Evan sticks up for drug adviser in ecstasy row

by Stephen Tall on February 11, 2009

As the Guardian reports:

The government’s drugs adviser last night apologised for saying that the risk in taking ecstasy was no worse than in riding a horse. Home secretary Jacqui Smith had yesterday carpeted Dr David Nutt over comments that emerged 48 hours before his committee was expected to recommend downgrading the drug. …

Smith’s attack on Nutt, the new chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, comes when this week it will publish a report expected to recommend downgrading ecstasy from class A to class B. Smith has made clear she will veto the council’s view as she rejected its advice last year not to reclassify cannabis.

But Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, the party’s science spokesman, has intervened to defend Dr Nutt, arguing for a rational evidence-based approach to drugs policy:

The problem with putting ecstasy in Class A… is that if thousands of young people take ‘e’ every weekend, and they see that it is in the same class as heroin and cocaine and crack cocaine, then it is hard to argue that those are particularly more dangerous than ecstasy.”

In any given story concerning illegal drugs, what’s the most likely outcome – that the government will choose to ignore medical experts in order to sound tougher-than-thou; or that the government will recognise the public are perfectly capable of understanding current drugs policy isn’t working, and look at measures which might actually reduce drug addiction and the social priblems it causes?

Home secretary Jacqui Smith, in her knee-jerk condemnation of Dr Nutt, has merely confirmed yet again Labour’s total inability to consider radical reforms which might just work if there’s any chance they might upset the ugly right-wingism of the Daily Mail.