Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart


10:57 am - November 1st 2009

by Neil Robertson    


      Share on Tumblr

News update: Two govt advisors have now resigned in protest. Others considering the same ‘en masse’

* * * * * *

I don’t suppose there are many dignified ways of being sacked by your employer, but ‘Death By Bar Chart’ must be one of the least savoury ways to go. In his lecture to the Centre for Crime & Justice Studies, Professor David Nutt included this rather inconvenient illustration of the level of harm caused by a range of dangerous substances:

drug harm

As you can see, Nutt’s table had alcohol and tobacco ranked as more harmful than a whole host of intoxicants, including cannabis, LSD and ecstacy. From this little illustration, a sprawl of tabloid stories was spawned and the government’s chief adviser on drugs had unconsciously secured his own sacking.

Given his stormy relationship with the Home Office, the sacking itself had an eye-rolling inevitability to it, but when you read the careful, methodical and rather unremarkable content of Nutt’s lecture, you’re really left wondering what all the bloody fuss was about.

It really is tame stuff. At no point does he call for legalisation, or even decriminalisation; he reminds his audience of Britain’s international obligations, and the role he played in securing extra funding for prevention campaigns & rehabilitation centres. Sure, there’s criticism of this government’s wrong-headed decision to reject his advice on cannabis classification, but he did so in an inquisitive, systematic way; even going so far as to produce a chart showing how advice from science was competing with pressure from many other parts of the body politic:

pressures

It’s the lecture of a man who is realistic about the social stigma of illegal drugs, particularly in the mainstream media, and is just frustrated by our inability to compare the harms of consumption with the harms caused by other, completely legal activities. And whilst this might come across to some as an implicit argument for decriminalisation, I’ll let the good professor speak to that.

I think 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’re probably wrong. They are often quite knowledgeable about drugs and the internet has made access to information extremely simple. We have to tell them the truth, so that they use us as their preferred source of information. A fully scientifically-based Misuse of Drugs Act where drug classification accurately reflects harms would be a powerful educational tool. Using the Act in a political way to give messages other than those relating to relative harms undermines the Act and does great damage to the educational message.

In other words, young people can spot the bullshit being fed to them by our Majesty’s expenses-gobbling ex-potheads, and if you really want to have a more effective, mature drugs policy, you need to reform the Misuse of Drugs Act so that it accurately reflects harm. That’s actually a little too moderate for my liking, but would still be a dramatic improvement on the current mess we have.

For me, this sacking reflects just how hysterical this country has become in the drugs debate. I could accept and support Professor Nutt’s removal if he was shown to be a bad scientist or was misleading the public. But a government which sacks a scientist because it simply don’t like the science is operating out of such irrationality and fear that it doesn’t even deserve science advisers in the first place. Sadly, I suspect that’s what has happened here.

Channel 4 News update

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Neil Robertson is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He was born in Barnsley in 1984, and through a mixture of good luck and circumstance he ended up passing through Cambridge, Sheffield and Coventry before finally landing in London, where he works in education. His writing often focuses on social policy or international relations, because that's what all the Cool Kids write about. He mostly blogs at: The Bleeding Heart Show.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Economy ,Health ,Labour party ,Westminster

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


They can’t have it both ways.

Of course it is sensible to base policy on truth but it is not reasonable to have legislation grounded in the results of scientific enquiry only when those results support the policy you want to implement.

So, when Professor David Nutt brought the news that the re-classification of cannabis from Class C to Class B made no sense (based on the harm done by the drug) and stated that there is no logical reason why cannabis should be banned when alcohol and tobacco are legal, it was not an appropriate response from Alan Johnson and Chris Grayling to stick their fingers in their ears. Nor was it fair for Johnson to sack the scientist because the facts he had unearthed were off message.

Generally, there have been two reactions to the research.

1) David Nutt is a nut. We all know that sniffing glue does not equate to drinking a pint of Iron Lady in terms of the danger to health and I’d rather have Abigail ride her horse than take ecstasy even if it is more dangerous. And anyway, I read somewhere that modern skunk isn’t the same stuff that we smoked at uni.

2) He is probably correct but we are where we are and it is not helpful to public health to relax the pressure on our citizens not to use drugs. We know that the taking of all drugs has significant consequences for public health and we should fast track the moves to curtail alcohol and tobacco use, not relax prohibition on other drugs.

Of course there is a third possible reaction.

The reason why government policies on drugs do not make scientific sense is because prohibition of any drug by government is illogical and it is the fact of prohibition that causes most of the problems related to drug use. It is abundantly clear that prohibition has not worked and causes more harm than good. We need to try something else.

Instead of the unhelpful scare tactics currently used by all sorts of agencies to discourage drug use, it would make more sense to take the research on the consequences of using individual drugs and truthfully communicate the results to the public.

With the correct information, and without prohibition, it would be possible for me to make a rational decision on whether or not to replace my bottle of malt whisky with an ounce of cannabis resin. This decision could be made on the basis of my relative levels of enjoyment of the two products and on the consequences for my long term well being.

But it should be my decision to make. It is not at all an appropriate decision to be made for me by Alan Johnson or anybody else.

The argument that cannabis is stronger today therefore it is more dangerous is complete nonsense. It doesn’t mean that you get more high, it means that it takes less of it to get high.

In seeking scientific advice on weapon systems during WW2, Churchill had the good sense to keep around him both Lord Lindeman, his personal scientific adviser, and RV Jones, even though they often disagreed.

Lindeman
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Lindemann,_1st_Viscount_Cherwell

RV Jones
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Victor_Jones

I loved this little quote from the Home Secretary: “I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy”

What that should mean, of course, is that government policy shouldn’t wilfully ignore sound scientific evidence. His position, instead, is “the science says whatever the hell we say it does.” Not unexpected from this government, but still disappointing.

5. dreamingspire

Kentron’s quote was echoed on the noon news on BBC R4: Nutt was sacked because he went public with his disagreement with the decision. Time to keep on objecting, in the face of a govt that says it will use facts and then rejects them.

How long will we have to wait before everyone sees sense?

I think it was quite correct to sack Nutt.

The Government – rightly – determines drug policy based on a range of factors and not just on scientific evidence (and even this is far more contested than Nutt’s unequivocal interpretation of it). Nutt could not accept this and went beyond his advisory remit and the relationship had clearly broken down.

Nutt was not sacked for his interpretation of the evidence (this is not a free speech issue) but his inability to accept his advice is just that and not the final word.

@8: “The Government – rightly – determines drug policy based on a range of factors and not just on scientific evidence”

The problem is that this Government simply isn’t interested in the science, period. It could be conclusively proved that cannabis cured cancer, AIDS and heart disease in a single puff.. but in the current media climate, they would still crack down it.

In other news, an advisor to the panel Prof. Nutt chaired has just resigned in protest.

I like the phrase the Heresiarch has coined.

“policy based evidence making”.

Explains so much at present….this, the trafficking/prostitution nonsense and so on.

i have some sympathy with what sevillista says.

But it seems to me the bigger problem for people who want evidence based decisions on drug use (as I do) is that there’s been no attempt to shift public opinion and push that side of things.

A significant portion of the Labour party’s constituency is very conservative on social issues – so this is also an electoral decision. But the Libdems don’t have that problem. They should, in my view, be more risky and try and legitimise their side of the debate. Right now too many politicians are afraid of admitting they’ve taken cannabis.

The Government – rightly – determines drug policy based on a range of factors and not just on scientific evidence

Yes.

They take into account their congenitally illiberal mindset.

@pagar

The Government tried liberalisation of cannabis- the perception is among many of the population is it has not been a success.

The Government has also liberalised licensing laws and has also liberalised significant parts of social policy (eg gay rights).

It would seem you are being unfair to say the government is congenitally illiberal. They are liberal constrained by the fact many in the UK are socially conservative.

You’ll see illiberal from next May…

“the perception is among many of the population is it has not been a success.”

Who are this “many”? The Police? Anti-cannabis groups?

Anyway, the idea that Nutt was railing against the government is nonsense. He railed against Smith’s taking of his report (and her spinning of it to essentially reduce his credibility), and had every right to stand his ground under that situation of professional character assassination.

What Nutt said this time, that got him the sack, was that drugs should be based much more on relative risks, and that simply classifying cannabis as a class B drug without any evidence (and he claimed quite clearly there is a need to find the evidence in this area) of the risk that the policy itself has on increasing drug use or more harmful practice in the use of the drug.

In essence his public statements were that a) the drug isn’t classified correctly based on harm to the individual and b) we don’t have enough evidence to honestly state that it being class B rather than class C reduces harm to society. When the mere existence of a policy is a potential factor in the harm and the misuse of drugs, why exactly *shouldn’t* the chair of the ACMD be asking questions about it?

14. Shatterface

‘The Government – rightly – determines drug policy based on a range of factors and not just on scientific evidence’

Yes, they take into account the disproportionate power wielded by faith based communities obssessed with punishing people for ‘sin’ rather than evidence based communities who make decisions based on liberty and practicality.

As with drugs, so with prostitution.

@ Sevillista

I think the issue here is that our views of what is or is not illiberal diverge.

In my view

A Government that threatens to put me in jail if I ingest a substance that they prohibit is illiberal.

A Government that threatens to put me in jail if I allow others to ingest non prohibited substances on my property is illiberal.

A Government that takes money from me at the point of a gun and uses it to hector me about the substances I ingest is probably illiberal but is certainly highly irritating.

You are correct that it is only likely to get worse from next May.

16. the a&e charge nurse

Surely we don’t need the likes of the Prof to warn us that somebody dies in the UK every 15 minutes because of lung cancer, a disease that would be virtually erradicated if we did not smoke.

No other drug comes close to this level harm, with the exception of alcohol, of course – and that’s before we get to the cardiovascular effects of fags which accelerate heart problems, and peripheral vascular disease (leading to heart attack, arrythmias and amputated limbs).

Next to this mayhem agonising over cannabis seems like very small beer indeed?

Why can’t we simply legalise the lot since the need to take drugs is both universal and timeless.

ALL of the parties have ignored the evidence that has been in front of their eyes for years – no wonder the Prof lost his rag.

17. Shatterface

I loved yesterday’s teletext headline though:

‘Drug Advisor’s sacking may lead to other’s quitting’

Also ‘Nutt sacked’. I mean, come on!

As Sevillista says, the scientific evidence is far more contested than the single ranking produced by David Nutt in his lecture. I do not try to follow all the rankings of these substances that thave appeared in scientific papers, but from what I have seen Dr Nutt was careful to choose a rankings that is less unfavourable to the Government position than most. Other respected rankings make the Government’s decisions on drugs classification appear even more arbitrary and remote from the evidence.

I think that the state of Government policy on the classificvation of these drugs left Dr Nutt with the choice between speaking out first or resigning first. I would have done as he has done, speak out as uncontroversially as posible..

The nation’s drug policy is an irrational mess and the Government is more interested in avoiding hysterical Daily Mail headlines than it is deciding policy on the basis of rational and thoughtful consideration of empirical evidence.

I think that about sums up the situation.

And of course nothing will change when the Tories get in.

It is enough to make you despair.

