Nov 02, 2009
Two members of Britain’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs have resigned in protest after the group’s chairman, Professor David Nutt, was fired last week for criticizing the UK government’s decision to strengthen penalties for marijuana offenses. Chemist Les King and pharmacist Marion Walker said that the government wrongly dismissed Nutt and violated his freedom of expression.
Several other advisers on the once 31-member group are rumored to be “planning collective action” against British Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who has taken to the airwaves to defend his controversial sacking of Nutt.
Johnson said Nutt publicly campaigned against government policy and “crossed the line” when he said illegal drugs such as marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy were safer than legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol.
“Professor Nutt was not sacked for his views, which I respect but disagree with,” Johnson wrote in today’s Guardian. “He was asked to go because he cannot be both a government adviser and a campaigner against government policy.”
It certainly is frustrating, to say the least, (“mind-boggling” might be a better word) when the people hired to reassess flawed government policies get punished for doing just that. But now that many high-profile members of Britain’s scientific community are speaking out about the incident, there is reason to hope that more Britons will realize just how misguided their current marijuana laws are, and that they too should support a change in the way the UK classifies certain drugs.
Nutt himself has continued to speak out about his ousting and the reasons behind it, arguing that his actions—as opposed to Johnson’s—were motivated by science, not politics.
In Nutt’s own words: “When [UK Prime Minister] Gordon Brown says that cannabis is a ‘lethal drug,’ when it clearly isn’t, young people are not going to pay him any notice. You don’t reduce drug harm by lying.”