Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Fisking Widdecombe

From The Guardian:-

I am not a fan of Alan Johnson, the beleaguered home secretary, but he is 100% right to sack Professor David Nutt, who seems to think that it is possible both to be the government's senior drug adviser and to rubbish that same government's drugs policy in public.

I don't see a conflict. He advised the government, they ignored his advice so he rubbished them. And don't be giving me none of that "united front". He's paid for by the taxpayer for his advice, which we should hear completely and is entitled to his opinion.

From all the uproar, you would think science was united around a fixed view that drugs are harmless – whereas there is no such universality of opinion, and the government's own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is not united either.

That's a massive straw man. No-one is saying that drugs are harmless. Not Nutt, not Danny Kushlick of Transform. NOBODY.

Drugs account for about a third of all crime and around 80% of all acquisitive crime (theft). They are present in about 20% of road traffic accidents. People have died as a result of taking ecstasy and committed crimes under the influence of cannabis. This so-called soft drug also produces psychosis. For some, it is but the gateway to hard drugs and death. Indeed, some studies in Amsterdam, where soft drug use is lawful under certain circumstances, suggest that when soft drug use increases, so does hard drug use. That is not exactly a litany of reassurance.

1. Acquisitive crime comes from the fact that the price is far higher than it would be if we had the NHS prescribing it or if we had a free market.
2. The DFT research on this (http://www.dft.gov.uk/rmd/project.asp?intProjectID=10834) says this is less than alcohol and also points out that cannabis is the major drug, and that this is based on detectable levels which remain traceable in the bloodstream for 4 weeks.
3. The raised risk of psychosis is not proven, and may be down to self-medication. The Department of Health asked Philip Robson to look at the research and wasn't that convinced of a strong link. And personally, I'm far more worried around a drunken crowd than a stoned crowd.
4. Jan van Ours of Tilburg University found no link between soft drugs and hard drugs after looking at four studies and that the evidence was circumstantial.

When this government downgraded cannabis from class B to class C, it was criticised by the World Health Organisation, headteachers, members of the medical profession and sections of the press. Admitting the error of its ways and reversing that unfortunate decision should have won it plaudits. Instead, it is attacked by its own senior adviser.

Well, yes. I'm sure I can find people who believe the earth is flat, that the moon is made of cheese and that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the illuminati including the lizard monarchy. Doesn't make any of them right.

Nutt says some drugs are less dangerous than alcohol. He may or may not be right – although it is possible to die from a single ecstasy tablet but not from a single glass of wine. Even if he is right, that is not an argument for reclassifying cannabis – to send out a signal that we do not take the health dangers seriously. We have seen from alcohol and tobacco exactly what legalising certain substances can do to health, so why on earth add others?

We don't know exactly what's causing those MDMA deaths. It could be "the ecstacy", it could be something about how it's prepared. We know that people in the 1920s died because of contaminated gin.

"Sending out a signal". You mean, lying, Ann? Because that's what it is. LYING. I'm all in favour of the government telling people the risks of smoking, drinking, playing rugby or skiing, but I want the truth. Lying to people, pretending a drug is going to end up with them living the Trainspotting lifestyle is just wrong and has it's own consequences. I want people to know that there's a big difference between the effects of ecstacy and crack cocaine, but the classification doesn't tell them that.

The former drugs adviser is entitled to his views, but if he wishes to express them in controversial language in a public forum, then he cannot reasonably expect to continue to advise a government that takes a different view. Presented with divided scientific opinion, an escalating crime count and the experiences of other countries, Alan Johnson – and not a single professor – is charged with the responsibility of making a decision.

Escalating crime count? Again, caused by their illegality.

Experiences of other countries? Those that try an alternative to the "war on drugs" tend to end up with less problems?

And yes, the buck stops with Alan Johnson. But he acted like a complete arse by sacking him rather than simply disagreeing or making an alternative argument.

He got it right.

No, he didn't.

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