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Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny

Posted: November 1, 2009 12:56 PM

The Guardian reports that Professor David Nutt, the British government's chief drug adviser, has been fired after claiming that ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol.

So continues the journey to failure first instigated by the British and United States government four decades ago when the two governments implemented their long and pointless "Wars on Drugs."

If you're one of the 34 percent of admirably plucky and stubborn Americans who don't think the War on Drugs is failing, perhaps examining the idiotic way in which the British government handles drugs will inspire you to see the flaws in supporting laws that arbitrarily dictate what substances human beings can and cannot ingest.

In 1971, the British government created the Misuse of Drugs Act, which categorizes drugs into a hierarchy of classes (A, B, and C). Class A includes heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. Class B includes cannabis, amphetamine, codeine and methylphenidate ("Ritalin"). Finally, Class C includes GHB, ketamine, diazepam, flunitrazepam and most other tranquilizers, sleeping tablets and benzodiazepines as well as anabolic steroids.

Like in America, the British government punishes intent to distribute more harshly than regular possession. Class A drugs (heroin, cocaine, ecstasy) are treated as the worst substances. If a person does not have a medical prescription for a Class A drug, they could be fined at least £5000 ($8,223) or serve at least 6 months in jail. The minimum penalty for supplying a Class A drug is an "unlimited fine," and/or 7 years in jail. The maximum penalty for supplying a Class A drug is life in jail.

Class C drug possession (tranquilizers) are considered the "soft drugs" that will land one with 3 months in jail and/or a £500 ($822) fine. Supplying a Class C drug, however, can be punished with a 14-year prison sentence and/or an "unlimited fine."

In 2004, cannabis was reclassified from Class B to Class C in accordance with advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Then, for some massively stupid reason, it was returned to Class B against ACMD advice in 2009.

This was essentially the British government's way of saying that cannabis (marijuana) somehow got more dangerous in the span of five years. It got so dangerous, in fact, that -- in order to protect the populace from the unholy destruction awaiting them on the receiving end of a bong hit -- the government needed to lock drug offenders in jail for up to three more years, and charge casual pot smokers thousands of pounds extra in fines to protect societal order.

Meanwhile, the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, an anti-drug prohibition group, has been wondering aloud why the Misuse of Drug Acts suspiciously excludes alcohol and tobacco, fair points considering "alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone, [while] tobacco is ranked ninth," Professor David Nutt wrote in the paper that landed him in hot water with the government. "Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively," Nutt adds.

Nutt is referring to the ACMD report on ecstasy, based on a 12-month study of 4,000 academic papers, and which concluded that it is nowhere near as dangerous as other Class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, and should be downgraded to Class B. It seems Nutt's only crime was pointing out the glaringly obvious flaws in a system that arbitrarily dictates what drugs people cannot consume.

A recent study declared that alcohol will claim more than 90,000 lives over the next decade. Deaths due to drinking have tripled in the United Kingdom over the last 25 years, according to research by Professor Martin Plant, of the University of the West of England, one of the UK's leading authorities on alcohol-related harm. Alcohol-related deaths have risen in every age group since 1990, with 55- to 74-year-olds seeing the highest mortality rates and steepest increase, Plant's research reveals.

Alcohol abuse is systemic, and yet the government silently observes from the sidelines as hordes of citizens drink themselves to death. Why? Why is one drug acceptable, and ecstasy and cannabis have been outlawed by the state?

Smoking is the main cause of preventable disease and premature death in the United Kingdom. In England alone, over 80,000 deaths per year are due to smoking and about 8.5 million people still smoke in England today. Why are huge corporations permitted to legally kill over 80,000 UK residents a year, while a dude who gets busted with a baggie of weed goes straight to jail?

Unfortunately for Professor Nutt, there's no room for facts in the War on Drugs.

Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, was widely criticised by the scientific community for bullying Professor Nutt into apologizing for his comments that, in the course of a normal year, more people died from falling off horses than died from taking ecstasy.

Now, Professor Nutt has been fired by Jacqui Smith's successor, Home Secretary Alan Johnson. Johnson wrote to Professor Nutt, "It is important that the government's messages on drugs are clear and as an advisor you do nothing to undermine public understanding of them. I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD."

The message is very clear: These stupid policies are arbitrary, ignore scientific evidence, and make zero sense. Those scientific minds brave enough to point out these obvious flaws get fired, while the insane, lazy, and stupid continue to uphold a broken system that clearly doesn't work, punishes innocent citizens, overcrowds prisons, and generally increases suffering.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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