Ex-government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt repeats cannabis warning

 

The former government drugs adviser forced to resign over his
views on cannabis has repeated his calls for the drug to be
decriminalised.

Professor David Nutt said a decision to make magic mushrooms Class A was "almost the final nail in the coffin of the rationality of the Misuse of Drugs Act" and there needs to be more "sensible, rational" regulation of drugs.

He said Government decisions on drugs were often motivated by politics rather than science, and stood by previous, controversial comments in which he declared taking ecstasy was no more risky than horse-riding.

Prof Nutt resigned as the chairman of the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in November 2009 over the decision to reclassify cannabis from a Class C to a Class B drug.

Now chairman of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, he told the Home Affairs Select Committee today: "I think people have a very exaggerated perception of the harms of drugs and they tend to minimise the harms of other activities which particularly young people engage in which are potentially as harmful or more harmful."

Prof Nutt called for a system similar to the Bank of England model, whereby the ACMD could have some statutory powers "to stop party politics contaminating sensible decision-making".

"The reason the Misuse of Drugs Act was set up in the first place was to stop people playing politics with drugs," he said.

But he said in his 10 years on the ACMD, politicians would "only support recommendations which made drugs more illegal or increased the sanctions" and said in that time, cannabis was the only drug reduced in classification.

"Moving magic mushrooms to Class A was almost the final nail in the coffin of the rationality of the Misuse of Drugs Act," he said.

"Politics determined decision-making much more than science.

"It's easy to score political points around drugs and that's why we have ratcheted up sanctions, classes, over the last 40 years, and people have not had the courage to say, 'no, it's wrong'."

Prof Nutt told the committee that he believed 25% of the British public would smoke cannabis instead of drinking alcohol if the drug was not illegal, and suggested a system of decriminalising it similar to that used in the Netherlands.

"They are all very rational approaches and they would reduce harm in society.

"What we see now is a rising, rising tide of damage from alcohol. There's no doubt that a lot of people drink because it's legal. It's considerably more dangerous than cannabis."

He said decriminalising cannabis would bring a "net benefit" to the population.

"Of course cannabis is harmful, all drugs are harmful. You can't have a harm-free drug, of course cannabis is harmful, but you have to be proportionate.

"The harms of cannabis are less than the harms of alcohol. Cannabis is not safe but I am saying in proportionate terms that kind of regulation would have a net population benefit on health."

The professor also stood by his comments about horse-riding, saying: "I don't think it's irresponsible, it's entirely appropriate.

"These are all activities that people do because they enjoy doing them.

"It's completely arbitrary you should say you should allow someone to ride a horse and not worry about the cost to the NHS when they fall off and break their brain.

"I think it's completely appropriate to say and, in a broader sense, people want to make a decision about what to do with their life, they should at least know about the harms of drugs as compared to all the other activities that they do."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence