Sacking of UK Drug Chief Sparks Major Controversy

CANNABIS CULTURE – The fallout continues after the UK’s top drug adviser, David Nutt, was fired for claiming cannabis and ecstasy are safer than alcohol and tobacco, with several resignations, increasing criticism of the government, and the possible collapse of the country’s advisory council on drugs.

Nutt was fired after making comments and releasing a paper called “Estimating drug harms: a risky business?” which suggested the UK adopt the following drug harm index list of the 20 most dangerous drugs (rated from most-to-least harmful),

In brackets is the classification given under the Misuse of Drugs Act [current law in the UK], with Class A attracting the most serious penalties.

1. Heroin (Class A)
2. Cocaine (Class A)
3. Barbiturates (Class B)
4. Street methadone (Class A)
5. Alcohol (Not controlled)
6. Ketamine (Class C)
7. Benzodiazepine (Class B)
8. Amphetamine (Class B)
9. Tobacco (No class)
10. Bupranorphine (Class C)
11. Cannabis (Class B)
12. Solvents (Not controlled)
13. 4-MTA (Class A)
14. LSD (Class A)
15. Methylphenidate (Class B)
16. Anabolic steroids (Class C)
17. GHB (Class C)
18. Ecstasy (Class A)
19. Alkylnitrates (Not controlled)
20. Khat (Not controlled)

Nutt has made truthful/controversial statements in the past, including pointing out in February that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse, and criticized the government for raising cannabis’ classification from “C” to “B”.

Though Nutt’s lecture and materials conformed to the Government’s own code of practice for scientific advisers, he was sacked by Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who appeared on SKY News and said Nutt was “campaigning against political decisions.”

Two other members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) quit in protest – Dr. Les King and Marion Walker of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society – prompting rumors of a mass walkout of the 31-strong committee. According to BBC News, without a pharmacist on it’s board, “the ACMD is contravening its statutory requirements” – and remaining members are expected to meet Alan Johnson on November 10 to discuss the council’s future.

Nutt also appeared on SKY News to defending his position, saying “We did the most detailed analysis of ecstasy, the most detailed analysis of cannabis ever done – we know what the harms are.”

Speaking directly to a critical news reporter he said, “You’re not a scientist. We’ve done the analysis. If you don’t like what we say about the science, then say ‘ok, we’ll take a moral position’, but don’t try to tell me that the science we’ve done is wrong.”

More fuel was added to the fire when the UK Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson “said he was pretty appalled” by the Home Secretary’s actions, and John Beddington, the governments Chief Scientific Adviser, said research showing cannabis to be less harmful than alcohol and tobacco was “absolutely clear cut”.

Nutt, who says he wants to establish a new scientific committee if the current advisory body disbands, penned a piece for the New Scientist called “Governments should get real on drugs“, where he criticized UK authorities for ignoring evidence and pandering to public prejudice.

I can trace the beginning of the end of my role as chairman of the UK’s official advisory body on drugs to the moment I quoted a New Scientist editorial (14 February, p 5). Entitled, fittingly enough, “Drugs drive politicians out of their minds”, the editorial asked the reader to imagine being seated at a table with two bowls, one containing peanuts, the other the illegal drug MDMA (ecstasy). Which is safer to give to a stranger? Why, the ecstasy of course.

I quoted these words in the Eve Saville lecture at King’s College London in July. This example plus other comments I have made – such as horse riding is more harmful than ecstasy – prompted Alan Johnson, the home secretary, to say that I had crossed the line from science to policy. This, he said, is why I had to go.

But simple, accurate and understandable statements of scientific fact are precisely what the advisory council is supposed to provide. Why would any scientist take up some future offer of a government advisory post when their advice can be treated with such disdain?[…]

The current British government has said repeatedly that it wants its policies to be evidence-based, but actions speak louder than words. On ecstasy, for example, it made policy first, sought advice second – and cynically rejected the advice it was given. The result is shambolic policy-making which gives great cause for concern if that is how governments operate more generally.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the London Evening Standard he supported the move by Johnson, saying “We’ll get tougher on drugs. A tough policy on drugs is essential and it is what the public want”.

