Saturday, October 31, 2009

Arrogant Johnson's 'Reefer Madness'

Arrogant home secretary, Johnson, has sacked his top drugs expert for daring to do his job and speak his scientific mind. Now when a New Labour lackey spouts forth, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. It's not the truth - only what the Big Brother government wants you to think. All part of the wacky world of Johnson's 'reefer madness'.

Public trust in government advisers has been blown out of the water with the off-hand manner angry Johnson dismissed out of hand his chief drugs czar David Nutt over his cannabis stance.

The adviser strayed outside his scientific remit goes the spin, committing the cardinal sin of questioning government policy. Nutt has hit back, saying his views have been "devalued and distorted", accusing 'Luddite' Brown in particular of digging in his heels, playing irrational politics.

Forcing Nutt to quit for having the cheek to tell the truth with criticisms of half-baked New Labour drugs policy, Johnson, like his predecessors, took the easy option pandering to the likes of a Daily Mail 'drugs shock' bandwagon.

Debates over cannabis classification has been raging since the 70s, with Schofield separating fact from fiction in his ground-breaking book The Strange Case of Pot. The Orange Party well remembers slogging away on a post graduate thesis looking at the very question of when social issues becomes political hot potatoes.

Politicians can't get their heads round 'pot smoking' student days and the US scaremongering campaigns of the 1950s, with dope demonised as dangerous as heroin.

Here, the history of cannabis classification is a history of hapless home secretaries.

Compromises, yo-yos and U-turns on cannabis classification have come thick and fast, all the way back to Labour home secretary, Callaghan, who came up with a special class B/C half way house for cannabis.

Home secretary Blunkett, tried it on with a downgrade from B to C in 2002. Home secretary Smith rejected advice to keep cannabis at class C in 2008 and finally vetoed ACMD recommendations.

At the centre of the row is the idea that drugs should be classified according to the perceived physical harm they do and punishment meted out accordingly. But on that basis of physical harm, the sliding scale would put alcohol and tobacco up at the top.

Nutt's only 'crime' was to repeat his long-held view that illicit drugs should be classified according to the actual evidence of the harm they cause. But politically it's much easier to cave in to spurious newspaper campaigns and back up useless government propaganda, rather than produce a classification system based on scientific evidence.

There are, however, social as well as physical factors, not least if the masses should be allowed Huxley's "chemical crutch" to get them through days of despair and despondency. A subdued society stoned out of its mind keeps a lid on dissent but plays havoc with the work ethic.

Independent advice to the government on the vexed and highly emotive issue of drug use and classification is essential. Nutt is no two-bit crony promoted to the top echelons as a New Labour patsy or member of the elite Common Purpose.

Nutt is one of the most respected scientists in his field and that makes him a not so nutty professor. Now an independent scientist has been removed for reporting sound scientific advice and more advisers are set to follow suit.

But if scientists are barred from the debate, then who does the public listen to and believe? Who do they trust when trying to come up with an informed opinion? Home secretary Johnson or a respected scientist?

Where does that leave the supposed 'independence' of advice to the government?

In the Big Brother world of Johnson's home office, respected researchers and scientists are being treated like little Victorian children - who should be seen but not heard, only allowed out of the box if they toe the government line.

Note to spinners: He isn't a "nutty professor". Professor David Nutt is the Edmond J. Safra Chair of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and heads up the Psychopharmacology Unit at the University of Bristol.


Frank said...

Why cannot people be allowed to go to the devil in their own way.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Article. The misuse of drugs act has been used for political ends for too long now.