20. the a&e charge nurse

Looks like things are beginning to unravel – interesting response from The Prof & Dr King here (incidentally, the Tories are slagged off by Nutt as well).
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8336635.stm

What a shambles?

@leegriffin

A majority of the population – for good or Ill – see tough drug laws as a good thing. Surely you are not denying that? Hence the political attractions of reclassification reversing the earlier liberalisation of drug laws that pagar’s so-called congenitally illiberal government embarked upon a few years back.

What Nutt said about relative harms is not the problem – it’s how he said it to cause maximum embarrassment to the Government. How could he maintain his position having strayed beyond his remit to lobby for a change on drugs policy?

@pagar

I don’t think the Government is proposing to change police tactics towards drugs (tolerate use, target dealing). So your rant about “putting you in jail” is exaggeration. And why did this “congenitally illiberal” government declassify cannabis in the first place?

@diversity

I am sure you are wrong – the science is unsure about long-term risks.

Besides, isn’t the argument (harmful) tobacco and alcohol legal so all drugs should be just whataboutery?

22. the a&e charge nurse

[26] Nutt rates harm caused by drug use along x3 axis.

[1] Physical risks.
[2] Dependency risks.
[3] Negative effects on relationships, families and the wider community.

In my book the drugs policy of successive governments has caused far more harm than any Class A when it comes to the third strand of Nutt’s criteria.
Johno knows this as well as any so called expert – scapegoating Nutt will do little to alter this disaster zone that passes for social policy

But scapegoating Nutt makes the minister look macho and tough in the heartlands and that’s what it has come down to now. IMO the government is past caring how many thousands of votes go down the pan in other places.

A majority of the population – for good or Ill – see tough drug laws as a good thing.

Entirely irrelevant.

My use of drugs, legal or illegal, is my business- not yours or that of the majority of the population.

It’s about time that fact is recognised by Government and begins to inform their legislation.

A majority of the population – for good or Ill – see tough drug laws as a good thing. Surely you are not denying that? Hence the political attractions of reclassification reversing the earlier liberalisation of drug laws that pagar’s so-called congenitally illiberal government embarked upon a few years back.

I’m sure most commenters here can see that political expediency trumps science.

What Nutt said about relative harms is not the problem – it’s how he said it to cause maximum embarrassment to the Government. How could he maintain his position having strayed beyond his remit to lobby for a change on drugs policy?

It caused embarrassment because it showed Government policy to be a fraud.

Besides, isn’t the argument (harmful) tobacco and alcohol legal so all drugs should be just whataboutery?

No. As Nutt said,

“Another key question we have to address as a society is whether our attitude to drugs is driven because of their harms or are we engaging in a moral debate? One thing this government has done extremely well in the last ten years is to cut away much of the moral argument about drug treatments. They have moved in the direction of improving access to harm reduction treatments, an approach that, I think, is wholly endorsed by the scientific community and by the medical profession. For reasons that are not clear, the same evidence-based change has not happened in relation to the classification of drugs of misuse. I think it should happen because, while I’m not a moral philosopher, it seems to me difficult to defend a moral argument in relation to drugs if you don’t apply it to other equally harmful activities.”

The change has not happened because it is not considered to be politically expedient.

@pagar

So in your opinion drugs policy is not something a democratically elected government should decide?

Drug use – legal and illegal – can and do harm others. There is also a strong argument that there is a very valid paternalistic argument as drugs are by their nature addictive and alter the ability to make rational decisions, and many people mess their lives up through addiction and over-indulgence in drugs- I know many people who have managed this with cannabis. I would strongly disagree with your assertion that it’s none of the government’s business.

@ukliberty

Government policy is to determine how drugs are regulated through balancing the scientific evidence on the harms of drugs against other concerns, including the views of the UK population. How is that fraudulent?

Your accusation that things are done for “political expediency” is just a way of spinning your assertion that the Government should ignore public opinion which is often backed by very real concerns – after all, I don’t think even Nutt argues drugs do no harm.

@pagar

So in your opinion drugs policy is not something a democratically elected government should decide?

Drug use – legal and illegal – can and do harm others. There is also a strong argument that there is a very valid paternalistic argument as drugs are by their nature addictive and alter the ability to make rational decisions, and many people mess their lives up through addiction and over-indulgence in drugs- I know many people who have managed this with cannabis. I would strongly disagree with your assertion that it’s none of the government’s business.

@ukliberty

Government policy is to determine how drugs are regulated through balancing the scientific evidence on the harms of drugs against other concerns, including the views of the UK population. How is that fraudulent?

Your accusation that things are done for “political expediency” is just a way of spinning your assertion that the Government should ignore public opinion which is often backed by very real concerns – after all, I don’t think even Nutt argues drugs do no harm.

@29: “My use of drugs, legal or illegal, is my business- not yours or that of the majority of the population.”

Compare this:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” John Stuart Mill: On Liberty (1859)
http://www.utilitarianism.com/ol/one.html

Believe me, that is regarded as a very old fashion sentiment nowadays. As Tony Blair used to often remind us: You can’t stop modernisation.

The great advantage from a Home Office perspective of the reclassification of popular drugs like cannabis and ecstasy to category B in January 2009 was a recognition of the simple fact that the Police can use this as a useful rationale for stop and search operations in the course of which they may – may – uncover valuable incidental intelligence about other crimes.

“Fears that the UK would ‘sleep-walk into a surveillance society’ have become a reality, the government’s information commissioner has said.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6108496.stm

Ours is not to reason why.

“So in your opinion drugs policy is not something a democratically elected government should decide?

Drug use – legal and illegal – can and do harm others. There is also a strong argument that there is a very valid paternalistic argument as drugs are by their nature addictive and alter the ability to make rational decisions, and many people mess their lives up through addiction and over-indulgence in drugs- I know many people who have managed this with cannabis. I would strongly disagree with your assertion that it’s none of the government’s business.”

You are, therefore, illiberal. The liberal position is as Bob B has quoted from Mill. My body, my choice.

What you think about what I should, could, might, put into my body is irrelevant. This is true of drugs, body piercings, other people’s sexual organs, the colour or race of anyone I might wish to do such things with or whatever (with the proviso that all are consenting adults).

Drugs aren’t a government issue, they’re a human rights issue. It is my natural right to use whatever I wish to get blitzed as long as my doing so does not harm others nor their rights to similarly exercise their freedoms and liberties as they wish.

Anything else is simply, as I say above, illiberal.

30. Shatterface

‘So in your opinion drugs policy is not something a democratically elected government should decide?’

51% of the population could democratically vote for the extermination of the other 49%.

Liberty trancends the tyranny of numbers.

It is funny to watch the pretend libertarians who come on here day after day to defend the Right wing, tell us how much they should be able to take drugs.

You have less chance of that ever coming true under the Conservative movement which you support. Because they have been taken over by the christian fascists. It is certainly true of the American republican party, and as the modern Conservative party just copies everything the American right wing does it is true in the UK too.

You are all like Guido, fake libertarians.

The inevitable caveat to Tim Worstall’s entirely logical position is that under present NHS procedures, the taxpayer is obliged to pick up the healthcare costs for treating drug addictions and overdoses. In that particular sense, drug abuse does inflict harm on taxpayers.

However, Professor Nutt and colleagues are saying that on the evidence, the harm to personal health and well-being from cannabis and ecstasy use is relatively minor as compared with tobacco and alcohol. Just to put that in perspective, the number of deaths a year from alcohol related illnesses is about three times the number of traffic accident fatalities a year.

“The UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe as well as one of the highest levels of alcohol use among teenagers in Europe.”
http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/files/20030818_160907_Teen%20Pregnancy%20Briefing.pdf

Btw I didn’t vote in the last general election and probably won’t vote in the next either the way things are going.

The inevitable caveat to Tim Worstall’s entirely logical position is that under present NHS procedures, the taxpayer is obliged to pick up the healthcare costs for treating drug addictions and overdoses. In that particular sense, drug abuse does inflict harm on taxpayers.

If I were to abrogate my rights to NHS treatment, would that mean I would be entitled to have control over what drugs I can legally take?

Where can I register?

Someone who leads a healthy life style is likely to lead a longer life and therefore cost me more in long term health care and state pensions so I don’t think the economics are against drug use.

Maybe we should ban exercise, abstenance and a vegetarian diet?

Government policy is to determine how drugs are regulated through balancing the scientific evidence on the harms of drugs against other concerns, including the views of the UK population. How is that fraudulent?

The clue is in your sentence. The ostensible reason for having a drugs policy is to prevent harm, not slavishly buckle to what the Government claims is public opinion. Why on earth would someone who genuinely wanted to prevent harm “balance” the evidence against the views of the uninformed and over-excited?

Your accusation that things are done for “political expediency” is just a way of spinning your assertion that the Government should ignore public opinion which is often backed by very real concerns – after all, I don’t think even Nutt argues drugs do no harm.

“Even Nutt…” as if he has said anything truly controversial or wacky.

Of course he doesn’t argue drugs do no harm. What reasonable and informed person would?

Public opinion can be rather silly and even harmful at times. Electrosensitivity is a “very real concern” – but it’s a genuinely held but evidence-free belief. Consider for the MMR controversy – now we have more cases of measles than there are cases of swine flu because parents with “very real concerns” believed

The Government should be saying, “We understand your very real concerns but the best advice available to us says we should do this…”

The Government shouldn’t ignore public opinion. What it should be doing is facilitating our education about the relative risks and standing up for evidence-based policy. Furthermore it should be saying, “We have no business legislating what you do to yourselves.”

John Stuart Mill was right.

Bob B, it is indeed fair to say there are costs to society as a result of drug misuse. If I recall correctly the ‘social costs’ of alcohol are £20bn a year.

@timworstall

It is not an illiberal position to say drugs should be regulated

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” John Stuart Mill: On Liberty (1859)

Drug use harms others – both legal (though regulated) drugs such as alcohol and illegal drugs such as cannabis and heroin. It is perfectly liberal within Mill’s definition for Government to intervene to prevent this harm. It is contestable, I guess, how “harm” is defined.

Drugs by their nature also alter the mind and are addictive both physically and psychologically. The concept of “free will” is unclear – is someone who behaves a certain way in ingesting mind-altering drugs due to addiction doing so because they want to?

There is a case for drug control consistent with Mill’s definition of liberty. Not that Mill was necessarily right.

@shatterface

You’re just being silly.

If not democracy who makes the decisions in society? Who’s our benevolent wise dictator we allow to do this in your world?

@ukliberty

Fraudulent is pretending to be something you are not. The Government is open that it takes a number of factors into account including public opinion. Seems transparent and honest to me.

Sevillista: “What Nutt said about relative harms is not the problem – it’s how he said it to cause maximum embarrassment to the Government. How could he maintain his position having strayed beyond his remit to lobby for a change on drugs policy?”

I think he really had to say something eventually. The government’s position is that they have classified cannabis in Class B because it has now (because of skunk) been scientifically proven to be dangerous enough to justify that classification. That is simply not the case.

The issue is not really that the science does not fit the policy. It’s that the government are arguing that their drugs policy is based on neutral scientific evidence (thus avoiding awkward questions), pointing to the committee to back up their policy, when their policy in fact flies directly in the face of the expert opinion of the committee.

