UK Drug Chief Fired For Cannabis Comments

Government drug adviser David Nutt sacked

Professor David Nutt, the government’s chief drug adviser, has been sacked a day after claiming that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.

Nutt incurred the wrath of the government when he claimed in a paper that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than many illegal drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has asked Professor Nutt to resign as chair of the ACMD [Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs].

“In a letter he [Alan Johnson] expressed surprise and disappointment over Professor Nutt’s comments which damage efforts to give the public clear messages about the dangers of drugs.

“We remain determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to health and society as a whole.”

Nutt had criticised politicians for “distorting” and “devaluing” the research evidence in the debate over illicit drugs.

Arguing that some “top” scientific journals had published “horrific examples” of poor quality research on the alleged harm caused by some illicit drugs, the Imperial College professor called for a new way of classifying the harm caused by both legal and illegal drugs.

“Alcohol ranks as the fifth most harmful drug after heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. Tobacco is ranked ninth,” he wrote in the paper from the centre for crime and justice studies at King’s College, London, published yesterday.

“Cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, while harmful, are ranked lower at 11, 14 and 18 respectively.”

Nutt said tonight he was disappointed by the decision but linked it to “political” considerations. “It’s unusual political times, I suppose, elections and all that. It’s disappointing,” he told Sky News. “But politics is politics and science is science and there’s a bit of a tension between them sometimes.”

Nutt clashed with Jacqui Smith when she was home secretary after he compared the 100 deaths a year from horseriding with the 30 deaths a year linked to ecstasy.

Smith also ignored the recommendation of Nutt’s advisory committee that cannabis should not be reclassified from class C back to class B, leading to heavier penalties.

He criticised Smith’s use of the “precautionary principle” to justify her decision to reclassify cannabis and said that by erring on the side of caution politicians “distort” and “devalue” the research evidence.

“This leads us to a position where people really don’t know what the evidence is,” he said adding that the initial decision to downgrade the classification of cannabis led to a fall in the use of the drug.

Nutt acknowledged there was a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness linked to cannabis use. But he argued that to prevent one episode of schizophrenia it would be necessary to “stop 5,000 men aged 20 to 25 from ever using” cannabis.

Nutt also renewed his support for reclassifying ecstasy from a class A drug to class B, saying the advisory committee “won the intellectual argument” over the issue but obviously didn’t win the decision after the home secretary vetoed the move.

He said the quality of some research papers about cannabis and ecstasy was so poor the articles had to be retracted.

Richard Garside, director of the centre for crime and justice, said Nutt’s briefing paper gave an insight into what drugs policy might look like if it was based on the research evidence rather than political or moral positioning.

Garside added: “I’m shocked and dismayed that the home secretary appears to believe that political calculation trumps honest and informed scientific opinion. The message is that when it comes to the Home Office’s relationship with the research community honest researchers should be seen but not heard.

“The home secretary’s action is a bad day for science and a bad day for the cause of evidence-informed policy making.”

– Article from The Christian Institute.

Cannabis and ecstasy safer than cigarettes, says Nutt

The Government’s chief drug advisor has criticised ministers’ decision to reclassify cannabis back to class B.

Professor David Nutt, who is chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), also claimed that ecstasy, LSD and cannabis are less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes.

Prof Nutt made his comments in a lecture and briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London.

His briefing accused former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of “distorting and devaluing” scientific research when she made the decision to reclassify cannabis.

He played down the risks of psychotic illness associated with cannabis, arguing that it is safer than tobacco and alcohol.

After cannabis was downgraded to class C in 2004, judges, police, parents and mental health experts called for the move to be reversed because of the damage it caused.

The availability of skunk – the strongest form of cannabis – soared when the law was weakened. Cannabis-related admissions to mental hospitals have risen by 85 per cent since Labour came to power, according to Government figures.

There are now more than 22,000 people a year, almost half under the age of 18, being treated for cannabis addiction. In 1997 the number was 1,600.

Defending his attitude to cannabis on the BBC’s Today Programme, Prof Nutt said that in the last ten years “there has not been anything we have seen to suggest that it is more dangerous than class C drugs”.

In his lecture Prof Nutt said: “We have to accept young people like to experiment – with drugs and other potentially harmful activities – and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives.

“We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong.”

He also reiterated his claim that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse.

When he made the claim earlier this year the Home Secretary accused him of “trivialising” the dangers of drugs and made him apologise to the families of people killed by ecstasy.

