Drug body ‘fatally flawed’, says sacked chairman

Author: By John von Radowitz, Press Association

Scientists advising politicians on the dangers of drugs should be as
independent as the Bank of England officials who decide interest rates, he
said.

The scientist at the centre of the drug advice row added that he was taking
seriously an anonymous supporter’s offer to fund an alternative expert group
that would operate without any interference from ministers.

And he said many of his former colleagues on the Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) could resign en masse when they meet Health Secretary
Alan Johnson for crisis talks next Tuesday.

Professor Nutt, who was sacked by Mr Johnson from his job as chairman of the
ACMD over controversial remarks about cannabis, Ecstasy and LSD, said when
asked about the advisory body’s future: “I think it’s frankly fatally flawed.

“I think it should be re-formed with a new structure with a much clearer
demarcation of the reporting lines. I don’t think it should report to a
single minister, but to parliament or a panel of ministers.

“We should have a remodelled ACMD along the lines of the Bank of England,
which has responsibility for making these decisions outside of government,
just as happened with interest rates.”

Speaking to an audience of science and medical journalists in London,
Professor Nutt stood by the comments that got him into trouble.

He added: “You’ve got to tell the truth. Of course I have regrets about the
way the government has treated me.”

Professor Nutt was sacked after views he expressed in a lecture were published
in a paper by the Centre for Crime and Justice at King’s College London.

He argued that Ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes,
and criticised the government’s decision to upgrade the legal classification
of cannabis from C to B.

One of his most controversial statements was that taking Ecstasy was no more
risky than horse riding.

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