The Null Device

High-profile casualties in the War On Drugs

The British government has sacked its top drug advisor for contradicting official dogma of the War On Drugs:
Most drugs experts believe his analysis is right. But ministers did not want to hear the truth or at least to be reminded of it repeatedly. The Home Secretary asked him to consider his position after a recent lecture in which attacked what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from other, illegal, drugs. Last night Professor Nutt said he stood by his comments. "My view is policy should be based on evidence. It's a bit odd to make policy that goes in the face of evidence. The danger is they are misleading us. The scientific evidence is there: it's in all the reports we published. Our judgements about the classification of drugs like cannabis and ecstasy have been based on a great deal of very detailed scientific appraisal.
In a recent broadside, Professor Nutt accused Jacqui Smith, who oversaw the reclassification of cannabis from Class C to Class B, of "distorting and devaluing" scientific research. He said her decision to reclassify cannabis as a "precautionary step" sent mixed messages and undermined public faith in government science.
What mixed messages? Cannabis, Ecstasy and LSD, but not alcohol or tobacco, are what is scientifically classified as "evil drugs", which are infinitely more harmful than non-evil drugs even if their actual effects may be less severe. (The extra infinite harm comes from the moral effects of doing evil drugs.) That is a scientific fact; there is no evidence for it, but it is a scientific fact.

And here is an article by David Nutt, the sacked drugs advisor, about the absurdity of New Labour's tabloid-driven cannabis policy.

There are 2 comments on "High-profile casualties in the War On Drugs":

Posted by: Greg Sun Nov 1 05:55:12 2009

I am fascinated by society's never-ending confusion over the nature and ethics of mood-altering drugs. Here's my interpretation: At some level, people understand that society as we know it would be impossible without mood-altering of some kind - a complex, hierarchical society fundamentally relies upon most people working for the benefit of others. To generate a surplus, workers must receive rewards incommensurate with effort expended. Logically this means they must either perceive their workload to be less, or their reward to be greater, than the reality. This implies mood-altering, either via pharmacology (alcohol etc) or misinformation (tv etc). Workers will even pay for it. Ruling classes are keenly aware of this, and have been since Classical times. But they also believe, rightly or wrongly, that if either too much, or the wrong kind, of mood-altering is administered, then the ability or willingness of people to work might be impaired, and/or the rulers' monopoly over supply might be lost.

Posted by: acb Sun Nov 1 13:10:35 2009

I suspect that drug prohibition may also have something with the socially cohesive properties of having arbitrary, even irrational, prohibitions which are strictly enforced (think religious dietary laws and such) drawing a sharp line between the in-group and the out-group.