrounds cannabis prevents it's legitimate medical use.

    Countless studies have shown that synthetic THC is a far superior substitue for the highly addictive valium, yet government policy prevents it's use.

    Cannabis has also proven to be beneficial to MS sufferers and people with long term chronic pain conditions.

    Our current government, the opposition, and the mechanisms we use to select them are completely and utterly inadequate in the modern world. Change is long overdue.

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  • 76. At 2:38pm on 02 Nov 2009, jon112dk wrote:

    Why was David Nutt sacked?

    Sounds simple to me - he forgot he was an 'adviser' not a 'decision maker'

    I'm sure he is very qualified to comment on the relative risks of different drugs and state (example) cannabis is no more dangerous than tobacco/alcohol.

    But that's not the same as being the decision maker deciding that something which is no more dangerous than tobacco/alcohol is not something he wants to be effectively legalised.

    If this guy wanted to campaign against the decision made by the elected decision maker then he needed to resign and then state a personal opinion. He can't use an official post to add more weight to campaigning which is contrary to the official decision.

    I think this fairly standard in most senior posts of an advisory nature, both public and private sector. If you are so unhappy with the official decision that you can't support it, then resign. If you choose to campaign against your boss then expect to be sacked.

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  • 77. At 2:46pm on 02 Nov 2009, Spiny Norman wrote:

    #7 morini66 wrote:
    'There is a long and painful history of governments, of any hue, ignoring scientific advice, even when they themselves asked for it. The Wilson government commissioned a report on cannabis, which they then suppressed and smeared because it didn't return the conclusions they desired.
    Similarly the media coverage of skunk has been ridiculously inaccurate, but allowed ministers to justify imposing their pre-determined measures. Ben Goldacre has covered this in detail in his "Bad Science" (an excellent and surprisingly entertaining read).'

    Absolutely right, but what do you expect when the previous PM and his wife were devotees of quack medicine like "crystal therapy", "Bach flower remedies" and "homeopathy"? Against such stupidity, Jove himself strives in vain.

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  • 78. At 2:51pm on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 79. At 2:53pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    I think the Government has shot itself in the foot with both barrels over this. Johnson probably thought he would receive plaudits all round, especially from the Red Tops and Daily Mail. Instead he has opened a can of worms that his limited intellect seems unable to deal with. Hopefully this will be the catalyst for a proper, open non-hysterical debate about drugs.

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  • 80. At 3:00pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    # 76.

    Sorry, but what is the point in having advisers if you are not willing to listen to them. Brown had decided that cannabis was to be reclassified as a class B drug based on nothing but political pandering - that is no way to deal with a serious issue. Professor Nutt merely brought to people's attention the relative harm certain drugs have on individuals. As that is how we are supposed to classify drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act he was merely doing his job. Obviously this is not what the Govt want to hear so hey presto, please resign. So are you not interested in the truth anymore?

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  • 81. At 3:08pm on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    This was released earlier today by some friends of mine I post it here with their permision


    Legalise Cannabis Alliance Press Release
    November 2 2009
    No Embargo

    Following the sacking of Professor Nutt and resignation of members of
    the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the Legalise
    Cannabis Alliance (LCA) has challenged the way in which the Government
    formulates its policy on drugs

    Professor Nutt was sacked by the Home Secretary last Friday, following
    the Professor's statement that cannabis is safer than alcohol or tobacco.

    Alun Buffry from the LCA said: “We have thought that the scientific
    basis for drugs policy is preferential to one based on (often-misguided)
    public or political opinion.

    “Having studied many reports over the years I concur that cannabis is
    remarkably safe for the very vast majority of users, compared with the
    risks from alcohol or long term risks from tobacco.

    “The Government's refusal to accept the advice of its scientific
    advisory committee – for the first time ever by any Government - and its
    continued use of law enforcement to press its moral case on society have
    exposed prohibition as unjustifiable.

    “The sacking of Professor Nutt is a blatant move to prevent Government
    scientists and advisers from speaking against Government policy, even
    when it is wrong. In short, it is more akin to tyranny than democracy.”

    “But the debate on whether cannabis should be in class B or C distracts
    from the real questions: why should users be punished if they hurt
    nobody, and why should the production and supply be limited to criminal
    hands?

    Ingo Wagenknecht , an advisor to the LCA on ecological and
    environ-political matters, said: ”The Government's ignorance of
    scientific facts has lead to a scientist showing corporate
    responsibility for public health policy.

