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Saturday, October 31, 2009


Professor David Nutt has been sacked from an unpaid post as an "independent" government science advisor on drugs because of what he said. This was:
January 2009 ... paper was headlined "Equasy, an over-looked addiction with implications for the current debate on drug harms".

He said the point of the article was to explain that the harm from illegal drugs could be equal to harm in other parts of life, such as horse-riding, hence the invented term equasy or "equine addiction syndrome".

Prof Nutt argued that "equasy" could be blame for 10 deaths a year and more than 100 traffic accidents...

"Making riding illegal would completely prevent all these harms and would be, in practice, very easy to do...

"This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates - indeed encourages - certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others, such as drug use."
Professor Nutt stuck to his guns and in the summer gave a lecture on the relative risks of various drugs which, in turn, became a paper published by one of the UK's leading university departments of criminology.

In the paper, he reproduced a chart of drugs and other substances, based on their risk to health. The chart stated that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than many illegal drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis...

"I think the precautionary principle misleads," he wrote. "It starts to distort the value of evidence and therefore I think it could, and probably does, devalue evidence.

"This leads us to a position where people really don't know what the evidence is. They see the classification, they hear about evidence and they get mixed messages."
There seems to be no factual dispute that his figures are entirely true. The reason he is no longer a scientific advisor to the government is simply because he has been stating facts the government don't want to hear & don't want the public to hear.

Compare his treatment with that of Sir David King who has told the most outrageous lies about global warming being likely to make "Antarctica the only habitable continent" by 2100. Does anybody think that Sir David has shown 1,000th as much honesty & integrity as Professor David or that his knighthood is not a reward for being a liar?

Clearly Professor Nutt does not accept that we must live in a world where science has been replaced by "post normal science" where the "important characteristic of scientific knowledge - its openness to change as it rubs up against society" replaces the traditional position that facts are not subject to change by corrupt snake oil salesmen rubbing themselves up against politicians as I have pointed out Professor Mike Hulme profitably does. Once again we see the state propaganda machine trying to corrupt everything it touches.

I am coming to believe that extensive, perhaps total, drug legalisation & probably taxation, is the way to go.

Last year I attended a lecture at the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (which I thoroughly reccommend) where the lecturer, while definitely not a supporter of broad legalisation himself, made it clear that the harm to drug users mainly comes from impurities or variations in strength of the drugs rather than to their inherent danger. Obviously if Boots were selling them this would not be a problem. The other side of that is that we should expect that if prices fall & availability rises so will usage. This is not a certainty - legalisation for example pretty nearly destroyed CB radio in Britain & if Boots are selling them at a marginal profit they won't be handing out free samples to get people hooked - but I think it would be optimistic not to assume a rise in usage.

However the other area that drugs cause problems, for which he confirmed legalisation would produce no significant bad effects is in the damage drug addict criminals commit to get their fix & the degree to which it brings about organised criminality across society. He mentioned a criminal case in which it emerged that a major drug dealer had been making donations to a political party, though he did not give details & our free & trustworthy media seem to have shown equal reticence. This is, after all, exactly what happened during Prohibition in the USA & the growth of organised crime then still affects them.

On balance then the disadvantages of criminalising drugs seem to considerably outweigh the advantages even if we don't accept the precautionary principle that people should be free to do as they wish without government control unless unless the case for government control is overwhelming & indisputable. Obviously as a classic liberal I do accept that principle in relation to government interference (& only in relation to that).
Professor David Nutt in an open shirt - as he was interviewrd on Newsnight

Bet we could cut other taxes if we taxed drugs.

UPDATE This morning (Sunday) on the Marr show the government’s chief health official was asked, 3 times, whether Profesor Nutt’s assessment of the drugs risk was correct & 3 times refused to answer ultimately saying that (A) he should have given his advice entirely behind closed doors so that the public wouldn’t know & (B) that because the public thought drugs uniquely dangerous the politicians need to take their ignorance into account. The contradiction is obvious.

Compare & contrast 2 other government experts who got it wrong, or at least said things blatantly untrue. Sir David King as the government’s chief science advisor said that by 2100 “Antarctica will be the only habitable contin et” & got no breath of criticism. Sir John Scarlett was chosen by Blair to investigate if Iraq had WMDs & duly assured the government & people that he did – as reward he was made boss of MI6 from which he retires today. My guess is that Professor Nutt isn’t in line for a knighthood.

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