The case for the end of the war on drugs has never been stronger than it is today. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs published a paper in The Lancet last month demonstrating the clear scientific evidence that stands to oppose UK government drugs policy. This follows a recent paper directly calling for an end to the “War on Drugs” in the British Medical Journal. Two former UK Government drugs tzars have now come out publicly in opposition to the war on drugs. Bob Ainsworth who served for two years as one of the most regressive drugs secretaries in history, for a year as defence secretary and for six years serving as Labour Whip enforcing the party line has finally seen the light and announced his wish for full legalisation and regulation. His predecessor the late Mo Mowlam was already well known for coming to the same conclusion just after leaving office. Sir Ian Gilmore, the President of the Royal College of Physicians, otherwise known as “Head Doctor” by the tabloids has whole-heartedly attacked the Goverment for the war on drugs which he stated has succeeded in achieving “the opposite of its goals“, in his final act before leaving office. We can also add to the list Nicholas Green QC the Chairman of the Bar Council or “head lawyer” as the tabloids describe him who has recently called for decriminalisation. Professor Nutt the former chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs sacked for making a scientific case that did not conform to the “War on Drugs” needs no introduction. He has gone on to create his own Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs with the other scientists and doctors who resigned from the ACMD in protest of his sacking.
Just some of the people calling for the end to history’s second most idiotic “War”
From left to right: Sir Ian Gilmore, Prof. David Nutt, Bob Ainsworth, Nicholas Green QC, the late Mo Mowlam
None of this is a problem for the current home secretary Theresa May however whom has just announced that the Government will no longer be seeking scientific advice on drugs policy. This announcement has gone literally unreported in the media (except one article in the guardian) but it’s implication is stunning. The Government can no longer find a single scientist anywhere in the whole world that will put their name down in support of it’s drugs policy. Since the doctors and scientists on the ACMD have all been fired or resigned the government has been unable to find scientists that they are prepared to allow to do the job. The evidence for this is clear, here is a copy of the Home Office advertisement to recruit scientists who support the drugs war, none were found. The Government is therefore responding by removing from law the requirement to have a scientist on the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs.
Theresa May will have sole responsibility for Drugs Law
This will be passed in to law under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which in addition to removing the need for the government to seek scientific advice, will remove the necessity for drugs to be deemed to have a negative effect on society before they are banned, the cornerstone of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Furthermore it will make it standard procedure to make illegal, all new chemicals found to be being used recreationally without the need of a shred of evidence of harm, without the commissioning of any research, without the consultation of any scientists or doctors and without the need for public debate. This will give the Home Secretary even greater free reign to act unilaterally and ban anything she pleases on the basis of nothing but a couple of screaming Daily Mail readers.
The exception that proves the rule
“I ask the Government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried, and we all know that it does not work”
Funny how things change.
04/01/11 Update: A freedom of information request by Edwin Stratton has now confirmed that the Government had received applicants from scientists before it begun legislating to have the need for their existence on the ACMD removed.
The papers below are both open access, (for the first just register for free to the Lancet to read)
Nutt DJ, King LA, Phillips LD, & Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. Lancet, 376 (9752), 1558-65 PMID: 21036393
Rolles S (2010). An alternative to the war on drugs. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 341 PMID: 20627976
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