    “They could not stand up for it any longer and the Government insistence
    on failure as the only option for Britain, where at least 1 in 25 people
    have tried cannabis and/ or is still using it, has now taken its toll on
    their only scientific committee. “

    End of press release

    http://www.lca-uk.org
    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

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  • 82. At 3:17pm on 02 Nov 2009, ArmchairPro wrote:

    An excellent, balanced blog on this issue which has really been rumbling around for years in various guises. I also came across an interesting editorial style blog (which links to this blog as it happens) in my wanderings. Anyone interested in another viewpoint on this issue can find it here; http://blacktrianglecult.blogspot.com/2009/11/this-is-nutts.html

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  • 83. At 3:18pm on 02 Nov 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    neebols456 #79.

    "Hopefully this will be the catalyst for a proper, open non-hysterical debate about drugs."

    fat chance, if you want a glimpse of how things are developing, listen to Radio4 (Dimbleby et al) and how they cover the issue, emotive is the word.

    all you hear is 'cannabis' and 'ecstasy', loudly, over and over; nothing about the role of alcohol, nothing about relative harm.

    rational debate? is not going to happen.

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  • 84. At 3:42pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    jr4412

    The emphasis was on 'hope'. I did mention in another post that the media have a lot to answer for in the drugs debate. They always sensationalise things instead of stating facts. Perhaps the BBC should take the lead in this, but I doubt they have stomach for it.

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  • 85. At 3:47pm on 02 Nov 2009, SalmonFish wrote:

    I've been horse riding twice: one of those times I was bucked-off and almost broke a limb. I have used, sorry, 'abused', MDMA countless times; besides after effects, only once have I ever had a negative experience (I puked up once - but there was absolutely no lasting nausea at all...).

    The saying 'the truth hurts' springs to mind...

    "Where is the line that David Nutt is supposed to have crossed?"

    Clearly this is a line that exists only in Alan and Gordons twisted parallel moral universe...

    "Is it wrong to publicise scientific advice if it contradicts government policy?"

    Certainly and obviously not! And it's absolutely essential that every British citizen realises what the government is doing here! Scientist can hardly present facts with the spin of politicians! Scientists are straight up, no fancy word play, 'crossing lines' that are completely undefined; what a ridiculous idea!

    The only 'message' or 'signal' Labour's drug policy could be said to send is one of utterly jumbled irrationality mixed with some mouldy morals, a message that bears no relation to reality and doesn't help people use these drugs safely - and use them people will, as people have done for time immemorial.

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  • 86. At 3:50pm on 02 Nov 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    neebols456 #84.

    "Perhaps the BBC should take the lead in this.."

    given their unique position (Public Service Broadcaster) and the source of their income, IMO it's negligent if they don't; I agree with your conclusion though.

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  • 87. At 4:03pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    jr4412

    To give the BBC some credit in this matter, they produced a Panorama program about a year or so ago, about the 20 most popular drugs consumed in Britain. This was based on Professor Nutt and his teams research. It had alcohol and tobacco very high on the list, above LSD, Cannabis and Ecstasy. I'm sure you can still view it on You Tube. It was a real eye opener. It's a pity they don't repeat this show but on BBC1 instead of BBC2 (originally).

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  • 88. At 4:11pm on 02 Nov 2009, jillvegan wrote:

    This seems worryingly similar to the government's dismissive response to the Cambridge review of primary education, which suggested that the age for starting school was too young. It appears that evidence from experts that doesn't back up the government's position is immediately rejected.

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  • 89. At 4:11pm on 02 Nov 2009, jon112dk wrote:

    80. At 3:00pm on 02 Nov 2009, neebols456 wrote:

    # 76.

    Sorry, but what is the point in having advisers if you are not willing to listen to them.
    ==================================

    Advisers give ADVICE.

    It's not binding.

    If you work in the public sector in an advisory role the usual story is...

    Advisor: "My advice is that you do XYZ"

    Manager: "Sorry it costs too much, I'm not doing it."

    At that point if you start openly slagging your boss off to the newspapers he would sack you. Standard practice. I don't see why it should be any different with this bloke.