Professor Nutt and his committee really were put in an awkward position by that; they had to say something sooner or later to retain their own wider credibility. The government will no doubt now appoint a different scientific panel composed of more reasonable, pragmatic people who will obligingly produce the evidence for their evidence-based policy. Everyone will laugh at it.

They should instead admit their drugs policy is not science-based, and if they think there’s a moral argument for banning cannabis, they should make it. If they actually think there isn’t any argument for it, and their policy is simply to avoid the wrath of the tabloids, they should show some backbone for a change…

@jungle

Nutt was not sacked for stating his view of the evidence on harm from drugs.

Indeed, the Government was well aware of his views before appointing him http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article1184845.ece and had a genuinely open mind on the issue, as their previous declassification of cannabis at political cost to themselves for being “soft on drugs”.

Nutt was sacked for openly and very directly criticising the Government for taking account of other factors as well as scientific evidence. His very public comments designed to ridicule the Government made his position untenable.

In the real world a change in classification means little anyway. Government policy and police tactics will remain tolerate use, educate on harms and pursue only dealers through the law. Classification remains a signal to children and others of harms rather than what drives policy, at least between classes B and C.

@39: “Someone who leads a healthy life style is likely to lead a longer life and therefore cost me more in long term health care and state pensions so I don’t think the economics are against drug use.”

Believe me, someone worked out long ago that tobacco smokers on balance are performing a valuable public service because they tended to die young – so saving on the payout of state pensions but after paying in contributions.

Alcohol abuse is another matter because of all the associated antisocial side-effects, such as violent crime, football hooliganism and teen pregnancies. But preventing alcohol abuse is challenging. Besides, New Labour made a big issue of relaxing the licensing laws to get elected in 1997.

I don’t really think these economic calculations are at the heart of Home Office thinking in the reclassification of cannabis and ecstasy. As I suggested above, I believe the official reasoning is that the reclassification establishes a publicly acceptable rationale for stop and search operations in the course of which valuable incidental intelligence may be gathered about other crimes.

There’s a lively corresponding controversy in the news about the true extent of human trafficking. Again, I believe trafficking is used as a valued publicly acceptable pretext for raiding and searching premises and demanding to see personal identity documentation. After all, who would want to complain about the Police trying to stop those evil traffickers of innocent girls?

That bar chart is at least 3 years old, so cannot really be the major reason for this shambles. It was published in a 2006 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report, as evidence from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Appendix 14, page Ev 114 of:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmsctech/1031/1031.pdf

I think it was also published in 2007 in The Lancet by Nutt et al “Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse”.

BTW “sacked by your employer” isn’t really right, as Prof. Nutt wasn’t paid for his Chair of ACMD role!

It is fairly unreasonable to expect someone in an unpaid role to keep his opinions quiet when he is not acting in that role.

41. Shatterface

‘@shatterface

You’re just being silly.

If not democracy who makes the decisions in society? Who’s our benevolent wise dictator we allow to do this in your world?’

So in your world it’s either mob rule or a dictator?

It doesn’t matter if it’s one person or many, nobody has the right to dictate what you do with your brain any more than they do over any other part of your body.

“That bar chart is at least 3 years old, so cannot really be the major reason for this shambles”

It was the starting point, basically.

“Nutt was sacked for openly and very directly criticising the Government for taking account of other factors as well as scientific evidence. His very public comments designed to ridicule the Government made his position untenable.”

No, as we’ve already said, he was sacked for daring to state that the government didn’t take the issue of policy in its existence as a variable in it’s risk. Very different statement.

Simple question: what chemical(s) does government ‘drug’ policy towards cannabis refer to?

Strikes me as a classic category mistake to classify ‘cannabis’ when ‘cannabis’ is a plant genus, not a refined pharmeceutical.

One-size-fits-all then, again.

If we’re legislating according to the precautionary principle maybe they should just ban all ‘green organic matter’ instead, just to be on the safe side.

“If not democracy who makes the decisions in society? Who’s our benevolent wise dictator we allow to do this in your world?”

We already, rightly, make the distinction between those things which are to be decided democratically and those things which are not.

We tend to call the latter “human rights”. You’ve a right to a fair trial, you’ve a right to freedom, you cannot be enslaved: whatever the democratically elected government of the day decides upon such matters. And yes, even despite a referendum with a majority in favour of such an action. We simply say that *these things* (whatever *these things* actually consists of) are simply too important to be subjected to the approval or not of the tyranny of the majority.

This is exactly what such things as Constitutions, the Human Rights Act, are all about. Enshrining into the law those things which are not to be decided democratically.

My stance on drugs is simple: just as the ban on enslavement means that we each own our own bodies and the produce thereof, so do we own the right to decide what to put into those bodies. This is a natural right, a natural liberty, one not subject to licence or approval from the rest of society nor the government elected by it.

I’m perfectly happy for that freedom to be constrained in certain ways: to be taxed for example, for the law to come down like a tonne of bricks on those who do endanger others through their drug taking (driving while high for example).

But just as who I have sex with (consenting adults only of course) is not a matter for other people, or society, to decide, nor is what I may ingest.

@49: “LEGALIZE INVOLUNTARY GERONTOCIDE NOW!”

You’ll need to wait for a change of government and localism.

When some local authorities introduce local terminator stations to cut the “community charge”, we’ll be told: “That’s local democracy”.

Under the Elizabethan poor laws, it was an understood practice to bundle the poor and needy over into the next parish.

47. the a&e charge nurse

[52] very much agree with your post.

What worries is me is that heavy handed politicos, like Johno, not only want to deny us these rights, but even go so far as to forbid eminent scientists from drawing attention to the evidence accrued by them after years of careful research.

Johno says he is worried about the the effects of drugs, especially on poor kids, an understandable concern given the wretched choices made by many young addicts but how does sacking Nutt (and thus alienating fellow scientists on the advisory council) help tomorrow’s pot-head?

NuLab have become infamous for sham consultations, certainly in the sphere of health.
Not toeing the party line clearly has consequences – I look forward to the appointment of a more malleable ‘advisor’ on drug use.

@shatterface

They do in situations where what you do harms others or where you are incapable of making a choice. See my answer to Tim Worstall above @41.

I ask again, who is your wise man who takes these decisions in your world given democratic “mob rule” appears to disagree with you?

@48 leegriffin

I disagree – Nutt’s comments strayed from scientific advice on harms from drugs to direct criticism of Government for taking account of other factors and it’s attitude to the unknowns in the science (uncertainty around long run impacts and a “precautionary” attitude towards these potential harms).

@50 auntyvera

The question I posed to shatterface (if not a democratically elected government who makes decisions in your society where someones behaviour affects someone else) applies to you too.

@51 Thomas

There is little concern with “green organic stuff” causing mental health problems
with heavy long-term use is there?

@52 timworstall

You’re repeating yourself and not engaging with my
points.

What about harms caused to others?

What about the costs drug use imposes on public services?

What about the lack of real “free will” of those addicted to drugs?

Or do you pick and choose which parts of Mill’s writings you agree with?

“What about harms caused to others?”

Umm, you seem to be having reading comprehension problems here. I actually said :

“for the law to come down like a tonne of bricks on those who do endanger others through their drug taking (driving while high for example).”

What is that if it isn’t taking account of the harms caused to others by drug taking?

“What about the costs drug use imposes on public services?”

Err: “to be taxed for example,”

We already tax tobaco for far more than it costs public services. We already tax alcohol for far more than it costs public services. I’ve no objection to drugs being similarly taxed.

There’s also another rather different argument: that the current prohibition costs public services more than legalisation would do. The costs of the War on Drugs (policing, international interventions….some would put the war in Afghanistan in this pot, others the subsidies to the Columbian Government), the costs of dealing with ODs, the infections from shared needles and impure drugs, the crime caused by those stealing for their next fix.

I’m absolutely certain that these costs are higher than the costs of legalisation. So this particular argument is one for you to answer: why do you support the prohibition that places such huge costs on public services?

“What about the lack of real “free will” of those addicted to drugs?”

Most who take drugs do not become addicted. The vast majority in fact. We don’t ban cars because some people die from their use: we shouldn’t ban drugs because some people cannot handle them. We don’t ban alcohol because some become alcoholics either.

50. the a&e charge nurse

[55] What about harms caused to others – if crimes are committed then this should be a matter for the courts. Certainly horse riding is more lethal than pot, and many people are killed on the roads without drugs ever being involved.

What about the costs drug use imposes on public services – tax revenue from both alcohol and fags far exceeds the cost of treating health problems that arise from these drugs.

What about the lack of real “free will” of those addicted to drugs – becoming an addict is never easy, and certainly not instantaneous, while coming off heroin (say) is not much worse than dealing with a mild case of flu. The addicts life is an existential choice not a matter of free will.

@Sevillista

the ‘mental health problems’ you refer to cannot be attributed to the general use of cannabis, for the simple reason that cannabis contains chemicals which are both psychoactive and anti-psychotic.

In other words it is arguable that the general use of cannabis does as much to reduce mental health problems as it does to increase them.

Without precise data on the levels of consumption of the different types of cannabis and the level of CBD, THC etc in them it is impossible to ascertain it either way with any degree of reliability, and therefore to make any statement to this effect is to make assertions, just as the government is doing.

Of course the only way to get that data would be to legalise it, license sale of it, regulate which forms should and should not be available and raise taxes from the trade to pay for the management of the commerce and any personal or social health consequences arising from it.

But then if we did have accurate data people with partisan agendas would have to get off their high horses and live in the real world.

@timworstall

So you now agree that it is entirely liberal for the Government to regulate drug use? I was “illiberal” @34 for suggesting the same.

Where is your evidence for saying most who take drugs do not become addicted? The science for that is weak.

The difference between my position and yours concerns whether people using drugs do so from free will and are capable of informed and rational decision making. It’s not about being liberal or illiberal.

And besides what is the issue with current Government policy which tolerates use (and helps users quit), educates on harms, attempts to combat negative impacts on others and only targets dealers?

I take it also that your liberalism extends to not using the criminal justice system for punishment, only for protecting the community, with associated changes in sentencing (eg killing a nagging wife or a wealthy relative for inheritance should not result in jail unless the court believes you are likely to do it again).

“If not democracy who makes the decisions in society? Who’s our benevolent wise dictator we allow to do this in your world?’”

False dichotomy, because…

I ask again, who is your wise man who takes these decisions in your world given democratic “mob rule” appears to disagree with you?

…it is not their decision to make (as Shatterface, Tim, me and others have pointed out) unless the result of my intake is increased risk of harm to others in which case there should be evidence based policy (instead of policy based evidence) to mitigate that. We have lots of legal things that risk harm to ourselves and others as Nutt and commenters here have provided plenty of examples. And, as has been rightly pointed out, the correct approach is to punish the action of causing harm to others, not ban the thing that risks it.

I’m a bit bored with bringing up alcohol time and again as an example but it is apposite. The social costs in monetary terms are £20bn a year; there were nearly 9,000 alcohol related deaths in 2007; in nearly half (45%) of all violent incidents, victims believed offenders to be under the influence of alcohol; the death rate was 18.1 per 100,000 population; 37% of domestic violence cases involve alcohol; in nearly a million violent attacks in 2007-08, the aggressors were believed to be drunk. Why don’t we get excited about that? Where is the vociferous moral campaign against the evils of alcohol? Why don’t the Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Telegraph print angry columns demanding alcohol be classed as an illegal drug? (a rhetorical question but feel free to answer it!)