Prof Nutt’s paper included a ranking system comparing the relative harm of legal and illegal drugs.

His ranking placed alcohol fifth, behind drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

He placed tobacco ninth, with cannabis eleventh, LSD fourteenth and ecstasy eighteenth.

He said: “We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for — and whether they are doing their job.”

A spokesman for the ACMD said: “The lecture Prof Nutt gave at King’s College was in his academic capacity and was not in his role as chair of the ACMD.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Prof Nutt’s views are his own”, adding: “The Government is clear: we are determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to health and society as a whole.”

James Brokenshire, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, said: “Rather than providing clearer evidence on the harms linked to illicit drugs, Professor Nutt is making an overtly political pitch and that isn’t helpful.”

– Article from The Christian Institute.

Nutt faces sack

from BBC News

he Home Secretary Alan Johnson is considering sacking his top expert drugs adviser following criticism of the government’s decision to reclassify cannabis.

Professor David Nutt, who chairs the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, yesterday accused ministers of devaluing and distorting evidence by their decision to move the drug back up to Class B from C last year (see my previous post, Scientists v Politicians: Round 3).

An e-mail sent to the BBC by an official in the Home Office this morning says that “yesterday’s coverage may have some serious repercussions for Prof Nutt and his position as chair of the ACMD”.

The note goes on to say “discussions are being had (at) a very high level regarding this issue and a decision will be taken early next week.”

Professor Nutt knew nothing about the moves to dismiss him when I spoke to him earlier today, but seemed resigned to the possibility. “They are bound to be considering that,” he told me, “thinking about the least worst option.”

“I think the issue is whether I am straying into the realm of policy,” he suggested. “I personally don’t think I was.”

A source in the Home Office tells me that “the writing is on the wall” for the scientist, although no decision has yet been made.

On last night’s Question Time, the former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was asked about Professor Nutt’s view that the process by which she increased the penalties for cannabis possession last year was “highly politicised”.

Dimbleby: “You don’t have much time for the head of the advisory council…”
Smith: “Frankly, no.”
Dimbleby: “Why not?”
Smith: “I think, actually, this foray into policy is not what his job is about. His job is to advise and my job as home secretary was to decide.”

If Alan Johnson does sack the professor, there is likely to be a strong reaction from some in the scientific community who may well argue that this is an attempt to silence independent academic discussion.

However, the online Sun columnist Jon Gaunt argues that the expert advisor has overstepped the mark:

“It’s perfectly acceptable for Nutt to have these discussions in the cosseted world of academia but it is totally irresponsible for him to pontificate in public and in his position as Drug Tsar. He must be sacked immediately.”

Also appearing on Question Time last night, Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, accused Jacqui Smith of bowing to a tabloid agenda when it comes to drugs policy.

“What’s the point of paying people to give you expert advice if you then run your government policy through the red tops?”

Professor Nutt waits to hear his fate.

– Article from BBC News.



  1. prom dress on

    I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant. Sometimes,people who dresses prom dress are not what the public think of .

  2. Anonymous on

    A fellow scientist, Les King, already quit in protest to the sacking of Professor David Nutt.

  3. Romanian on

    We want weed legal too, here at the next presidential election in a couple of weeks alot of people(i hope) will write “legalize weed” on the ballots beacose all the candidates suck anyway.

  4. Anonymous on

    oh the shock that alcohol and tobacco is more dangerous. some of the media seem to doubt him. its not a claim. its the friggin truth.
    how can this be when we can buy alcohol..
    his papers would be a good read for all the older people that got their drug education via the government. interesting how he points our that near all ecstasy deaths get publicised compared to other drugs.
    its like we have just been brainwashed to think that alcohol and tobacco must be safer because they made it legal.

    whats the point in having drugs of different classes if they dont fit the class criteria. i really hope this causes a closer look at the goings on these days.

    he even tells how skunk was supposed to lead to all these problems. yet it didnt.
    they moved it to class b. thats what happens when you dont use science to correctly place your drugs.

    makes you wonder how cannabis is still schedule 1 in the USA.
    oh thats right, the answer is the drug schedules do not follow fact or science.
    obama was supposed to be using science. lets see if anything changes now the cat is out of the bag.

    if you see a blog with people spouting government BS over this please re educate them.

  5. Brad in Oz on

    Put simply folks Professor David Nutt is one of the leading world experts on mind-altering drugs. That’s why he was appointed by the UK government to advise them.