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  • 90. At 4:31pm on 02 Nov 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    # 89

    Methinks you are being very naive in this matter. This is politics, nothing more, nothing less.
    According to the Misuse of Drugs Act, drugs are to be classified as to the harm they cause, physically, mentally and socially. What Alan Johnson has done, and every Govt since the act was brought in, is to go against the facts. Basically every Govt has misinterpreted the Act since it was instigated.
    In my view, politicians are the last people who should be involved in this issue.

    PS I don't recall Professor Nutt 'slagging' anyone off.

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  • 91. At 4:35pm on 02 Nov 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    If you work in the public sector in an advisory role the usual story is...

    Advisor: "My advice is that you do XYZ"

    Manager: "Sorry it costs too much, I'm not doing it."

    So sorry i don't like your info on the harm we are doing to the public cuts a reasonable excuse for Mr J's actions.

    He was freely allowed to discuss in public his findings nothing in his contract says otherwise or so Mr J says in the house of commons today.

    Its very sad that a government minister gets support for sweeping health issues that effect the whole of sociaty under the table because he does not like the updated evidence he is presented with.

    Will the government now pay for private health care for all the children that suffer psychosis because of cannabis or will they have to wait for the NHS waiting lists to shrink before they get a shrink.

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  • 92. At 4:35pm on 02 Nov 2009, Spiny Norman wrote:

    #84 neebols456

    Indeed. Ben Goldacre's excellent "Bad Science" also points out that too many of those employed by the media have arts degrees and are totally unable to understand the methods of science. They seem to see it as some form of magic, and to believe that its validity depends on the stature of the experts rather than the quality of the research.

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  • 93. At 7:15pm on 02 Nov 2009, jon112dk wrote:

    90. At 4:31pm on 02 Nov 2009, neebols456 wrote:

    # 89

    Methinks you are being very naive in this matter. This is politics, nothing more, nothing less.
    ================================

    I agree - the decision maker is a politician, he will also take into account the political effects of a decision, not just the scientific evidence.

    You are missing the point I'm making. The action taken by the government is absolutely standard practice in the public sector. Adviser advises. Decision maker (politician, manager, chief exec. etc) makes decision. If advisor can't live with that then they should resign. If they decide to campaign against the decision maker, they risk being sacked.

    I've walked out from two (otherwise quite nice) public sector jobs under just those circumstances.

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  • 94. At 5:55pm on 03 Nov 2009, dave wrote:

    Why is cannabis illegal if it posses no real medical implications?

    Whilst studying for a degree in Applied Social Sciences we were given a topic to complete that had the above approximate title, this is over 25 years ago so I can't remember the exact title.

    Alongside the often quoted reasons for the status of cannabis I came across a few books that gave the following interpretation for the status of cannabis.

    In the late 1920s early 1930s psychological profiling had just got to the point where it was a useful tool. A survey was commissioned by the American Government looking at the types and mindsets of the people who smoked cannabis. A series of questions were asked of a randomly selected group of cannabis smokers and then the same questions asked of a randomly selected group of non cannabis users. The researchers found that irrespective of experience or education the cannabis users gave left of centre responses, sometimes markedly so, as compared to the non cannabis users. To a right of centre power base this was a powerful lobby to have against them and so cannabis was demonized and the 'devil weed' news reports of the 1930s followed.

    The illegality of cannabis has nothing to do with any perceived mental health concerns it is because a right of centre power base do not want a population that questions and is free thinking, because if out of check this could lead to radical change.

    So in relation to Prof David Nutt it can only be accepted that the reason to return cannabis to Class B was a political decision and one not based on scientific fact.

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  • 95. At 09:21am on 04 Nov 2009, stafford_PH wrote:

    Given that the evidence shows that most people choose to smoke cannabis rather than eat it then surely cannabis is at least as dangerous as tabacco/smoking? I also have yet to see research that examines the effects on the body of eating cannabis over a long period of time. If this does exist does it increase the chance of getting stomach and bowel cancer?

    I think one of the flaws in this debate is bench marking illicit drugs against cigarrettes and alcohol. The burden on the country of banning both and then having to police the illegal trade would cripple us. Not to mention all those unemployed former tabacco and alcohol employees claiming job seekers allowance with no hope of a job any time soon. Plus people forget that a little alcohol can be beneficial - i have yet to see the evidence that a bit of crack or LSD everyday might extend your life and improve your health.