It is not right that we have an inconsistent, evidence-free, freedom-infringing and risk increasing drugs policy.

“So you now agree that it is entirely liberal for the Government to regulate drug use? I was “illiberal” @34 for suggesting the same.”

It is liberal to regulate the harm that people do to others. It is not liberal to regulate the harms that consenting adults do to themselves.

What’s so tough to understand about that?

sevillista – and what about the costs (direct and opportunity) of the “war on drugs” – the budget for which could I imagine easily cope with the costs with which you are concerned

@TimWorstall

And you are correct, provided you assume that people do not get addicted to drugs and are well-informed to make rational decisions about their drug use and possess “free will”.

If those assumptions break down, there is a clear liberal case to be made for intervention to discourage drug use beyond preventing harms to others and internalising costs to public services.

To borrow your condescending attitude, what’s so tough to understand about that? Do you have a problem with comprehension of the phrase “free will”?

To give an example, I have a friend who began heavily using cannabis at university – getting through an ounce a week. He lived his life permanently stoned. As a result of that, he did not do any work and often spent his days at home getting mashed. He dropped out of university. 8 years later, he finds himself in a dead-end temping job putting mobile phones in boxes in a warehouse for the minimum wage. He still lives with his parents. He bitterly regrets that his addiction (or his “free will” as you would put it) led to him screwing his life up in this way. Would you suggest that Government policy should encourage more people to do this?

Don’t get me wrong, moderate use of cannabis is fine with me, provided external harms are accounted for in regulation. No problem. The problem is when “free will” breaks down – Government intervention is essential in this case, and there is a liberal case to make for this.

(and – off-topic I know – I’m genuinely interested in whether a devotee of Mill such as yourself would go to the logical conclusion in the crime and justice system that some murderers should be let free with no jail time provided they were unlikely to re-offend hence my question above – surely an unjustified constraint on liberty to do otherwise?

“(and – off-topic I know – I’m genuinely interested in whether a devotee of Mill such as yourself would go to the logical conclusion in the crime and justice system that some murderers should be let free with no jail time provided they were unlikely to re-offend hence my question above – surely an unjustified constraint on liberty to do otherwise?”

*Shrug* We already do this. Call it manslaughter and put them on probation.

sevillista keeps saying that there are other factors than the direct harm caused to the drug taker to be taken into consideration, which is why we can happily ignore the ACMD if we think these other things outweigh the liberal principle. The problem with this is that the Nutt barchart takes these things into account (see the A&ECN @27). The ACMD isn’t purely a scientific committee – it include police officers and judges as well.

Good post, well done

To give an example, I have a friend who began heavily using cannabis at university – getting through an ounce a week. He lived his life permanently stoned. As a result of that, he did not do any work and often spent his days at home getting mashed. He dropped out of university. 8 years later, he finds himself in a dead-end temping job putting mobile phones in boxes in a warehouse for the minimum wage. He still lives with his parents. He bitterly regrets that his addiction (or his “free will” as you would put it) led to him screwing his life up in this way. Would you suggest that Government policy should encourage more people to do this?

No, he wrongly blames his use of cannabis, which is not addictive, for the fact that he freely chose to spend his late teens and early 20s wasted because it’s more fun than being sober. And he hasn’t screwed up his life at all – he could easily do a degree now as a mature student and enter the workforce in three years, still in his late 20s or early 30s, having merely taken a slightly longer gap than most kids…

@timworstall

“We already do this”.

No we don’t. We charge people who kill someone in a premeditated way with murder and jail them for long periods of time, even if there is a zero chance of this behaviour being repeated. We do this to punish people for murder.

A strict disciple of Mill would surely disagree with this. Punishment is by definition illiberal. Why should society’s distaste for murder be a grounds to deny someone’s liberty in this way?

@johnb

I disagree. Cannabis is addictive – and being permanently stoned and making decisions when permanently stoned is not “free will” in action.

“Why should society’s distaste for murder be a grounds to deny someone’s liberty in this way?”

Because they have denied someone else their liberty by killing them. In a way that someone smoking dope is not denying another their liberty.

Sevillista,

Would you suggest that Government policy should encourage more people to do this?

Just out of interest, why ask this question?

No-one here suggested the Government should encourage drug use.

@TimWorstall

But why is there a need to punish someone by denying them liberty? There are no harms from them being let go with no punishment (we are talking of situations where there is zero chance of a repeat offence). Other than harms to the feelings of relatives and friends of the person murdered and society’s moral outrage.

What is the reason, other than punishment for punishments sake?

Or is this where the logic breaks down and you suddenly decide that the moral needs of society trumps liberty?

@ukliberty

I think the proposition is government should legalise soft drugs, say definitively that they do no harm and stop discouraging the use of these drugs.

If this happened, what do you think will happen to use of these drugs – will it go up or will it go down?

Hence legalisation is encouragement.

Sevillista,

I think the proposition is government should legalise soft drugs, say definitively that they do no harm and stop discouraging the use of these drugs.

Who proposed that the government should say drugs “do no harm”? Who proposed that the government should stop “discouraging the use of these drugs”?

I see no comment in this thread that suggests such things. Nor did Nutt.

66. the a&e charge nurse

Clearly there are different schools of thought when it comes to how policy for recreational drug use should be framed – but such is NuLabs control freakery nowadays that they have become accustomed to riding rough-shod over alternative points of view.

It would serve Johno right if more scientists (whose time & expertise is usually offered gratis) were to disengage from their advisory role until the ex-post man acknowledges that such high handed tactics are totally out of order?

Maybe Johno & Co might even benefit from a few class Bs themselves – or perhaps they prefer to unwind with a large Scotch?

67. the a&e charge nurse

@sevillista “I disagree. Cannabis is addictive”

In that case you’re simply, factually wrong. It isn’t.

“and being permanently stoned and making decisions when permanently stoned is not “free will” in action”

That’s not your call to make. If X likes being permanently stoned, and makes decisions while permanently stoned, and is able to remain permanently stoned thanks to the generosity of others and whatever work he does manage (rather than turning to crime or needing benefits), then you’ve no right to say his choice is any less free than your choice to be a puritan on internet messageboards.

69. Shatterface

‘No-one here suggested the Government should encourage drug use.’

Oh, I don’t know. There are a few people here who could do with chilling out.

haha, did you see Johno’s interview – he should take a pill!

@johnb

Why would you smoke an ounce a week (rather than a couple of joints a week) if you were not addicted?

That is (or at least was) an £80/week habit – serious money to a student.

I’m not “making a call”. I’m questioning whether someone who lives their life permanently stoned – and makes all their decisions when their mind is altered in this way – can possibly have “free will” in their mind-altered state.

I guess it depends on your definition of “free will”. For me it concerns the ability to make a rational decision about what is in your best interests, which is unlikely to be possible while your mind is altered while high on cannabis.

I’m not being a puritan (maybe you missed the bit above when I have said I have no problem with people making a rational decision to use cannabis, provided there is zero harm – or compensation to those harmed – and they do so out of their own “free will”).

I have argued that there is an argument consistent with Mill that drug use should be regulated – both to minimise the harms drug use causes to others, and where there is limited “free will” (addiction, lack of mental capacity, lack of information, myopia or other factors that lead people to make decisions that are not in their best interests).

How is this a puritan view?

@shatterface

Have you found your alternative to representative democracy yet to save us from the “tyranny of the mob”?

No?

Does “chill out” mean “stop disagreeing with me”?

@sevillista “I disagree. Cannabis is addictive”

I think the giveaway is on the Talk to Frank website where they warn of the dangers of becoming addicted to the tobacco you might mix the cannabis with…….

@pagar (and relevant to @johnb)

You want to talk to Frank a bit more – it seems you weren’t listening properly.

http://www.talktofrank.com/drugs.aspx?id=172#chances

“As with other drugs, dependence on cannabis is influenced by a number of factors, including how long you’ve been using it, how much you use and whether you are just more prone to become dependent. You may find you have difficulty stopping regular use and you may experience psychological and physical withdrawals when you do stop. The withdrawals can include cravings for cannabis irritability, mood changes; appetite disturbance, weight loss, difficulty sleeping and even sweating, shaking and diarrhoea in some people”

“If you’ve only been using for a short while there should be no problem stopping but with continued regular use of cannabis, this can become more difficult. You’re also at risk of getting addicted to nicotine if you roll your spliffs with tobacco”

In other words, young people can spot the bullshit being fed to them by our Majesty’s expenses-gobbling ex-potheads

Even though individual scientists sometimes get it wrong, the process of science is the best mechanism humans have ever come up with for sorting true claims from false claims. Politics, on the other hand, is essentially purified essence of bullshit.

Therefore anyone who is sane and rational will give more credence to scientific evidence than to politicians.

Sevillista,

Who proposed that the government should say drugs “do no harm”?

Who proposed that the government should stop “discouraging the use of these drugs”?

@ukliberty

Isn’t the point of this whole debate that Mr Nutt was contending that cannabis and ecstasy do little harm, and so classifying them as class B makes little sense from a scientific point of view, and that drugs should be classified according to scientific evidence on harm and other concerns are irrelevant? Taken to its logical conclusion, why should the government teach (and pursue policies that assume) drugs do harm? It’s less harmful than riding a horse, apparently.

Most commentators on this thread contend that cannabis (and possibly ecstacy) do not harm those who take them (and that “free will” while under the influence of drugs and addicted to them is not affected). The argument that Tim W has been making is that drugs should be legalised with tax to internalise any external negative impacts and regulation to prevent children from purchasing drugs (works so well with alcohol and tobacco). He contends that Government should not get involved in paternalistic policies to discourage the consumption of drugs.

You seem reluctant to tell me what you think the impact of legalising drugs will be – do you think a) consumption will rise; or b) consumption will fall?

“You seem reluctant to tell me what you think the impact of legalising drugs will be – do you think a) consumption will rise; or b) consumption will fall?”

I don’t actually care. I think that liberty will rise which, being a liberal, is the thing which interests me.

Drug consumption will rise; burglary, robbery and gang violence will fall.

A good trade.

@timworstall

The point was aimed at ukliberty who seems to believe that legalising drugs is not encouraging their use.

That aside, I don’t think we are going to agree on this subject are we?

We agree that any drugs policy should operate to minimise harms to society.

We disagree about whether those who are heavy users of drugs have “free will” – you contend drug addicts have “free will” while under the influence; I contend they do not.

Both of our positions could be liberal, depending on your interpretation of free will. Can you see that?

You think a junkie chasing his next fix, living in squalor through spending all his money purchasing heroin, and engaging in risky behaviour like sharing needles is doing so out of free will and the government has no business sticking its beak in unless there are harms to others (children, crime, public services). I would argue that he is following his addiction and and cannot be considered to have “free will”.

The implications of the position on whether addicts possess free will in pursuing their addiction for what government policy should be are quite strong.

Besides, it is still irrelevant to the fact we live in a democracy, and that government needs to reflect the will of the people (hence its decision to take account of more factors than the science in determining drugs policy) – you criticise this government enough for straying too far from what people want (a free-market, socially conservative, europhobic Cameron-led government that rightly pins the blame for the recession on the employment of too many nurses and police officers) to acknowledge this point surely?

