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British government sacks chief drugs’ advisor

Saturday, October 31st 2009 - 06:39 UTC
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Professor Nutt said ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes Professor Nutt said ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes

The British government's chief drugs adviser has been forced to resign in the wake of the row over the dangers of class A drugs. Home Secretary Alan Johnson asked Professor David Nutt to resign as chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), saying he had “lost confidence” in his ability to give impartial advice.

He accused Prof Nutt of going beyond his remit as an evidence-based scientist and accused him of “lobbying for a change in government policy”.

But Prof Nutt hit back, accusing the Government of “misleading” the public in their messages about drugs and of “Luddite” tendencies. He linked his sacking to “political” considerations, citing the forthcoming election.

Professor Nutt sparked controversy this week when he said ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, and criticised the decision to upgrade cannabis to class B.

Speaking after he agreed to step down he said: “It's unusual political times, I suppose, elections and all that. It's disappointing. But politics is politics and science is science and there's a bit of a tension between them sometimes.”

He attacked Prime Minister Gordon Brown for making what he said were “completely irrational” statements about cannabis. Confessing himself “extremely surprised” by the decision he said: ”The danger is they (politicians) are misleading us. The scientific evidence is there, it's in all the reports we published.“

In his letter demanding Prof Nutt's resignation, Mr Johnson wrote: ”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. As my lead adviser on drugs harms I am afraid the manner in which you have acted runs contrary to your responsibilities.

”I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as chair of the ACMD. I would therefore ask you to step down from the council with immediate effect”.

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