    The fact that we have to deal with the health and social problems created by cigarretes and alcohol is one of the reasons for keeping illicit drugs illegal. If people genuinely want illicit drugs to be legalised for recreational use (medical use is a different subject and i would not deny anybody medicine of any sort) then i want a tax system whereby every penny spent on the health problems caused by tabacco, alcohol and drugs, along with the full cost of alcohol related violence/policing/law & order/drug driving/drink driving etc be paid for from the taxes levied on these goods. I would also apply extra tax to sugary foods to pay for type 2 diabetes treatments, high fat foods to treat obesity and it's health problems, and a salt tax to pay for high blood presure, coronary and circulatory problems.

    Introduce this fairer tax system and you can do to yourselves what ever you wish to!

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  • 96. At 09:57am on 04 Nov 2009, Angel_in_Transit wrote:

    Mr Johnson has a difficult task on his hands. On the one hand he is confronted by the relative medical risk of a substance and on the other the consequences of classifying that substance as illegal or legal, be it from law enforcement right through to social and familial issues. He may also have pressure from his Cabinet colleagues, budgets, taxes, revenues, and campaign issues.

    Most drugs kill because of the quantity consumed and we all have a unique personal limit at which point a substance becomes fatally toxic to us. People die because the consumption of a substance is more precious to them than their life. Just like any other "occupation" there is always a risk and a price to pay when it is miscalculated.

    So Mr Johnson's job is difficult but it is not impossible even when faced with people like Professor Nutt. The Professor has given a perspective on "harm" and "risk" just as have many medical people before him when, in particular, looking at tobacco. Tobacco even with its legal status has caused harm to users because of the additives in the economic processing of it to the market place. Prior to the economies of scale DID tobacco harm its original users on anything like the scale we are asked to appreciate now? Was it ever addictive? Was there ever evidence of secondary smoke harm?

    The only real measure a Government can take on drugs is via economics. The legislative framework fails to deter; it reduces the ability of people like Professor Nutt to inform on risk, harm, and symptoms of these. But the economic route produces enormous problems for everyone when a user is forced to raise cash for their habit by criminal means. In the meantime those with disposable incomes merely have to steer clear of law enforcement.

    So our drug scene is the perfect reflection of our imperfect and inequitable society where the poorest often end up with the roughest deals. In the meantime the socially affluent may publicly expose the harm drug abuse causes - be it legal or illegal substances of choice.

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  • 97. At 1:26pm on 04 Nov 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    I think some contributors are so blinded with their hatred of the Government and politicians in general, that they see any decision made by them as wrong, even when it isn’t. This was actually a good call. He was rightly sacked. It doesn’t matter whether your opinion is pro-legalisation or anti. He is an advisor to Government, which means he’s paid to do the research, file the report, and then get on with another project. He is not paid to offer his opinion on drug policy to the public. He must have known that his remarks would be taken up by the media, but some scientists, for all their theoretical knowledge, display a shocking naivety when it comes to the game of politics. This isn’t just a gaffe – it’s an incredibly irresponsible remark that could cause serious damage to the business of drug enforcement. It’s like the chief police officer proclaiming that shoplifting isn’t a very serious crime and doesn’t cause many problems, based on financial loss, cost of enforcement and increase in product price. Even if he were correct, it would be a stupid thing to say. It is still wrong. We still don’t want people to do it. Drugs cause massive social problems that can’t be described solely in terms of their chemical toxicity and ‘directly attributable’ death rate. What about someone who is kicked to death by a group of kids high on weed or wanting money for their next fix? What about a hit and run by an addled driver?

    Often it isn’t what is said so much as how it’s interpreted through the Chinese whispers of media and by various demographic groups. This will be interpreted as saying ‘Cannabis etc is OK really’. It’s giving the green light to those who use it, or are considering using it. It’s effectively a thumbs-up from one of the highest scientific officials. He is condoning an illegal act, whether he intended to or not. This could cause damage that will take years to undo. You couldn’t expect a scientist to understand this, any more than you’d expect an MP to understand biochemistry. Whether through ignorance or wilful rebellion, he bit the hand that feeds him. We need his brains, not his mouth. Anyway, you can’t run society solely on the basis of scientific analysis or simple pragmatism. There is always much more to it than that. There are rarely simple solutions to complex problems, however compelling the argument seems.

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  • 98. At 2:01pm on 04 Nov 2009, richard hart wrote:

    Professor Nutt is victim of a system in which “democracy” is decided by people that claim to represent the people, but whose real objective is to inflict their own morality on others.