You think a junkie chasing his next fix, living in squalor through spending all his money purchasing heroin, and engaging in risky behaviour like sharing needles is doing so out of free will and the government has no business sticking its beak in unless there are harms to others (children, crime, public services). I would argue that he is following his addiction and and cannot be considered to have “free will”.

The things you list are not the inevitable result of taking drugs; they are, in part, the result of said drug being illegal.

Consumption might rise if cannabis was legalised. But no mainstream political party is talking about that, and Nutt didn’t suggest it either.

Does anyone seriously think that consumption would rise if it was re-classified as a Class C drug?

@89 jono

Heroin will cost money regardless of whether it is legal or not (unless you propose that it should be legalised and doled out free by the government). Resources used to purchase heroin will be at the expense of resources to do other things. Most heroin users are in poverty and living on benefits – with heroin use and engaging in paid work not going together.

Heroin is a powerfully addictive substance – the very short-term desire for a fix often outweighs the long-term benefit of not sharing needles.

These two things are not symptomatic of heroin being criminalised, but are innate features of addiction to heroin, particularly if you have not got a source of wealth to finance your addiction with.

@90 timf

But Tim W and others are – I’m responding to that.

The impact on consumption will depend on the response of police to declassification, the response of schools and other agencies in the advice given to children and adults about the use of drugs, and the impact of people in response to being told its “less risky than riding a horse”. I suspect it would increase (though I’m sure there is some evidence from when this illiberal government illiberally declassified cannabis a few years back to explore this point further)

“the impact of people in response to being told its “less risky than riding a horse””

If Prince Edward is to be believed, telling young people cannabis is less risky than riding a horse might lead to a spike in the number of young people riding horses, and a drop in the number of young people taking cannabis.

84. Shatterface

Riding a stoned horse is the shizzle.

Sevillista,

Isn’t the point of this whole debate that Mr Nutt was contending that cannabis and ecstasy do little harm,

I wonder, did you read what he wrote?

I quote from his lecture:

“Cannabis is a harmful drug and there are concerns about the widespread use of cannabis amongst young people.
“A concerted public health response is required to drastically reduce its use.”

It’s less harmful than riding a horse, apparently.

Jebus. The point about horse-riding is that we get very excited about people taking ecstasy but not about people who like horse-riding – which is odd because it is a comparably risky pastime.

(Likewise, where is the vociferous media-led campaign against the horrors and evils of alcohol?)

From Nutt’s lecture:

“there’s a peculiar imbalance in terms of reporting that is clearly inappropriate in relation to the relative harms of ecstasy compared with other drugs (Nutt et al. 2009). The reporting gives the impression that ecstasy is a much more dangerous drug than it is. This is one of the reasons I wrote the article about horse riding that caused such extreme media reactions earlier this year (Nutt, 2009).”

From his ‘equasy’ article:

“society does not adequately balance the relative risks of drugs against their harms”

“Making riding illegal would completely prevent all these harms (e.g. 10 deaths and more than 100 road traffic accidents a year) and would be, in practice, very easy to do. This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates – indeed encourages – certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others, such as drug use.”

You seem to be interpreting that as “why not take drugs, they aren’t as risky as horse-riding” but that isn’t what he means at all. He’s saying we should consider relative harms to inform the debate about what to do, how far we should go.

Suppose the risks of taking ecstasy and horse-riding are equivalent – I don’t know if they are, but suppose it for the sake of argument. Ecstasy is a Class A drug – possession of class A drugs risks up to seven years in prison. Why is that? If it is to prevent harm – which is the claim – why do activities that carry similar risks not come with similar penalties? I suspect it’s because certain sections of the public are morally panicked / outraged about ecstasy but not horse-riding.

You seem reluctant to tell me what you think the impact of legalising drugs will be – do you think a) consumption will rise; or b) consumption will fall?

I have no idea (although I hear good things from Holland and Portugal) and I don’t particularly care for the same reason as Tim @ 86. Again, what business is it of yours what I put in my body?

Cjcjc @87 makes a good point about crime too, and I recall some senior police officers (among others) who agree.

…drugs should be classified according to scientific evidence on harm and other concerns are irrelevant?

What other concerns are relevant? You seem reluctant to spell out these. Jacqui Smith and Alan Johnson appear to believe public opinion is relevant to what I put in my body. Forgive me but they and public opinion can eff off.

I would say the risks associated with prohibition are relevant to drug policy. That’s about it.

@ 58 But then if we did have accurate data people with partisan agendas would have to get off their high horses and live in the real world.

Honestly, not to be recommended.

Much too dangerous on various fronts…….

@sevillista

we’re talking about the classification of cannabis, not the legalisation of heroin. Please stay on the same subject and avoid confusing the issue by conflating two related, but dissimilar issues.

I’d also like to mention the inconsistency of current prosecution and sentencing guidelines around the country which makes a mockery of attempts to create coherence through a class-based policy-making format.

And why is there yet to be any serious discussion of the failure of government to reduce the criminal trade in illegal drugs? Their efforts to destory the market only has the effect of increasing profit margins for dealers and making it a more attractive business proposition to unscrupulous and violent exploiters of vulnerable people, while denying society the tools to minimise the negative effects of the trade.

We also need to ask why people want to take get high in the first place.

The state currently demonises and criminalises millions of ordinary people who have become disenchanted with the failure of successive governments to engage with them and provide the productive outlets for creative impulses – with job insecurity, housing problems and cultural activites devalued the government is driving the underclass into escapism through any means that can be found.

It seems to be tough on drugs, who cares about the causes of drugs?

Heroin can be produced incredibly cheaply, likewise cocaine and marijuana, so to can alcohol and cigarettes.

For example, Peruvians aren’t rich, yet they can afford coca which grows quite easily all over the world, and basé is easy to make if you have some petrol and something alkali to drive the cocaine out of solution. Basé is about 40% pure and you can smoke it if you want.

The refining into cocaine would probably as easy as making paracetamol. If you want crack then cook up the cocaine hydrochloride you mix it with an alkali like bicarbonate of soda and you’re away.

The stors not too dissimilar for Heroin.

Heroin and Cocaine are expensive because they’re illegal, Alcohol and Tobacco because they’re taxed.

I happen to think most of the dreadful things about drugs lead from their illegality. Their expense is certainly one of them.

The beauty of legalisation is that you know who your addicts are and you can control the price, and so demand, far more easily.

Alcohol and tobacco are expensive because they cause a lot of harm and these externalities can be taxed (and then taxed some more, but that’s another story). Heroin and Cocaine are expensive because criminal gangs can extract a rent from their production and distribution, rather than this money being used for something useful, like drug treatment or education, it is used to buy islands in the Bahamas. Great work moral majority.

Nutt was not arguing this, but I don’t like people saying drugs are expensive or inherently harmful in ways which they are not.

@94 ukliberty

It wasn’t just Nutt’s lecture. He hit the airwaves to criticise the Government’s policy making framework for taking account of more than the science and lobby for a change in policy.

You were asking me who said the government should not discourage drugs. My answer was “you did” – legalisation will encourage consumption.

Re why public opinion is relevant – we have a democratically elected system of government. I know putting ukliberty in charge and to hell with what society thinks is obviously preferable, but until you launch a coup government will have to respond to public opinion. I thought you libertarians were all in favour of policy by referenda?

@96 Thomas

Tim Ws argument is about all drugs, not just cannabis.

Pretty unbelievable, that actually educated people even thinking about down-grading these drugs. True, I have seen a man dying from alcohol, and I have seen a man completely losing his mind from day 1 because of cannabis, struggling with sleeping, being paranoid of conspiracy in almost all area of his life, became schizophrenic, losing his family, his friends, and interest in everything, and slowly but surely his mind.
And then I’ve seen this happing to many people in the same way. Too many people. Sad enough, they all claimed that weed is less harmful than alcohol or cigarette. They all believed it…they still do…
I have experienced the effect of ecstasy, being less harmful than cigarette? Haha. Bad joke, really. Those who ever tried should know the truth from their own experience. And so was the experience bad? O, hell no. It was good, as nothing else in the world. You would never even think about substitute to alcohol…no way. Cigarette? Cigarette comes with ecstasy, whether you smoke or not otherwise. That’s just how it is, that’s just how free you feel like. Have you tried driving on ex? Have you ever can possible drive on or under speed limit? 🙂 Joke, hah? You would drive as fast as your car goes. Who doesn’t know this?
What would be Mr. Nutt’s advice for parents who would loose their children? Or what would be the advice for children who lose their parents?
But besides of all, one of the ecstasy’s effects that it increases sexual drive. If you ever been in a club with many users, have you not noticed that, they all making out? Is part of being free, part of being loved and loving others/everyone.
Ecstasy is really good, who could say the opposite? This is why you want it again. And again. Addiction! Depression, feeling low, losing interest during the week, and the only and very meaning of your life is being high. Heart-attack?
Wonderful story, let’s try everyone Mr. Nutt. Have one for yourself, one for your children aged 18 or more, and one for your elderly mother.

@98 or the use of drugs which are currently illegal would displace currently legal ones. People drink less on saturday and take more e. Less fights, less sick, less death.

They have a joint on a monday at the pub quiz, they lose, but its a different danger entirely, and not necessarily greater.

Total drug use may not increase. And even if it did, if safer drug use replaced more dangerous ones surely you would be in favour of this, as the net effect would be neutral?

Sevillista, as far as I can see Nutt has not claimed that cannabis and Ecstasy do little harm. You have not supplied any evidence that he has – on the other hand I have quoted from two of his articles where he makes clear that they are harmful and, at least in the case of cannabis, that public consumption should be reduced.

You were asking me who said the government should not discourage drugs. My answer was “you did” – legalisation will encourage consumption.

Again, that does not appear to be the experience of Holland and Portugal. But to me it is irrelevant because I think people should be allowed to do what they want to themselves. Indeed society appears to think so about many activities. It is just some activities That Must Be Stopped.

I don’t have a problem with the government punishing harm to others (who would?) nor facilitating the provision of treatment for addiction and health problems.

Re why public opinion is relevant – we have a democratically elected system of government. I know putting ukliberty in charge and to hell with what society thinks is obviously preferable, but until you launch a coup government will have to respond to public opinion.

Perhaps I did not make my point clear. I should have said, “why does the public have a right to say what I may not do so long as I do not harm anyone else?” What is the basis for it? Why does the public assume it?

I do not believe I have any right to interfere with others unless they do (non-consensual) harm to others.

If the argument is that it is to prevent harm to myself, firstly what right does society have to do that? Secondly, if a particular activity carries a risk and it is for that reason that society says I may not act in that way, why do we not ban other activities that carry similar risks or worse?

If the argument is about the economic and social costs, why do we not ban activities that cost us similar amounts or more?

You have yet to substantively address these points.

I thought you libertarians were all in favour of policy by referenda?

In the last few posts you have suggested things about people that aren’t true and going off-topic to boot. I don’t recall claiming to be libertarian. I recall expressing only qualified support for referenda in particular, limited circumstances (e.g. manifesto commitments on a certain Treaty), otherwise supporting representative democracy (as the least bad system of government). I believe I made it clear early in the thread what I thought of public opinion in the context of this discussion.