“On climate change, or health, for example,” he said, “we take the best scientific advise possible. But in an area like drugs we have to look at it in the round.”



  1. Anonymous on

    Fast, safe, and discreet shipping of premium grade B.C. cannabis conveniently to you. Visit for more details.

  2. Anonymous on

    MDMA was first synthesized in the 1890s and later patented by Merck pharmaceuticals on December 24, 1912, but it wasn’t until the mid 1970s that articles related to its psychoactivity began showing up in scholarly journals. In the late ’70s and early ’80s MDMA was used as a psychotherapeutic tool and also started to become available on the street.

    How long has it been around?

  3. Anonymous on

    You are splitting hairs here buddy…Ecstacy alters normal SEROTONIN flow in the brain. This is fact.

    SSRI is the acronym for Selective SEROTONIN Reuptake Inhibitors, ALTERING normal serotonin flows man…..

    All anti depressants are psycho stimulants including Ecstacy, and all are toxic poison garbage…….

  4. Bud 72 on

    Hey “Anonymous”
    Ecstasy is not a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) These are SSRI’s:

    citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil, Cipram, Dalsan, Recital, Emocal, Sepram, Seropram, Citox)
    dapoxetine (no trade name yet; not yet approved by the FDA)
    escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex, Esertia)
    fluoxetine (Prozac, Fontex, Seromex, Seronil, Sarafem, Ladose, Fluctin (EUR), Fluox (NZ), Depress (UZB), Lovan (AUS))
    fluvoxamine (Luvox, Fevarin, Faverin, Dumyrox, Favoxil, Movox)
    paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat, Sereupin, Aropax, Deroxat, Rexetin, Xetanor, Paroxat, Loxamine)
    sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral, Serlain)
    zimelidine (Zelmid, Normud)

    Ecstasy is a psychoactive stimulant not an SSRI

  5. Anonymous on

    Yes they do..but tobacco and booze are everywhere and used much more than yes you are correct that they cause more death

    If ecstacy were on par usage wise with booze and tobacco, there would much more death caused by this substance…

    The immediate damage to the brain caused by SSRI drug Ecstacy is far greater than booze or cigarettes.

    In a silly “what if” scenario, I would rather smoke tobacco and drink booze everyday for a year or 10 years for that matter than use dangerous chemical Ecstacy daily over a year or 10 year period.

  6. Anonymous on

    I’m not saying I don’t agree ecstasy should be higher on the list, but Tobacco, as well as alcohol, takes far more lives every year.

  7. Anonymous on

    Yo, Town Cryer..Yeah, I read what he had to say. You must be an old time Raver or something to think that Ecstacy SSRI poison pills are safe and harmless. Kids have died while taking Ecstacy.. its fact mon. We just had 2 mass shootings in the US and guess what…both killers were on SSRI medication dude…not cigarettes or alcohol.

    Nutt is no better than you or me and if you don’t like me criticizing an SSRI pusher like Nutt then tough.

    Go to, and you will see first hand how my claims are facts

  8. Dave on

    Did you even read, any of, what he had to say?

    Anonymous town cryers like us can be politician any day! But to think, we are qualified to criticize this man is sheer nonsense. This man can support his claims; how do you support yours?

  9. Anonymous on

    GREAT idea! You first, nit-dip.

  10. Avoid Danger on

    death. be safe, be dead.

  11. Anonymous on

    Nutt is nuts if he thinks Ecstacy is safer than cigarettes
    or alcohol. Ecstacy is a dangerous SSRI, which is chemically related to LSD and PCP as both agents affect Serotonin levels in the brain.

    Personally, I would much rather take my chances with cigarettes or alcohol over the long term, as both substances have been around for thousands of years while chemist made Ecstacy pills are have only been around for 25 years or so. Short term side effects of these SSRI type anti-depressant pills include rage, killings and suicides. Who knows what the real long term psysical damage will be from these pills..time will tell. One thing’s for sure..they are far from safe!

    During all of the recent school and office shootings, the perpetrators were all on some type of SSRI while plotting and committing their crimes. This is fact.

    Please pot heads…do not turn this Nutt guy into some type of hero for your cause. He is sublimially pushing dangerous chemicals under the guise of pot being harmless. I’m not sure of his motive, but this is what he’s doing.