    Professor Nutt’s failure was to not have understood that from day one.

    His job was to provide substantiation of the moral status quo of a tiny minority of people that seem to think they can inflict their morality on the masses, when in fact their job is to represent the people.

    It is not Professor Nutt that got his brief mixed up, it is those that govern us.

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  • 99. At 2:06pm on 04 Nov 2009, James Millar Fisher wrote:

    For a start; Prof Nutt may have been an advisor to the Government, but he is also a citizen of this country and as such enjoys the right to free speech. That he has been fired because the Home Sec doesn't like what he said I consider to be both a nonsense and a waste of important talent.

    As for the emotive protestations, we've heard it all before. Could we perhaps consider what we are dealing with?

    Class A, B and C drugs are illegal in the UK. Remember Prohibition in America? Remember what happened? Did you know that Prohibition ended because it became obvious that if the American Government didn't repeal the law they would lose the next election? Of course that left them with something of a dilemma, legalise alchohol and they were going to have to lay off all those civil servants (the F.B.I.) who were tasked with policing the alchohol laws and so lose an awful lot of votes from the Republican Party faithful. Solution - criminalize drugs and give the F.B.I. a new remit.

    Of course during Prohibition Americans would come to Europe and get most horribly drunk and then have a go at taking a few bottles home. It being much easier to conceal opium and cocaine than bottles of whisky from Customs, that needed to be dealt with. No problem, the UK and the rest of Europe were so much in America's debt after the First World War that they leant on us, and lo and behold, soon afterwards we followed suite and criminalised drugs.

    As for the future; legalise it and legalise it now. The benifits are obvious. If we control sales we control taxation (large amounts of money), if we use the Swedish alchohol sales model we control profit (more large amounts of money), we control sales we control qaulity (massive decrease in drug (especially heroin) related deaths), we control sales we control the black market (no more 'dealers at school gates', no more dealers and associated 'criminals' as role models for the young), we control sales we give the Police more time to deal with real crime, we control sales we control prices (we cut the crime rate (once more especially herion users)as costs can be kept lower (give heroin to heroin addicts - methadone doesn't work and nor do addicts so just cut our losses), control sales we cut NHS costs as (once more) qaulity control will help and people will ask for help while there is still time to help them (and we will be spared their mothers and fathers becoming instant 'drugs experts'). And etc etc.

    Control sales and we control buying, that is the next point: Cash crops are of extreme importance in developing countries, many of which have excellent crops of interesting substances. We could give an awful lot of foriegn aid just by enjoying ourselves. Then there are countries like Afghanistan, does anyone think that we are 'winning the hearts and minds' of a very independent people by destroying their traditional crops and trying to replace them with market gardens? Utter nonsense, let's just buy up the whole poppy crop, save soldier's lives and manufacture the heroin we can use for our addicts and cut the cost of quite a few medicinal drugs at the same time. Same thing with cocaine, with marijuana and with quite a few others I can think of ...and still name.

    I could go on and on (did you know that your Queen Victoria took cocaine? She even wrote a letter of recommendation to the distillers of a cocaine liquer), but this is a comment not a speech.

    Oh, and would the hypocrites who use tobacco and alchohol please get real.

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  • 100. At 2:14pm on 04 Nov 2009, Cabe UK wrote:

    Why don't we get real and face it - the Only reason why the Government do not want to class tobacco under ANY sort of dangerous drug heading is because they make too much revenue out of the tobacco industry...
    This is basically just another game of hypocrasy and making up excuses to cover up the truth...

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  • 101. At 2:47pm on 04 Nov 2009, dave wrote:

    Reference to post 97

    It is only illegal because it is illegal. Being illegal doesn't mean that something is wrong, it is just what a particular authority, in this case the British Government, has decided.
    Your arguing that it is illegal and therefore must be wrong, because it is illegal.
    Prior to 1928 women did not have the vote, was the law that forbade them the vote prior to 1928 right and then also right after 1928?
    If you drive in this country over 70 miles an hour you are breaking the law, when on a autobahnen in Germany there is no speed restriction if the legality of something is ultimate as an honourable Brit abroad should you comply with our laws or do you believe our laws are wrong when you are abroad.
    There is no ultimate truths to be found in laws only what a power set at anyone time decides is the law, and that law may be just and right or abhorrent and wrong.
    In many middle eastern countries you can have your hand chopped of for stealing, in the 19th Century some people were
    deported to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread.
    Don't mistake the law with the truth.