Earlier you seemed capable of engaging in reasonable discussion and I was grateful this thread hadn’t been subjected to ad hominems and baseless assertions. Why are you now arguing with things that I haven’t said?

I don’t expect or require an answer to that but I’d be grateful if the previously reasonable service can be resumed.

@ukliberty

The headline he has been taking around is cannabis is not really harmful and less harmful than a quiet pint. But that’s unimportant – if that’s how he reads his evidence that’s fine. But he obviously could not abide working under a framework in which his scientific evidence is one of many factors affecting drug policy.

” But to me it is irrelevant because I think people should be allowed to do what they want to themselves”

Addicts have free will right? That’s your assumption.

“In the last few posts you have suggested things about people that aren’t true and going off-topic to boot”

I’ve been taking on points from several posters on several points – the Nutt issue and a more general discussion about whether there is a liberal case to regulate drug use.

I shall remember to ask Mr Liberty’s permission before I post something to check he does not consider it off-topic. I have strayed from drugs once to try and clarify whether there are circumstances in which Tim W might depart from a strict interpretation of liberty and the unacceptability of society intervening on a moral basis.

I apologise for calling you a libertarian. If that is what has upset you. I meant to say “many libertarians” rather than use the second person. I think that’s the only time I’ve strayed from the arguments.

102. You’re misrepresenting. He has under no circumstances claimed cannabis use is less dangerous than a “quiet pint”. Thankfully Nutt is looking at things under the many complexities, and not trying to whittle it down to overly simplistic irrelevancies like you in order to make your own (factually incorrect) point.

On a similar point I have to say that the attitude you have is so similar to those like the anti-cannabis mother that is all over the news with this claiming that Nutt is sending out the wrong message (she on the other hand is completely on message for Labour). It’s also terrible, because it is effectively saying that you should always tell your kids to not do anything, never to take risks, never to live. Of course unless it’s to go sky diving, or perhaps climb a mountain…or hell, learn to drive a car.

The message you seem keen to promote is that a kid dying from ecstasy going wrong, or even a kid just “screwing up their life” (what does that even mean anyway, who determines what is screwed up or not?) over cannabis is worse than the kid that dies because they were inexperienced behind the wheel, or gets swiped off their motorbike/scooter they think they’re cool for owning.

Life is a risk, why exactly you believe we should be free to make some choices about what we do and not others is astounding.

Sevillista, I don’t know why you are being sarcastic. And I’m not upset – I’m just not interested in attempting to engage with people who shift goalposts and inappropriately attribute things to people (the latest, that I assume “addicts have free will”) while not appearing to substantively address what I think are reasonable points. You are free to do it and I don’t require you to ask permission – god forbid – but likewise I am free to think it’s too much like hard work and have second thoughts about participating.

Good night, and keep taking them pills.

There’s no shifting – follow my discussion with Tim W and my liberal case for paternalism in drugs policy.

I am not attributing things to you, merely stating that to take the position that the government has no business getting involved in drugs policy beyond the extent needed to minimise harms to others is to assume that drug addicts have free will.

Maybe I’m wrong and they do. But it is an assumption that you must make to make the statement that government has no business in paternalistic interventions.

Why do you claim I am not responding to your points. Maybe I should spell it out?
Question: “If the argument is that it is to prevent harm to myself, firstly what right does society have to do that? Secondly, if a particular activity carries a risk and it is for that reason that society says I may not act in that way, why do we not ban other activities that carry similar risks or worse? If the argument is about the economic and social costs, why do we not ban activities that cost us similar amounts or more?”

Answer: On your first point, within Mill’s conception of liberty, free will is assumed. When free will breaks down – children, those with learning difficulty, those with mental illness and- I would argue – drug addicts, the Government has a role. The government also has a role in informing you to help you take the best decisions. On your second point, what did you have in mind? I’m assuming alcohol (after reading your blog – I really hope I don’t offend you by assuming things). The simple answer is that alcohol use had been an established part of our culture for millenia.

97. douglas clark

Sevillista,

Our democracy is supposed to be informed. otherwise we’d still be weighing witches against a bible or summat.

Our democracy is not majoritarianism, except at it’s worst. There is a huge sea anchor of conservative clap trap, which, in case you hadn’t noticed, Labour subscribes to too.

I recall standing in a line for an asprin at Piccadilly Circus just before midnight. at the only 24 hour chemist in the neighbourhood. I joined the end of the line, and after a few exchanges with the folk there, they all told me to walk to the front.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was served.

The rest of that queue was waiting on herion.

It seemed a fairly quiet and contrite group of people, not the murderers and thieves we have now.

What can have gone wrong?

Perhaps it is government drugs policy?

Which, correct me if I am wrong, was changed under the regieme of Thatcher? Would that be right?

I think it, largely was.

We live, still, under her ignorant and stupid approach to drug addiction. It is seen as a matter for the criminal justice system and not for a medical solution.

Your ideas have ultimately failed.

Try a reboot….

Very few are saying that governments shouldn’t hold our hands, that they shouldn’t intervene where necessary. It is clear as day that most people that want the legalisation of cannabis don’t wish for it to be done so without regulation, the whole argument of regulation in its effects of reducing the unknown risks of drug use is simultaneous with a legalisation argument.

Again, you bring things down to far too simplistic a level.

99. douglas clark

Lee Griffin,

I really hope that you @ 107 wasn’t directed at me @ 106. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t.

But this is frankly beyond understanding.

It is clear as day that most people that want the legalisation of cannabis don’t wish for it to be done so without regulation, the whole argument of regulation in its effects of reducing the unknown risks of drug use is simultaneous with a legalisation argument.

Y’what?

The folk that would legalise cannabis want legislation to control it? As far as it goes, perhaps selling it through pharmacies. Where legal herion would also be available.

Eh!

It was aimed at 106, I edited the comment and it deleted my first part 🙁

And yes, *sensible* people that want legalisation don’t wish to see the current drugs market simply legalised and left to it with taxes added. The biggest problem with drugs aside from addiction is quality and safety, wouldn’t you agree?

That’s to say I’m sure stoners want no strings attached do what the hell you like kind of legalisation the same way that people who enjoy a night on the town want beer to be taxed less. It’s hardly a considered and objective viewpoint.

Sevillista, thank you for re-engaging and clarifying your position, and thank you for reading my blog.

Question: “If the argument is that it is to prevent harm to myself, firstly what right does society have to do that? Secondly, if a particular activity carries a risk and it is for that reason that society says I may not act in that way, why do we not ban other activities that carry similar risks or worse? If the argument is about the economic and social costs, why do we not ban activities that cost us similar amounts or more?”

Answer: On your first point, within Mill’s conception of liberty, free will is assumed. When free will breaks down – children, those with learning difficulty, those with mental illness and- I would argue – drug addicts, the Government has a role. The government also has a role in informing you to help you take the best decisions.

The Mill quote earlier in the thread did not include two sentences that seem relevant to this discussion:

“He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. ”

So it seems to me there is no problem from Mill in relation to education about risks of using such substances – or riding horses or any other risky activity.

Mill supplied a qualification in relation to mental faculties and I’m inclined to agree with it:

“It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. … Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury.”

(William Humboldt said something similar about children and “idiots”…)

I believe I made clear that I don’t disagree with the government’s facilitation of education and treatment programmes. I agree to that extent about the role that the government has in “informing you to help you take the best decisions” and helping addicts.

I do not however agree that this role extends to making it an imprisonable offence to possess particular substances. I do not believe the possible sentence for possession of a Class A substance (up to seven years) informs me to help me take the best decision about using that Class A substance.

Ultimately it should be my decision whether or not to risk the harms associated with the use of drugs (whatever they may be) – I am not a child, or an idiot (you may disagree) or an addict.

Although I do like a pint on a Friday after work.

On your second point, what did you have in mind? I’m assuming alcohol (after reading your blog – I really hope I don’t offend you by assuming things). The simple answer is that alcohol use had been an established part of our culture for millenia.

You are correct that I had the consumption of alcohol in mind (among other substances and activities).

The post to which I believe you refer supplies some figures relating to the (mis)use of alcohol in the UK that come from National Statistics and the Home Office . The intention is to show that we are inconsistent about what activities should be banned and why. As you rightly say, alcohol use is an established part of our culture.

Indeed it is established and legal despite the (shocking, to me anyway) risks and costs associated with it.

Now, assuming ‘society’ is aware of the risks and costs associated with alcohol, that it is an established part of our culture appears to outweigh those risks and costs.

Well I find it interesting, anyway.

And now I must get some sleep. Good night.

(Likewise, where is the vociferous media-led campaign against the horrors and evils of alcohol?)

Err, see: the tabloids every day (BOOZE BRITAIN!!!), the perpetual gibbering nonsense about 21-units-a-week, etc…

(Likewise, where is the vociferous media-led campaign against the horrors and evils of alcohol?)

Err, see: the tabloids every day (BOOZE BRITAIN!!!), the perpetual gibbering nonsense about 21-units-a-week, etc…

Fair point, but have the tabloids called for it to be made illegal?

“Answer: On your first point, within Mill’s conception of liberty, free will is assumed. When free will breaks down – children, those with learning difficulty, those with mental illness and- I would argue – drug addicts, the Government has a role. The government also has a role in informing you to help you take the best decisions.”

Very well, let us assume that addicts do not have free will.

Those who are not addicts, those using drugs for a bit of fun now and again (and yes, this really does include many who take heroin for example) do have free will and under your definition of Millian paternalism should not be stopped by the law from having their fun.

Those who are addicted: well, they don’t have free will, as we are, arguendo, agreeing with your assumption. So, should they be punished? No, breach of the law requires intent: these people are ill, not criminals. We should treat them, not punish them.

Thus that queue at the late night chemists described above in what used to be our method of dealing with heroin addiction. Here, have it on prescription. It’s clean needles, clean water, pharmaceutically pure shit too. Last time I looked up the costs in the NHS formulary it was about £20 a day to keep someone mainlining (at least three decent shots a day which is a hell of a lot). That’s vastly less cost to society as a whole than the (did anyone else see those recent numbers and can correct me here?) what is it, 50 crimes a week addicts commit to feed themselves on the black market?

BTW, no, it wasn’t Thatcher who changed that system, a decade earlier I think (when she was Education Secretary and thus not in charge of drug policy). Early 70s, not early 80s I think.

But the basic problem with your free will argument remains. Those who are addicted, if they do not have free will, are not criminals and so should not be punished. Those who are not addicted (the vast majority of drug users: and we can go a lot further too, heroin is not really physically addictive, is psychologically so. It feels great to be blitzed on it, not that the body craves it. A&E nurse above is correct, cold turkey is a case of flu, little more.) do have free will and therefore should not be barred from their pleasures by the law.

Thus Mill would be arguing for legalisation.

