October 31st, 2009

Of Messenger Shooters

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

We saw another example of the true colours of this government today when they sacked Professor David Nutt, the government’s chief drugs advisor after he failed to come up with the research results the government wanted on how dangerous cannabis is.

Cannabis was reclassified some years ago from a Class B to a Class C drug with guidance that the police did no more than ‘told people off’ for smoking it. This didn’t go down well in some circles, as the government realised that it might lose a few votes for doing this as clearly cannabis sends everyone mental & leads to society falling over. The government decided to reclassify it back to class B despite the fact that it’s own scientific advisory body found it was no more dangerous than when the government realised it wasn’t so dangerous as to remain a Class B drug & shifted it down the scale. Unsurprisingly, nobody in the government has taken any responsibility for making a mistake in the whole issue.

Professor Nutt said on Radio 4: “He (Gordon Brown) is the first prime minister, this is the first government, that has ever in the history of the Misuse of Drugs Act gone against the advice of its scientific panel.

“And then it did it again with ecstasy and I have to say it’s not about [me] overstepping the line, it’s about the government overstepping the line. They are making scientific decisions before they’ve even consulted with their experts.

“I know that my committee was very, very upset by the attitude the prime minister took over cannabis. We actually formally wrote to him to complain about it,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them stepped down. Maybe all of them will.”

Home Secretary, Alan Johnson said in a letter to Nutt:  “It is important that the government’s messages on drugs are clear and as an adviser you do nothing to undermine the public understanding of them,” Johnson wrote to Nutt.

“As my lead adviser on drugs harm I am afraid the manner in which you have acted runs contrary to your responsibilities.

“I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as chair of the ACMD.”

I think the only confusion the public will have is if the experts say Cannabis should remain as a Class C drug, why are the government putting it back to Class B? Surely, the idea of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is to provide independent scientific evidence-based advice, not to cow-tow to whatever the government wants that research to say.

King’s College Centre for Drime & Justice’s director said: “I’m shocked and dismayed that the home secretary appears to believe that political calculation trumps honest and informed scientific opinion.” while Professor Colin Blakemore, ex chief executive of the Medical Research Council said: “If ministers decide to go against the recommendations of their own experts, I really think the public is entitled to know why.”

I think we know why, professor; votes.

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