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  • 102. At 7:44pm on 05 Nov 2009, Tulips wrote:

    Just thought you might be interested in the petition for his to be re-instated: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Back-Prof-Nutt/.
    Already going well with over 4000 signatures.

    There is also a facebook group started called "Support and Reinstate Professor David Nutt: We want an evidence based drugs policy": http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=169748050377&ref=nf

    :) glad to see thats its not just me who thinks this is unbelievable!!.. lets us see just how corrupt our government is.

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  • 103. At 1:03pm on 06 Nov 2009, elephantintheroom wrote:

    Hmmmm. Busy blog thread, and a big topic...

    It's pointless restricting your discussions to 'illegal' drugs when, if it were not for the legacy of history, we'd never now want to legalise tobacco/nicotine (the biggest drug killer) or alcohol (the second biggest).

    I mean, you could invite more people to a WEDDING than die of illegal drug use in the UK each year... those who die of tobacco and/or alcohol would fill WEMBLEY STADIUM many times over...

    If we're bothered about HARM then let's not waste time 'classifying' illegal drugs (as if anyone gives a monkey's anyway) and get on with tackling the problems that smoking and drinking actaully cause. And no, I don't just mean the physical ones (i.e. health problems and early death) I mean the social ones too, they're pretty big.

    But hold on a minute, let's think about WHY the government spends time and money on tackling illegal drugs... it's because it's a CRIME, isn't it? And tobacco/alcohol issues are only HEALTH issues. If you take that distinction away then government policy starts to look really silly.

    Clearly vested interests on the drugs side are easier to confront than those re tobacco/alcohol (think drug barons vs big business AND the tax take...)

    Ban the cancer sticks, I say.

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  • 104. At 2:08pm on 06 Nov 2009, bigsammyb wrote:

    "97. At 1:26pm on 04 Nov 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    It is still wrong. We still don’t want people to do it. Drugs cause massive social problems that can’t be described solely in terms of their chemical toxicity and ‘directly attributable’ death rate. What about someone who is kicked to death by a group of kids high on weed or wanting money for their next fix? What about a hit and run by an addled driver?"

    There next 'fix'? Are you serious? Okay pop quiz, you go and find me a criminal case ever in history where a group of desperate youths kicked someone to death because they needed a 'fix' of cannabis.

    In the meantime i will gather so much data of people kicking each other to death on alcohol it would take you two lifetimes to trawl through it.

    Honestly mate your ignorance is staggering.

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  • 105. At 2:18pm on 06 Nov 2009, Observation2 wrote:

    I would like to extinguish all smoking arguments by asking everyone against tobacco smoke to go take a quick puff on their car exhaust pipes (be careful it will be hot)...I wish this was a joke and seriously, kids dont try it even if the engine is off...but please do remember that we live in a bubble...

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  • 106. At 4:25pm on 06 Nov 2009, Mark wrote:

    "kicked to death by a group of kids high on weed"
    You are serious Lippy Lippo ?
    There don't seem to be many posts here that think Nutt is wrong - maybe only people who have taken drugs are interested enough to read more & comment, but comments like this are just hilarious - I think people are more likely to be kicked to death because they have drunk too much alcohol (probably more than 1000 times more likely).
    I believe cannabis is a relaxed person's drug - a thug is not going to smoke cannabis - it will stop him being a thug and he wouldn't be bothered to be thuggish while he is stoned.
    I personally smoked cannabis for many years in fairly high quantities - from personal experience, it does no harm. You cannot smoke enough to do you harm. And I quit without any problem - decided to finish & quit without any withdrawal symptoms whatsoever.

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  • 107. At 03:03am on 08 Nov 2009, Mark Shield wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 108. At 11:09am on 08 Nov 2009, oobuc5 wrote:

    a politician or a scientist which one would ask for the truth
    yes i know this is a tough one ,look back and remember how many times the politicians have asked a specialist in his field for the right information
    and when they did not like what they heard they sacked them ,
    this basicly stems from having people in charge who know nothing having,
    to employ people who know what they are talking about,

    im not pro or anti drug ,but this does go to show that there is not much room for the truth in politics:

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  • 109. At 6:50pm on 08 Nov 2009, Kilgore wrote:

    He was sacked because he told the truth. Politicians don't want the truth they are more comfortable with the rhetoric. Check out my song on YouTube called For Want of a High.