  12. Anonymous on


    Did he just give people the right to T-Bag?

  13. david dickinson on

    Wake up, people are dying right left and center from alcohol.

    In our small community, after the RCMP busted all the small time marijuana dealers, youth suicide attempts tripled, there were two murders, and at least one suicide — all alcohol related. The problem is the alcoholic police, prosecutors, and judges who give soft sentences to violent alcoholics who rape or kill but very harsh sentences to marijuana smokers who haven’t hurt anyone.

    Legalizing marijuana will not save lives, and neither will climate change initiatives. Remember, it is a WAR. It’s the violent alcoholics versus the peaceful marijuana smokers. War means hurting your enemies as much as possible. To stop the deaths occurring right now, not in some hazy far off future time, we need to track down all the alcoholics in government, Crown Counsel offices, and our courts, expose them, ridicule them, and ostracize them, using non-violent means.

    We need to change the alcohol laws first because alcohol causes violence and murder. Whether marijuana is legalized or not, no-one will die from it. It’s about time we got our priorities straight and those who have done jail time for marijuana, their families, friends, and supporters, all went on the attack against the brain damaged alcoholics who would do us, our families, and our communities harm because they disagree with our beliefs….

  14. :) on

    God is with them

  15. Anonymous on


    You’d be suprised how these things can fit together. How do you know the repeal of prohibition is actually not the most important step? Many people (myself in the past) usually dismiss the cannabis issue offhand, as “trivial in the big picture”. However, if you read the history, you will learn that there are many insidious and curious connections and implications of prohibition. You will also find the curious/remarkable nature of cannabis/hemp as an agent of improvement, aid, and healing. Cannabis seems to be a panacea for many of humans’ ills. The older we get, the more we’re going to want to smoke. Think about it.

    Furthermore, the acknowledgement of the realities of cannabis and cannabis use and popularity parallels an acknowledgement of real harms in the world, and real truths. So repealing cannabis prohibition and getting real about harms in the world equals a new kind of honesty and clarity that are insdispensable for our ability to adapt to the present as it presents itself to us here on Earth.

    Finally, nothing is getting done on either front, the climate, or drugs, in case you haven’t noticed. Humans are wheel-spinners,and perhaps shit just happens when, or if the time is right. History may show us that the change to prohibition was indeed a priority on earth, somehow, and it’s definitely upon us these days, throughout the world.


  16. Anonymous on

    Ever since the Beatles smoked a joint in the Queen’s bathroom the UK Parliament never fully recovered.
    Cannabis in the UK = lost cause.People there are much too conservatives to be open minded about cannabis.

  17. Jim on

    Hemp products would go a long way to improving this planet. You can make less toxic products from hemp than from petroleum across the whole spectrum of petroleum products. These hemp products are for the most part ignored due to prohibition. Wake up indeed!

  18. joe on

    It because the politicians do not work for we the people
    Or we the soldiers who fight for the freedoms.
    But they do work for we the corporations with the biggest lobby – est. pay check.
    This is to protect the corporation’s profits and that no other competition of another safer product and the prohibitionist are keeping everything the same so to keep the money they so desperately want for their budget paid by we the tax payers who pay for their jobs.
    Police, prison corporations who need the body count $80,000
    Per person per year to cage who are none violent.
    But what kind of job do you have if it depends on another human being life to be destroyed for their job to existed
    Its call Nazism communist van – jell a cols.

  19. Bob Suzuki on

    wake up, the planet is dying- fix that FIRST then change the pot laws, not the other way around.

  20. Anonymous on

    If the drug advisory council disbands it’s because they keep telling the fat useless politicians that marihuana is harmless, but the fat useless politicians don’t want to listen. I guess the drug advisory council is tired of bashing their heads against a wall. Nixon the psycho had a presidential commission set up (why – I don’t know) to ascertain the dangers of marihuana but said before the studies had barely begun that no matter what the findings are, it’s not gonna change his mind or America’s war opn drugs. Wotta pig-headed drug-addled fool (it’s widely believed that Nixon was a hypocrite-prescription-pill-popper). LOL!