A while back I signed an e-petition (Along with 7,445 other people) regarding the Government’s sacking of Professor David Nutt from his position as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
You may recall that Prof. Nutt was sacked for citing his scientifically backed opinion that certain class A drugs were less dangerous than alcohol and criticizing the reclassification of the previously Class C, Cannabis to Class B.
The reason I signed the petition is that I consider the Home Secretary’s decision to be rash and dis-constructive to the cause of drug education. I’m not saying everyone should rush out and get high on LSD rather than enjoy a nice Chablis; I am saying that when a scientist says that Alcohol is more harmful than LSD then we should maybe refocus our education on the dangers of legally accessible substances such as Alcohol and Nicotine, rather than over-hyping the so called facts associated with recreational drug use. I also feel that a dangerous precedent has been set by the powers that be. How can a scientist put forward their empirical findings (scientific fact) now that they know that they could lose their careers if those findings go against the government’s beliefs (political hysteria).
Now the great thing about the e-petitions at number10.gov.uk is that you will often be furnished with a response, certainly if the subject matter is a serious one. The disappointing thing is that the response often misses the point, as I feel is the case with the response received today.
The response does seem to address my main concern insofar as measures appear to have been put in place to assist the Government and Advisory Council in working together – however I can’t help but feel that members of the Advisory Council are likely to “tow the party line” rather than feed back scientifically valid advice. And the response in no way deals with the matter of Professor Nutt’s advice being completely ignored.
What the response does imply is that the same decision will be made again and again; allowing the government to make decisions that effect the health of the nation whilst completely disregarding the advice of the scientific community.