    HE’S ALSO AN EDITOR of the renowned Journal of Psychopharmacology, in which he’s been ‘preaching’ logic rather hysterical ignorance regarding the legal treatment of all drugs (currently legal & illegal) for years!!
    Hmm, his suggestion that this is political is again hard to dispute by anyone (he hasn’t changed his personal stance)!?

    In fact he’s also reviewed (as an editor no less) countless journal articles regarding the particular toxicological actions of many psychoactive drugs, in particular much research on the well publicized 5HT neurotoxic action of MDMA ‘ecstacy’ (which is preventable thanks to the same research elucidating the causes).
    For example here’s a brilliant article of his from THREE YEARS AGO:

    Journal of Psychopharmacology 20(3)315-317 2006
    A tale of two Es
    “This is a strange tale of two drugs each with a name beginning with the letter E. One is a dangerous killer that leads to thousands of deaths every year and the other is ecstcy (MDMA). The big killer is of course alcohol (ethanol)…”

    He then goes on (sorry I only have a PDF) to discuss how the two drugs cause deaths, for example citing cases of indirect H2O induced deaths blamed on MDMA, and clearly shows that in the UK approximately 22,000 people die from Ethanol (alcohol) while 10 die from Ecstacy (MDMA); even though of course millions of doses of both are consumed every year there!

    This guy’s a hero just like Marc Emery; though he’s never ‘tested’ the law himself he’s been openly and publicly critical of current drug laws for years and STUFF ALL (intelligent) people would ever dare to dispute his suggestions because they always make sense and he always knows every fact (legal & pharmacological) that needs to be regarded – oh, well he is human, so maybe sometime he’s wrong!

    It’s a sad day for the UK and a sad day for the world when ignorant politicians give their most qualified, intelligent and honest advisors the boot!

    Watch out world, logic not hysteria must win in the end.

  6. Anonymous on

    please read this. it is a paper by nutt. he basically tells that the government take the precautionary principle and go against the science. that while many wanted cannabis to be listed as a class A drug they did not want the heavy penalties.
    this is why it should be left to scienctists, not public, not police, not politicians.
    if you read this you will realise it is no wonder that they sacked him.
    he dobs them in for being wrong.

    notice when they reclassified to class c they also increased the class c penalty to be the same as class be as a deterrent. which brings down the whole point for a harm based classification system to begin with.

    no wonder so many people smoke pot despite their claims.
    sending the wrong message indeed!!

  7. Anonymous on

    lol…it says: Nutt Sacked…lmfao!

  8. Anonymous on

    When marijuana prohibition comes to an end, people will know who stood up against it and who continued to do more of the same for the sake of political and financial gain. The longer the prohibitionists keep things going, the worse they will appear to those looking back.

    For instance, look at how Harry Anslinger and his propaganda are looked upon now. Now people watch Reefer Madness to laugh at it. His propaganda films have even been openly mocked by major television shows such as ‘That 70s Show’.

    Professor Nutt should write a book or some memoirs and make sure his side of the story is firmly anchored in history. He said others have stated they are ready to leave too; he should include their input if they do.

    Professor Nutt Newsnight interview – Oct 30, 2009:

  9. Brian Kerr on

    Evangelical Cristian Whack jobs. Thats the problem.

  10. Joe on

    In efforts to give the public a clear messages about the dangers of drugs.

    “They remain determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to the profits of corperations big phamacutical, Tabaco, alcohol, Textile industry, Pestacide, Police budgets, DEA budgets ”
    Good Luck. Thank god for the black market.

  11. Anonymousity on

    This sucks for him, or not, as he may leverage it to do something better with his life. Why work for someone who is just going to ignore you?

    It does make for a strong news story which shows the true colors of government and organizations in general, which is all good. It really seems like this BS can’t last. Once the older generation dies out and it is all new kids raised on the net running the show… oh look at me, all hopeful and stuff, heheh.

  12. gstlab3 on


  13. Interested Observer on

    Nutt sacked…what bollocks! The government was caught with its pants down when this scientist dared to tell the truth and now they’re scurrying to cover up their indecency. They need to stuff the Nutt back into the bag, lest the Opposition gets them by the short and curlies. This balls-up has left them red-faced.

    Imagine the nerve of this guy to point out the intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy of government policy when it comes to drugs. How dare he? It can’t be tolerated, lest it leads to exposing all the other lies and deceits told to the public. Where will it all end?

