The news that Home Secretary Alan Johnson has sacked the chair of his Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) reminds me of kids sticking their fingers in their ears and singing loudly when someone is saying something they don't want to hear. Professor Nutt has been consistent in his questioning of the success of the so called 'War on Drugs'. Like Afghanistan, it is a war that cannot be won.
Professor Nutt is a respected scientist. He and his colleagues make recommendations based on evidence. Alcohol and tobacco kill many more people than cannabis, ecstacy and LSD, yet alcohol and tobacco are legal while the three less harmful substances are not. Professor Nutt's mistake was questioning this. He also opposed the government's reclassification of cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug. That decision was not based on evidence, but on "public perception" and "the need to send out a message". Possession of a Class B drug carries a sentence of up to five years inmprisonment. Class C carries a maximum of two. The classification makes very little difference in people's decision to use the drug, even though the penalties for being in possession of cannabis are much harsher now than they were a year ago, when cannabis was a class C drug. Professor Nutt says "Overall, cannabis does not lead to major health problems" and that it should not have been reclassified. Facing an election drubbing, the government are desperately trying to maintain a tough image on drugs and crime. The science is politically inconvenient. Professor Nutt, defending his evidence just had to go.