Correct decision, good riddance!
This is the age of the “expert” no matter how arrogant or out of touch with reality they are.
UK Governments have never supported science and engineering but this doesnt mean they made a wrong call in this. The media pick up on these reports and create a fuss where none should exist. I’m an astrophysicist and sorely remember Prof Liam Donaldson (“Trust me I’m a really clever Expert Medical Advisor”) advising people not to watch the total solar eclipse in Cornwall in 1999 but see the reruns on TV !!” Hundred of thousands of people watch eclipses every day without harm but government “Experts” feels it incumbent to express their opinion. Advisor advise, but politicians ( and I suggest members of the public) should make the decisions. Experts frequently get it wrong. Just look at the history of science.

Just want to make a simple point:

Prohibition = Al Capone

If drug addicts don’t have free will, then pretty much nobody does. Which I’m fine with, as I’m not entirely clear as to what the term is really supposed to mean… We are all subject to all sorts of drives and compulsions which we have little or no conscious control over. When I see those who would argue that drug addicts have no free will (and therefore must be protected from themselves) applying the same logic to people who are in love, I’ll maybe start paying attention.

109. sevillista

@112 douglas clark

“Our democracy is not majoritarianism, except at it’s worst. There is a huge sea anchor of conservative clap trap”

We have a representative democracy in which decision-makers weigh up the scientific evidence, the impact on liberty, public opinion and many other factors.

The government makes many calls based on what it thinks are right where this diverges from popular opinion (civil partnerships, the initial decision to declassify cannabis, the decision to tell the police not to pursue cannabis users, not bring back the death penalty, not ban migration, enforce human rights, ban smoking in public places – maybe a red rag to liberals by raising that one etc).

However, politicians need to have some concern with what the public think. The current government are short on political capital and very likely to loose the next election. They haven’t quite lost hope – hence the desire to patch-up their perception that the declassification of cannabis was losing them votes and making them appear as soft on crime.

Hence my belief that the Home Secretary had no alternative but to sack Nutt as it was clear Nutt found it impossible to work within a framework where public opinion could trump science in some circumstances, or the Government could take a different and more risk-averse viewpoint to him of the “precautionary principle” of drug regulation in the face of a partly uncertain, incomplete and contested evidence base. It was to make this pragmatic point I first started contributing to this thread.

The alternative to drugs policy (or any policy) being decided by democratically-elected politicians is a quango that puts bureaucrats in charge of determining drugs policy based solely on harms with no role for public opinion. Maybe that’s the optimal solution – but politicians will have a hard job getting elected with that message.

@ukliberty

Thanks for the reply – sorry we came to some disagreement. I don’t mean to come across as aggressive.

The Mill quote you post is interesting:

“It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. … Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury.”

This is what I have been meaning by “free will” (though I know Mill is probably referring to children here). Are those who are acting out of addiction to drugs “in the maturity of their faculties” and should they “be protected against their own actions”.

You say that information, education and voluntary support is enough – but what about drug addicts who don’t want to get help? Do we assume they are “in the maturity of their faculties” and leave them to their own devices?

I am also unsure about what information legalisation would send out. Surely it is that “cannabis isn’t that bad kids” and may encourage use. I know I certainly would have smoked more cannabis when I was younger if there was a regular supply I could purchase from a shop, it was legal and so not that harmful, and good quality stuff from a reputable supply not crap that had been cut with all sorts of rubbish via several dodgy dealers. I’m not sure the Netherlands and Portugal (examples you used earlier) are good comparators to the Brits in their attitudes towards drugs and so what would happen should they become legalised.

“I do not however agree that this role extends to making it an imprisonable offence to possess particular substances. I do not believe the possible sentence for possession of a Class A substance (up to seven years) informs me to help me take the best decision about using that Class A substance.”

People do not get imprisoned for possession of Class A or Class B substances if they are for personal use. People do not get any hassle at all for it provided they are discreet.

I think drugs being illegal serve a useful signalling purpose. I don’t have a problem (neither do the police or the government) with your occassional use of drugs in moderation. I’m sure you make an informed choice about it. The government does and should worry about those who are not in the same position as you in being able to make a good choice (e.g. children). I guess you would argue the same affect would be possible through e.g. age-restrictions and price of regulated drugs, but age restrictions do not work effectively (see alcohol) and the shadow economy will respond to price (see tobacco) – so I think consumption among these vulnerable groups would rise on liberalisation.

I’m not particularly attached to drugs needing to be illegal if there is a way to prevent the affects I fear will happen on liberalisation. More I believe that there is a clear rationale for government to be involved in a paternalistic way (not just to fight harms to others, but to intervene in some people’s personal choices) and that to do this is not illiberal. I hope you can see where I’m coming from. I certainly am not in agreement with the writings in the Mail this week on this, and not with Ken @121.

@TimW – this is a response to your points too (though obviously not as structured as it is a response to ukliberty)

there is a clear rationale for government to be involved in a paternalistic way (not just to fight harms to others, but to intervene in some people’s personal choices) and that to do this is not illiberal.

Sorry Sev.

The state intervening in the personal choices of its citizens (where those choices cause no harm to others) is an excellent definition of the term “illiberal”.

111. Sevillista

@pagar

At risk of repeating myself, Mill himself stated that “this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. … Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions”.

My view is that those addicted to drugs and children are not “in the maturity of their faculties” and “must be protected”.

Whether paternalistic intervention in this area is consistent with Millian liberalism hinges on this assumption.

You are completely correct if you believe drug addicts are “in the maturity of their faculties”. I’m happy to concede that. But only on the basis of that assumption.

If, however, my assumption is correct, the argument for means legalised drugs (but regulated and taxed to take account of external harms with extensive drug education, which, at the risk of putting words in their mouths again, is the world I think Tim W and ukliberty are talking about) requires a trade-off between paternalistic concern for vulnerable addicts who are not “in the maturity of their faculties” and the impact of legalisation on them (which I am assuming will increase their consumption) and the needs for easing the supply of quality cannabis of non-addicts who like to unwind with a spliff after a hard days work. A political decision trading off the welfare of two different groups. Even if you disagree with the premise, can you follow the argument?

I believe that there is a clear rationale for government to be involved in a paternalistic way

Sevillista @124, thanks.

I agree that a government in a representative democracy must consider public opinion if it wants to remain in government. But that is a practical matter for that government, not a valid objection to science and liberalism. Call me an idealist but I do wish that our elected representatives were a bit more supportive of the science and less cowardly in the face of tabloid faux outrage. Evidence-based policy – not policy-based evidence – is something each of our representatives should be proud to support. And not interfering with us as per Mill.

That is not to say each and every decision must be taken according to scientific advice. I’m sure there are decisions which are purely political in nature. But where you have a classification system that ostensibly ranks substances by harm but where sufficient outrage can trump it… well, I think the government ought to make clear on the label what weights it applies to science and outrage.

I agree that Nutt appears to find it impossible to work within that framework – so would I. I took exception to the way I understood you to be characterising his behaviour (my apologies if I misunderstood). My reading of his lecture and other articles, and his appearance in video clips etc, led me to believe he was honest and reasonable (despite being illiberal) and that he did not deliberately ridicule the government but constructively criticised how we all think about this and how drug policy is developed.

More I believe that there is a clear rationale for government to be involved in a paternalistic way (not just to fight harms to others, but to intervene in some people’s personal choices) and that to do this is not illiberal. I hope you can see where I’m coming from.

I honestly can’t see where you’re coming from there – it seems to me profoundly illiberal to interfere with people’s personal choices (where they cause no harm to others). You may have decided that it is better to be paternalist than opt for non-interference in such contexts but that is not liberal.

No wonder the public are confused about drug policy if possession, despite being a crime, isn’t punished (btw Talk to Frank disagrees with you, which makes it even more confusing, but I’m inclined to believe you). And if they aren’t punished for this crime, why on earth is it on the statute book? I disagree with legislation being used to send a signal. Legislation should only be used to say what we may not do and we shouldn’t faff about like that. I’m happy for websites and pamphlets to be used to send a signal.

Talk to Frank provides lots of information but there are no statistics about risk. I’m sure natural frequencies would be a helpful addition. For example, for each drug:
X in 1000 users of alcohol die each year from an alcohol related cause
X in 1000 moderate to heavy users of alcohol will develop cirrhosis of the liver (link to how horrible that is, etc)
X in 1000 users of Ecstasy will develop memory problems /aggression/mood/depression problems etc

and so on.

I’d find that pretty shocking, I think. I don’t find this shocking: “There’ve been over 200 ecstasy-related deaths in the UK since 1996.”

That’s nothing! (Not meaning to play down the tragedy there, but statistically speaking.)

It is quite difficult to find out hard data on this.

I’m still considering your question about addicts but I’m glad you’ve agreed to stop interfering with me!

But drugs being illegal doesn’t make them that much harder to get.

I could definitely buy ecstasy or pot or ketamine by this time tomorrow, if I really wanted. It would be awkward but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take me too long to get some heroin. Making drugs illegal isn’t the best way to protect addicts, surely you can understand that argument too?

Once their addicted, and not “in the maturity of their faculties,” a drug being illegal merely turns them into a criminal. I’d rather prescribe them the drug and offer them counselling and so on until they were ready to stop.

It would suck, and some people would die while we waited, but its a trade off between addicts who want to get clean and those who don’t. It’s a political decision trading off the welfare of two different groups. Moreover, it doesn’t criminalise either of them.

@leftoutside

I understand the argument, yes.

The impacts of legalisation on the consumption of drugs, particularly of vulnerable groups, is an empirical question. I’m sure someone with the inclination could look at.

My instinct is to believe it would increase consumption among these groups, and therefore legalisation is trading off the welfare of different groups (and not just the “moral majority” who are irrelevant to libertarians). Your instinct is to believe it would have little impact.

A useful piece of research for civil servants at the Home Office to establish which instinct is right or an independent review panel?

I also (maybe not relevant to a liberty, and so this, argument) I believe that consumption is likely to increase more among the working classes and in particular those who lack parental and other support and discipline to resist peer pressure that is strong even when getting poor quality drugs is difficult, become addicted and less likely to fulfil their potential. Though you could contest this is a price well worth paying for liberty I guess.

And , leftoutside, to make clear, I worry not just about existing addicts but new addicts I think legalisation would create.

But again, maybe the virtues of liberty trump this concern.

It’s still a decision weighing up the interests of different groups valid for politiabs to make (depending on the exact impact legalisation has on consumption)

It is a bit of a false debate to say drug law depends on assumpions of whether or not addicts are “in the maturity of their faculties”. Some are, some are not – there will never be a clearcut answer.

Drug dependency does not necessarily harm those around the addict, as this depends on the material ability of the individual.

A far more pressing area for state intervention is in the business of drug production and distribution.

Think of the conditions dealers have to work in, under threat of drive-by shootings, reprisals and gang warfare! Then trace the supply line back and look at the smugglers who risk death by swallowing condoms filled with heroin, or the unseaworthy ships which are overloaded and deliberately put to sea in dangerous weather because this makes them more difficult to stop. Look at how criminal drug money feels unconstrained by the law and finances huge levels of violence around the world to protect its’ interests.

All this suffering is directly attributable to the statutes enacted because of a misguided sense of morality and a coldly cynical calculation of the percieved electoral benefits.

All the evidence indicates addiction levels fall under demystification.

I think the government needs to kick the habit of legislating to give the pretence of action as @130 accurately describes the situation now facing the country while the law is an ass.

