Home News Britain’s top anti-drugs adviser sacked

Britain’s top anti-drugs adviser sacked

Published on 31/10/2009

London - The British government's top adviser on drugs was forced to resign Friday after saying that cannabis, LSD and ecstasy were no more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes.

Professor David Nutt attacked Home Secretary Alan Johnson for telling him to quit, saying government drugs policy was being dictated by politics, not scientific research.

"I’m not prepared to mislead the public about the harmfulness of drugs like cannabis and ecstacy," Nutt told BBC radio after Johnson asked him for his resignation.

"I think most scientists will see this as a further example of the Luddite attitude of this government, and possible future governments, towards science."

Nutt was told to go after comments this week in which he also criticised ministers for upgrading cannabis from a class C drug — which includes tranquilisers — to a class B, alongside amphetamines.

It is not the first time Nutt’s comments on drugs have hit the headlines — earlier this year, he said taking ecstasy was no more dangerous than riding a horse.

Johnson told Nutt in a letter demanding his resignation as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) that he had lost confidence in him.

"It is important that the government’s messages on drugs are clear and as an adviser you do nothing to undermine the public understanding of them," Johnson said.

"As my lead adviser on drugs harms, I am afraid the manner in which you have acted runs contrary to your responsibilities."

He also accused Nutt, of Imperial College London, of going beyond his remit by "lobbying for a change in government policy".

Johnson’s effective sacking of Nutt was criticised by other drugs experts.

Richard Garside, director of the centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, accused Johnson of undermining science.

"I’m shocked and dismayed that the home secretary appears to believe that political calculation trumps honest and informed scientific opinion," he said.

Harry Shapiro of charity DrugScope added: "The home secretary’s decision to force the resignation of the chair of an independent advisory body is an extremely serious and concerning development and raises serious questions about the means by which drug policy is informed and kept under review."