Friday, 30 October 2009


The Government’s expert advisor on drugs has been sacked by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary for erm an opinion on drugs to his university.

Professor David Nutt MRCP, MRCPsych, FRCPsych, FMedSci, of the Department of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London, pointed out that all drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, should be ranked by a "harm" index with alcohol coming fifth behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, and methadone.

Tobacco should rank ninth, ahead of cannabis, LSD and ecstasy.

Prof Nutt said: "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 are doing their job."

The Professor was not talking for the government when he made these assertions. He was giving a lecture and briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, when he attacked what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from other, illegal, drugs.

Prof Nutt is the Chairman of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. He is, as you might have guessed from the list of letters after his name, his work at Imperial College and the fact that he has reached professorial rank, something of an expert on the the subject. He can't be expected to tow the government line and in doing so feed faulse information to his students. Academe isn't really like that. Experts are there to be....

So Alan Johnson has sacked him, because his expert opinion doesn’t fit with the government’s policy that drink and cigarettes are less harmful than other drugs. With the greatest respect to Mr Johnson, I don’t think that he can begin to have the Professor’s understanding of the subject. Strangely, at the time of writing, the government has not put up anyone to argue their case on the news channels, perhaps because no one in the home office has a clue how to counter what David Nutt has said.

Time and again this London government employs and pays experts to give advice, and time and again they ignore that advice. It has happened over education, over unemployment, over various aspects of health including alcohol, and as we know, it has happened over devolution.

I wonder if the next set of experts to bite the dust will be the ones who have been looking at MPs’ expenses. Doubtless they have got it all wrong too.


  1. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksOctober 31, 2009 4:05 am

    Not many voters have any interest in considering alcohol or tobacco in a ranking with what they consider to be REAL drugs. So no viable political party can support such an idea, or have an "expert" on staff who does.

    In fact, government ministers of any political party have no interest in the actual truth of any proposition at all. Democratic governance is all about advancing policies and taking actions which will appeal to the voters in your constituency. Nothing more! A pretense at rationality and reasoned judgment is often made by maintaining academic "advisors" on staff.....experts with a string of post nominal academic letters.....who will support the party's positions and policies. And you can find fully qualified academics who will believe anything at all....on any subject. So all political parties can maintain their own cadre of academics.

    Problem is, experts (even government employed experts) are accustomed to the principle of academic freedom. They will sometimes persist in speaking the truth (as they interpret it). And when this flies in the face of party policy they are sacked. When this occurs, a certain amount of embarrassment may occur. The minister may even attempt to defend his action by appealing to the truth of the matter. This is simply foolish, since democratic government has nothing at all to do with objective truth. It's only about what will work.....politically speaking.

  2. Drugs are always a huge elephant in the room when you talk about booze and fags. The latter two are huge multi million pound industries that bring in a shed load of tax and have powerful lobbies to support them. Drugs, however, are a moral issue that politicians cannot afford to be weak on.

    I guess there is also an element of towing the US line as long as the US is on a moral high horse over drugs I guess the rest of the world will just have to follow. After all that is a major part of the reason why young Americans are being killed in Afghanistan, or so we are told. Shame that drugs coming from Afghanistan seem to have shot up, not down.

    No matter how unwinnable the war against drugs is. You think that the US would have realised this some time ago what with their disastrous experience with prohibition.

    Nice to see Professor Nutt come out fighting on the BBC this morning. More power to his elbow I say! It is about time we all saw through the Brown ploy of setting up a comittee of experts with great fanfare and then hushing up its findings. In this case it seems that good Prof is not going to let that happen.

  3. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksOctober 31, 2009 11:01 am

    In the US, fourteen states now have laws legalizing medical marijuana. But the Bush administration ignored the state laws and continued federal crackdowns on suppliers and users. This month, the Obama administration's Justice Department issued guidelines that have reversed the Bush policy. Federal agents will no longer enforce federal marijuana laws in the fourteen states where it is being dispensed and used in compliance with state law. A rare small moment of political lucidity in the area of US drug policy.

  4. It's a difficult question Nobleness. The governments in the UK have all taken some sort of steps to try to reduce cigarette smoking, and are currently looking at ways of cutailing these islands' drinking culture. It would cloud the issue if they were to be seen to endorse "E" or marijuana.

    However Professor Nutt (unfortunate name for a professor?) was giving a lecture at his university. As an academic he can't bend the facts to suit the government's wish for a cloudless issue. He spoke what he sees as the truth and he was sacked.

    He's lucky.

    A propos of nothing, there was a man not so long ago who was had some expertise in arms. He didn't agree with Mr Bush's policy and later was found dead (having committed suicide of course). Then there was a Cabinet Minister, a central plank of New Labour, who also disagreed with Bush's policies with regard to Iraq. He even resigned over the issue. Unfortuntely he had a heart attack and died not long after that.

  5. Yes Munguin. It's a shame, but utterly typical of the man, that Bush decided to go to war with the two of the things against which an army can never win. Drugs and terrorism.

    I forget what it is we are fighting for or against in Afghanistan. Drugs? (We could better deal with them my buying the raw material and using it for medical purposes...unbelievably there is a shortage of it). Or is it against terror? (The more you fight terror with big armies and weapons, the more terror you will have. It's self perpetuating) Or is it to support democracy? (In one of the most corruput regimes in the world?)

    In any case I missed the news this morning... but I hope he comes out fighting and shows the government up for what they are. Whatever that is.

    I wouldn't go hillclimbing or walking in forests if I were him though. Not without a few witnesses, er, I mean friends.

  6. Danny.

    I had no idea that the FBI could over-ride state law, even with the President's permission.

    I understand that here the British (English) parliament can over-ride the "lesser" parliament in Edinburgh and the assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast.

    But then, here the Queen can, in theory, send for the Prime Minister and tell him to pack his bags.

    I think that the likelihood of any of that happening is slight, but sometimes I think that it's a pity that the last is out of the question.

  7. Mr Munguin, drugs in Afghanistan are indeed a major reason behind our involvement there. The Taliban almost eradicated the opium poppy crop. So the West had to go in to restore the trade. We don't care about catching Mr Laden, we don't care about sending girls to school, we don't even care about the rug trade.

    We just need to get those drugs back on the street, to keep the Western youth quiet and distracted.

    I've just leaped feet-first into the trap set by the Government. They sack a scientist for telling truth about cannabis, and I, like many others, talk about heroin.

    Drugs is drugs is drugs is what they would like us to believe. Lump them all together and ban the lot. No subtlety, no distinction, all back and white, but lets keep alcohol and tobacco aside so that we can maintain a good revenue stream.

    Like many other youngsters, I just tune out when the Government talks about drugs, cos they don't know.

  8. I'm sorry, I think I dropped too much aciid this morning, I should really stick to coffee before lunch.

  9. Danny, 1st Earl of the OzarksOctober 31, 2009 2:07 pm to the issue you raised in your comment:

    Well....Harvard educated lawyers make tons of money sorting out the constitutional and legal issues involved in states’ rights versus the power of the federal government. In general, the states maintain their own legal codes and have their own courts and prisons to enforce the law as we think of it....murder, robbery, extortion, rape, kidnapping, etc. The inherent police power of a sovereign state was generally reserved to the states, although certain powers were also explicitly granted to the federal government by the constitution.

    There was a time when an FBI agent could not make an arrest. Local police could only make arrests. There is no federal police force. Note that the FBI is only called a “Bureau of Investigation”....NOT a federal police force. Today, each state maintains and enforces its own legal code....PLUS, there is a United States (Federal) Code....PLUS the Uniform Code of Military justice. Many local legal issues are shared with the federal authorities when the illegal enterprise crosses state lines.

    Surely the most arbitrary and outrageous power that a governmental authority exercises over an individual is the authority which tells that individual what he CAN and CAN’T put in his own mouth. But we accept today’s drug laws without a whimper. We are sheep....and stupid, cowardly sheep at that. Anyway, in the US, drug enforcement is now a shared federal and state responsibility. And if there is a conflict between the federal and state constitutions or statutes, the federal authority prevails. How this all shook out when the states started passing medical marijuana laws, I really don't know. I suppose the states took the position that this form of marijuana distribution and use was well within their drug enforcement and regulatory authority. And the feds certainly felt least the a***ole Bush thought so. I don’t know if these issues were ever adjudicated in the high federal courts or not.

    In his new guidelines, the US Attorney General did not cede any federal authority. He just ordered the drug agents to make more productive use of their time than hassling the medical marijuana dispensers and users. “Hands off” he said.

  10. Ms Pangloss. Thank you for explaining the reasons behind the invasion of Afghanistan. As you know I was at somewhat of a loss to understand anything about it. :-)

    If you can't spell acid, then you've probably dropped a tad too much before luncheon.

  11. Your Dannyness:

    Thanks for that. It seems that there is rather more Fedeal interference in the rights of the states (not unlike the European situation) than there used to be. It seems though that the Obama administration may be returning power to the state capitals?

    Funny that, considering the GOP's claims before and since his election that he was a communist (not to mention muslim terrorist) and therefore would bring in a bigger, centralised government adgenda.

  12. Aciiiiiiiiid!!!

    What's yer point hen?

  13. Sophia:

    Point? Point? Whatever made you think that I had a point?

    Is it good stuff then?


  14. I speak as a partaker of a number of drugs. Some even my doctor approves of, as he is my provider. Some even my greatgrand-mother supplies me with with I visit for tea. Some I have to buy myself.

    This government is anti-science. That is why its writ runs so shallow in Scotland. We are an enlightened nation.

  15. Well, as an expert Sophia, doubtless you will find yourself ignored by the government. Just don't go for any walks in secluded woods, or do any hillwalking. Seems that these activities and disagreeing with the governmnet can have a detremental effect on your health.

    Your Great Grandmother sounds like fun!!!