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  • 110. At 07:55am on 10 Nov 2009, Private wrote:

    Firsty, why is BBC using cheap jokes with this story? I've seen two titles referring to "Nutt sacked" now. Clean it up BBC. You're BBC, not Fox News.

    To the point, Britain has a huge stigma around marijuana. It's not dangerous. I can tell you one thing though, it makes a helluvalota income illegally. The only things that are ever illegal are things you can have without having to buy it. We live in a capitalist western world. Can you make cigarettes? No? That's why they're legal, so you can buy it. Yes, you can make beer and wine but you're still a consumer of the same industry. Do you think anyone would go to the pharmacy and get a joint if they had a whole plant in their kitchen? No.

    This is entirely political and it wouldn't surprise me if policy makers had a share of the profit.

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  • 111. At 09:50am on 10 Nov 2009, slightlyallthetime wrote:

    Re blog 110,and the comment that the policy makers have a share in the profit.
    I have long thought that these governments have a financial interest in keeping some substances illegal,i.e it is not going to be in their financial interest to legalise cannabis because we'd all be growing it at home and they would have no control over it and consequently could not tax us as they would if were legal and sold in shops.
    Also,the amount of money generated by illegal drugs all goes into the pockets of "someone"? and is then recycled through legal businesses,it's not like you have to re invest the money in the production of illegal drugs,you grow one lot of cannabis,coca etc,harvest it,refine it and deliver it,you pay the growers and the transporters and then you grow another lot,it's a pretty simple way of making money.
    If all the money generated by illegal drugs was taken out of the system then we'd have a serious problem and the government know this,they must have the figures to hand and realise the damage that this would do to the financial markets.
    The politicians are almost irrelevant in all this and it's quite obvious that their opinions are also irrelevant,they can pass their laws and spout on about the other groundless reasons why we shouldn't smoke cannabis but it wont change anything,what goes on in reality and what goes on in government are two completely different things.

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  • 112. At 11:57am on 10 Nov 2009, Glenn wrote:

    Nutt Sacking ? I can think of a few ministers who would benefit from that treatment !!

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  • 113. At 3:26pm on 10 Nov 2009, Luminous-Layne wrote:

    I just put this comment on Mark Eastons other blog - "Other Advisors may quit" before I realised this blog was still active - seeing as it is still active, I thought I'd post it here too.

    On last nights BBC News Newspaper Review, they said that in a poll conducted by (I think it was) the Times, in the last 10 days or so both the Tories and Labour have lost 1% off the numbers of people who'd vote for them. What else could that be but people loosing faith in our main political parties because of their extreme and abusive attitude toward pot and pot smokers? 1% for both main parties sounds tiny, but actually that's a massive minority. If that sudden drop in support for the two main parties and for our Parliament had been caused by any other issue, it would be massive news today. It's not just our Government that's totalitarian and false about pot, it's our entire Establishment. Our Establishment and this generation of middleclass people & wannabe middleclass hangers on who are in control of our Country right now, want our Country and our culture to grow old and die with them - it's obscene.

    Last night they were celebrating the end of totalitarianism in Eastern Europe with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - even Gordon Brown had clambered onto the bandwagon and was there, proclaiming the divine importance of freedom & liberty - just as him and his Parliament are creating a new oppressive, cruel, selfish, conceited, and utterly unfair totalitarian state in Britain. What a disgrace.

    This criminalisation and persecution of pot and pot smokers by our Parliament and Establishment is a really fundamental issue - it is proving that Parliament and our democracy is obviously not any kind of a worthwhile system, or in fact any kind of a "free" democracy at all.

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  • 114. At 09:11am on 11 Nov 2009, Hugo Marchen wrote:

    I get a bit concerned when MPs ignore advice from independant professionals, Tony Blair & George Bush were repeatedly advises that Saddam Hussain did not have weapons of mass destruction, they chose to invade a country or two, killing many thousands, and look where we are now.
    I dont mind "Advisors advise and MPs Decide", but the voices of discontent must never be suppressed.