  14. greg williams on

    its not so much the government cares about people being strungout on drugs as much as it is whos drugs it is we get strungout on…, i rekon.

    science is a wonderful gift
    science is a terrible curse
    terrible and wonderful
    lord have mercy
    science is a terrible gift

  15. Anonymous on

    he did say these drugs were still harmful. just not as harmful as the ones we are allowed to take without going to jail for. all he has done wrong is tell that they dont run their policy off the science. now whats the point in paying our good scientists to do work for the government when they then ignore the recomendations and make up their own descisions. its just like what happened with reagan. shelve the reports. silence the truths.
    sack this guy and put someone in his place that will keep his mouth shut.
    im sorry but this is 2009 now. science and fact should have most say on policy and it should be demanded to be that way. if i was a scientist and they didnt take on my facts id be calling it bullshit.

    for my way of thinking they can remove the claim that their policy runs off todays science and just admit that they have their own agendas and ideas.
    forcing a resignation borders on punishing the guy that claimed that the earth spun around the sun. we dont need to wait years to realise he was right.
    the bosses should be quickly exposed and removed for their actions or public stonings to them.. if thats the way they want to operate.
    erring on the side of caution, the precautionary principle- is only done when you have an unknown. YOU DO NOT SACK the person that tells you. YOU STOP taking the precautionary approach.

    instead people will keep be put in jail and money sent to areas that shouldnt have it. imagine taking away billions of dollars from hospitals and schools and putting riders in jail because people die from horse falls.

    just when you think the world might be moving towards realistic suitable policies. we work hard for our money and this a slap in our faces.

  16. LSD-25 on

    Turn on, tune in, drop out!

  17. bootspur on

    Can you believe those Bloody Brit’s fired someone for a politically incorrect remark? Well, who do they think they are anyway, the Republican Party (Conservatives) of the United States???

    warmest regards,
    Fort Worth, Texas

  18. Jay Dell on

    The nutty thing is the citizens are very aware that marijuana is as Mr Nut said less harmfull than tobacco and alchool.Now they really know the goverment likes to hide out in a dark room.As more people dont want to hear the truth they run and hide as a child with their fingers in their ears.This dark silent room is padded alot loke a babies crib,please do not turn on the lights they might just see the real cry babies.
    Behind bars of cribs the babies cower in fear of the truth.

    Give the Mr Nutty a microphone and turn him loose.
    The nut is out of the bag now.

  19. Anonymous on

    It’s official. David Nutt has been sacked. Well he’s been “forced to resign” which amounts to the same thing.

    It’s all over the news in the UK. Expect future announcements of other members of the ACMD to resign in protest over the coming days.

    Sacked for telling the truth? Disgraceful.

  20. Dave on

    It’s all about looking good through fear. This Professor has spilt their beans all over the place. They have to get him, he turned on the lights and we can see who has egg on their faces.

    They won’t put up with that for very long!

  21. Anonymous on

    Oh sure, it’s all because Cannabis was scheduled too lightly. Nothing to do with the fact that Cannabis seed sales are 100% legal in the UK and that the number of stores keeps rising. Actually, most of the weed in the UK comes from South Africa now anyway, but the seed stores aren’t helping any either.

  22. Anonymous on

    a scientists being sacked for telling the truth hey..seems they dont want to go with the science but something else? expose the bastards if they sack him and watch their heads roll.

  23. foam on

    is stacked with Luddites- same as Canada

  24. Anonymous on

    you could say that Prof Nutt is a nut
    but In my eyes he’s a genius doing the work of god

  25. God on

    That guy, he is gonna be like marc emery and malmo levine

    a martyr

    big respect, very admirable

    I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.
    [Martin Luther King Jr.]

  26. Alex on

    I hope they don’t sack him. Sacking him would be pretty stupid. The man said what he thinks about the current drug policy and they want to silence him because of that. The news papers over here don’t do much to help cannabis at all. They still think it’s a bad thing and I can’t see it changing unless America and Canada make changes to their drug laws.
    If only they would use their heads and look at the Netherlands, then they would understand it’s not a bad thing.

  27. Anonymous on

    thank god the first person in british democracy to admit the truth about drugs its about damn time i sure hope he doesnt lose his job for telling the truth although i would say cannabis is more safe then XTC n lsd because u could be getting more harmful drugs !!!!METH !!!!