UK Liberty

Man who raises reasonable point castigated by politicians

Posted in politicians on liberty by ukliberty on February 9, 2009

Press Association:

Taking Ecstasy is no worse than riding a horse, the Government’s top drug adviser has claimed.

Writing in a medical journal, Professor David Nutt said taking the drug was no more dangerous than what he called “equasy”, or people’s addiction to horse riding.

He is the chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). …

The BBC:

The home secretary has told MPs she was “surprised” and “disappointed” by a drugs adviser likening the dangers of ecstasy to the dangers of horse riding.

Jacqui Smith said Prof David Nutt had “trivialised” the dangers of the drug.

She said she had told him he had gone beyond his role as head of the Advisory Council on Drugs Misuse.

Ms Smith said Prof Nutt had apologised to her and she had asked him to do the same to families whose lives have been damaged by ecstasy use. …

Speaking during Home Office questions in the House of Commons, Ms Smith said: “I’ve spoken to him this morning about his comments. I’ve told him that I was surprised and profoundly disappointed by the article reported.”

She added: “I’m sure most people would simply not accept the link that he makes up in his article between horse riding and illegal drug taking.

“For me that makes light of a serious problem, trivialises the dangers of drugs, shows insensitivity to the families of victims of ecstasy and sends the wrong message to young people about the dangers of drugs.”

Professor Nutt’s point was this:

This attitude [tolerating more than 100 deaths a year linked to horse-riding, but not tolerating 30 deaths a year linked to Ecstasy use] raises the critical question of why society tolerates – indeed encourages – certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others such as drug use.”

What is so unreasonable about that? 

Interesting in this context to note that we tolerate alcohol abuse, although it costs us £20bn a year in treating alcohol related illnesses and social costs, such as violence on Friday nights after closing time, but we don’t tolerate smoking, which costs us about £2.7bn. 

Politicians such as Jacqui Smith, however, would rather appear “tough on drugs”, because it is a guaranteed vote-winner, than do something helpful, which may or may not be.

Not all politicians are the same – by chance I encountered Paul Flynn MP’s blog:

Professor Nutt will be talking to the Commons Drugs Mis-Use group on Tuesday at 4.00 pm. His argument is worth making. Groundless prejudice must be challenged. But the ACMD are spitting in the wind. The Government will not act rationally. They will again seek to incite a few tabloid headlines by being tough on good sense.

The drug classifications only matter in that courts can impose ridiculously harsh sentences. No one agonises on categories when deciding which drug to use.

Juggling categories achieves nothing. It is distraction from genuine reforms and an excuse for not thinking.

Well said, although I disagree with “Juggling categories achieves nothing” – it achieves votes.  They hope.

Update

Good stuff from Anne Perkins in the Guardian and Steven Poole at Unspeak.

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