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  • 115. At 10:04pm on 14 Dec 2009, bigtex wrote:

    Dont see why Alcohol is legal but pot isnt,it doesnt make any sense. Never have I seen a pothead go ballistic and smash things up and atteack people, sadly you expect to see something like this in a drink community. As for dangers to health Alcohol is only just in second place behind smoking. But when you come to breaking laws the big A is the market leader, undisputed champion for as long as people can remember

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  • 116. At 11:46am on 15 Dec 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Interview with Prof David Nutt (SSDP UK Conference 2009)
    www.youtube.com
    Andi Sidwell interviews Professor David Nutt, erstwhile head of the Advisory Council for the Misuse Of Drugs, on where he thinks the ACMD will go now, his research into a non-damaging alcohol replacement and his new drugs advisory committee.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mFDM54ptfo

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  • 117. At 11:08am on 18 Dec 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Principled stand
    18 December 2009

    Scientists offered guidelines to repair the damage caused by the Nutt affair, but the Government’s response threatens to undermine independent advice and must be resisted, writes Evan Harris

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=409670&c=1

    Evan Harris MP is the Liberal Democrat Science Spokesman.

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  • 118. At 3:11pm on 18 Dec 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    Good link Community, keep 'em coming :)

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  • 119. At 12:51pm on 22 Dec 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cx0hfeJh6QA

    Professor David Nutt speaks to Facebook

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  • 120. At 11:32am on 23 Dec 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/children_shealth/6871902/Number-of-children-treated-for-cocaine-addiction-rises-50pc.html

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  • 121. At 03:57am on 26 Dec 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark Easton--I would like to really know the inside reason for the sacking of David Nutt recently....

    =Dennis Junior=

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  • 122. At 11:21pm on 29 Dec 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Interesting piece this.

    'Inside the UK Border Agency's secret drug warehouse'

    200 million English pounds worth of drugs. How much did it cost the tax payer to seize these drugs across all agencies involved.?
    What percentage does this represent of the total drug market in the UK?
    What percentage of Export does this take into account( I noticed the reporter commenting on a couple of small bags of cannabis waiting for a trial)

    What does that warehouse represent as a proportion of use?
    A mornings use?
    A days use?
    A weekends use?
    But then you have to water that time down over a year to take in to account churn of the trials and products on the shelf and then further divide that by users disruption so it really is quite a thin boast in the grand scheme of things maybe a few seconds out of a single day for an individual drug user per every year.


    Lastly what is the UK Drug market actuay worth??
    10 12 14 16 billion?

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  • 123. At 11:58am on 01 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Alcohol addiction costs 2.7 billion a year.... suggests higher drink prices Ho Ho Ho

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8433935.stm

    LOL HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

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  • 124. At 1:47pm on 05 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    The Raw (and Ugly) Truth about the War on Drugs Mike Adams
    http://psychiatricnews.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/war-on-drugs/

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  • 125. At 5:57pm on 05 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    http://blog.mpp.org/uncategorized/alcohol-is-straining-u-k-’s-health-care-system/01042010/

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  • 126. At 10:51pm on 06 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Full Steam ahead Prof

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1241069/Ex-drugs-tsar-creates-synthetic-alcohol-gives-buzz-hangover.html

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  • 127. At 00:15am on 12 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Inside out will be interesting on Monday BBC iPlayer West Midlands and Wales.

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  • 128. At 00:30am on 17 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    this has made me laff

    'Cannabis can cause anxiety, agitation and anger among politicians. The consequences include over-reaction with respect to legislation and politics'
    Professor Les Iversen in the second edition of The Science Of Marijuana published in 2008


    www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1243868/Labours-new-drugs-tsar-scoffed-fears-skunk-just-years-ago.html

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  • 129. At 00:00am on 23 Jan 2010, dv wrote:

    this is what puzzles me:

    we all (with a couple of rare exceptions) AGREE with davey n (blessings be upon him).
    that's practically 99% of posts here.
    okay, a lot of people who came across this page will have doing so because drugs are a fairly big issue for them, and i'm sure most people who know enough about drugs to make it an issue are in favour of legalisation (or at least a step in that direction). so it's not representative of the population as a whole.
    but even if you cut it down arbitrarily to 40%, or 30%, or something like that - we represent a sizable proportion of the population.

    please, everyone, make it an issue next election if you're not already planning on doing so. make your voice heard. vote green, or lib dem if you think green is a wasted vote. and if you get any opportunities to speak to the media, leap onto this issue and don't let it go till the cameras are rolling away.

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  • 130. At 09:53am on 25 Jan 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Free from pain but not prosecution
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/8474532.stm

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