@sevillista, you’re repeatedly conflating drug users with drug addicts. Accepted, in the case of crack cocaine or nicotine, there probably isn’t a significant difference between the two groups – but in the case of alcohol or MDMA, the number of users outstrips the number of addicts by around two orders of magnitude.

Even accepting that drug addicts don’t count as “in the maturity of faculties” in a Millian sense, it’s profoundly illiberal to deny freedom to 99 individuals as a heavy-handed way of protecting 1 individual (even if criminalisation worked as a way of protecting addicts, which it doesn’t). Rather, legalise the drug and provide better treatment for addicts…

118. Sevillista

@Thomas @johnb

Legalising drugs has pros and cons yes.

It is good for some (responsible non-addicted drug users).

It is bad for others (addicts, children who may become addicts).

As I say, the empirical evidence on the impact of legalisation on consumption of different groups and the number of addicts is unclear.

But it’s clearly a political decision trading off the interests of different groups. My argument is not illiberal and based on some “morality” argument. Is it illiberal to argue the benefits to non-addicts of legalisation do not outweigh the harms to children and addicts (who Mill clearly thought needed protection)?

And I am not conflating addicts and users. I am differentiating between those “in maturity of their faculties” (non-addicted adult drug users) and those who are not (children and addicts).

@sevillista

I agree absolutely that the question of drug control is a purely political calculation trading off the self-affirming concerns of middle-class voters in marginal constituencies against the interests of the disenfranchised and apathetic underclasses and people living in foreign countries.

With government playing to the very narrow perceptions of as few as 100,000 swing voters against the very real impact our laws have on millions of people in this country alone that trade-off is clearly imbalanced and one any caring humanitarian should resist making a judgement on the distorted terms you propose.

Whose side are you on?

One direct example of how the law plays out is the War in Afghanistan.

There would be no war if poppy cultivation was normalised and put to productive purposes (there’s a global shortage of medicinal morphine products we are ignoring here), which would have the result of giving farmers reliable income levels by eliminating the conflict over the control of production. This would also neutralise the taleban forces by cutting off the vast proportion of their income streams and remove the financial motivation for violent conflict.

Our boys are dying to protect the suffering caused by an criminalised industry because a minute section of surburbanites have got their heads stuck up their backsides.

The war on terror and the war on drugs are wars against our own stupidity and ignorance. They will only be won when we wise up.

@Thomas

“trading off the self-affirming concerns of middle-class voters in marginal constituencies against the interests of the disenfranchised and apathetic underclasses and people living in foreign countries.”

What on earth does concern for the interests of children and others such as addicts that Mill- at least on my interpretation of “maturity of faculties”- needs protection have to do with “self-affirming values of the middle-classes”? My argument is not rooted in morality and tut-tutting disapproval of drug users as you are portraying it.

“at least on my interpretation of “maturity of faculties””

The part you’re still not addressing is that illegality dpoes not protect, rather it harms, those addicts who you say do not have the maturity of their faculties.

Now, if prohibition meant that no drugs were available your point would at least be arguable. But as we can see, in the absence of a complete and totalitarian police state (of the sort that Mill would never have approved of of course) prohibition does not mean the absence of available drugs. It just means that those drugs which are available are shitty, grossly expensive and grossly adulterated. Leading to more damage being done to those addicted than a free market would.

@tim w

You may be right about that, you may be wrong. It’s an empirical question which I don’t think there is sufficient information to answer.

I believe legalisation will lead to increased consumption and more children – particularly from deprived backgrounds – becoming addicted or making poor choices to eg. spend their whole lives stoned and not fulfil their potential.

You would argue – I’m sure – that this is a misplaced fear and legalisation wiil have little impact on harmful consumption of these groups and that the benefits of legalisation outweighs this in any case.

But I hope you can see my argument. My view is changeable depending on the evidence on the impact of legalisation of certain groups and not illiberal

“It’s an empirical question which I don’t think there is sufficient information to answer”

An attempt was made by Gary Becker some decades ago. Legalisation will lead to lower consumption. He may be right, he may be wrong, but up to you now to find empirical studies which argue the opposite.

@tim w

“He may be right, he may be wrong, but up to you now to find empirical studies which argue the opposite.”

Sorry Tim – I’m not sure a study by a US economist in the 70s for the case for legalisation in the US in the 1970s cuts it as a case for legalisation in the UK in 2009 (without even going into the assumptions he has made). And some groups of course lose, and it’s unclear that the trade-offs Mr Becker makes are the appropriate trade-offs for UK society in 2009.

But I’m glad we’ve advanced from the simplistic “government has no right to intervene” argument we were having earlier in the thread to one that acknowledges that the impact of legalisation on vulnerable groups who cannot make good choices and should be protected and political trade-offs between the interests of different groups are valid concerns even within a Millian framework even if you still strongly disagree with my view.

I don’t think the literature review on the impacts of legalisation and the research on likely UK impacts are fair things to ask of me on this thread though. Sorry.

I believe legalisation will lead to increased consumption and more children – particularly from deprived backgrounds – becoming addicted or making poor choices to eg. spend their whole lives stoned and not fulfil their potential.

I understand what you are saying but, ultimately, sentences like the above show conclusively that you just don’t get the concept of liberty.

In your view, someone who makes the (in your view) “poor” choice to spend their lives stoned needs to be protected from their own perceived weakness (by criminalising their behaviour). I might agree with you that they are making a poor choice but the difference bteween us is that I would absolutely uphold their right to make it. We have not, in fact, advanced from the simple argument that the government has no right to intervene.

You argue that an addict is not free to make his own choices by the fact of his addiction and that is your justification for criminalising drug use. So let’s look at the addict.

Prohibition pushes the addict into poverty- into the hands of criminal dealers, adulterated substances, dangerous behaviour and probably criminal activity to pay for his habit. The consequences of prohibition punish the addict for his addiction and that punishment is likely to reinforce and exacerbate a negative self worth. Prohibition also provides a powerful motivator for the drug dealer to recruit more people to become addicts.

Legalisation would allow the addict to live a more normal life free from the pressures of obtaining his drug on the black market and he could be given help to break the addiction if that was what he wanted to do. However there would usually be no reason why the addict would not be able to lead lead a fulfilled and productive life if his drug were legalised.

I believe Barrak Obama is a smoker.

126. sevillista

@pagar

“sentences like the above show conclusively that you just don’t get the concept of liberty”

I don’t see what I don’t get. Mill noted the importance to protect those who are “not in the maturity of their faculties” from the consequences of poor decisions they are likely to make. I know it is likely mine and your definition of “maturity of their faculties” varies, but it doesn’t mean “I don’t get it”.

“You argue that an addict is not free to make his own choices by the fact of his addiction and that is your justification for criminalising drug use”

No. My justification has a further logical step. If legalisation won’t impact on children/addicts consumption or create new addicts I would have no problem with it, and my view may change depending on the extent of likely harms arising from legalisation.

1. Addicts and children are not free to make their own choices – I believe they are not in “the maturity of their faculties”

2. In my view (and given the lack of decent evidence on this – as an economist I think this follows logically from decreasing the effective price of drugs and making availability easier, but it is an assumption I am making) legalisation will increase consumption of illegal drugs and make it easier and less costly for addicts to make poor decisions and result in more children becoming addicts and messing their lives up through their lack of understanding of the impacts their decisions have.

3. In my view, the benefits of legalisation to non-addicts in “the maturity of their faculties” making informed choices are out-weighed by these costs to children and addicts. Therefore I think legalisation is not a good idea.

“Legalisation would allow the addict to live a more normal life free from the pressures of obtaining his drug on the black market and he could be given help to break the addiction if that was what he wanted to do. ”

And create new addicts. Particularly among children from more chaotic backgrounds whose parents do not have the inclination/ability to support them or discipline them, and educate them on the dangers of over-indulging these newly legalised drugs.

“However there would usually be no reason why the addict would not be able to lead lead a fulfilled and productive life if his drug were legalised.”

Not sure I agree – depends on the drug (e.g. spending your whole life stoned would – in most fields – prevent this; spending your whole life on a high from heroin would make this impossible in all fields).

Sevillista,

But I’m glad we’ve advanced from the simplistic “government has no right to intervene” argument we were having earlier in the thread to one that acknowledges that the impact of legalisation on vulnerable groups who cannot make good choices and should be protected and political trade-offs between the interests of different groups are valid concerns even within a Millian framework even if you still strongly disagree with my view.

Hang on, “valid concerns” to who? I don’t want my liberty traded between different groups.

I suggested the issue of legalisation is a practical concern for parties that want to form the next government. But that shouldn’t trump my freedom to do as I please (so long as I harm no-one else) – nor evidence-based policy.

And I don’t recall anyone saying the “government has no right to intervene”. What was actually asserted was that “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.”

It is simple, but not simplistic.

With regard to addicts, I’m half inclined to let them be interfered with for the purposes of treatment. But you are talking about interfering with people before they become addicts.

And yes of course children should be protected. But firstly prohibition interferes with the freedom of the rest of the population. Secondly prohibition does not mean the prohibited activity is made unavailable. Thirdly the prohibition may increase risk and social harms as described in multiple comments (i.e. crime, serious organised crime, terrorism etc). Fourthly the prohibited activity may be just as risky as other activities but ‘we’ approve of the latter so they are OK, even though this position logically and morally inconsistent.

Lastly I don’t believe anyone is simply suggesting that all drugs should be made legal and we wash our hands of it. I said earlier on that I would like to see much more comprehensive (and clear) information about risks and harms than is on the Talk to Frank site, for example – and I have no concerns about public money being spent on this if that’s what the public want (there’s something for political parties to trade in).

I’m glad we’ve moved on from “society can interfere with me as much as it wants” though.

@ukliberty

Ok. Misunderstood again.

Your liberty is worth far more than increasing the number of children who waste their lives through drug addiction.

On your logic, even if 1 in every 2 children became a drug addict as a result of legalisation, it would still be a price well worth paying to ease drug supply for non-addicts if, as you say, ” I don’t want my liberty traded between different groups.”.

I’m not saying that will happen by the way, but if empirical evidence on the impacts of legAlisation are not valid concerns, it follows it would be completely acceptable to you. Nothing can trump your right to your liberty so long as your activity does no direct harm to others or you compensate those it does harm

Sevillista @114, come on now, don’t get silly, it’s not about “prices worth paying” to “ease drug supplies” at all, that’s a pretty poor characterisation of my argument. And weighing up the lives of childr- good god, children you say? How many?!

Well, careful about going down the “prices worth paying road”. You suggested earlier that something being an “established part of our culture for millenia” outweighs the risks, costs and harms associated with it. So what about the 8.6k young people who have problems with alcohol?

But it’s irrelevant because, yes, nothing trumps my right to liberty so long as I harm no-one else. If people choose – to try an activity, where there is a risk (e.g. injury, disease, addiction), including using legal or illegal drugs, or riding horses, that’s up to them – or their parents, carers or whoever, as we’re also talking about children and other vulnerable people.

Indeed, my freedom to ride horses shouldn’t be infringed merely because there is a serious accident every 350 hours, or the risk of spinal injury, or because one person in 240,00 will die in a horse-riding-related fatality (less dangerous than booze by the way).

Separately, in fact I did say empirical evidence is a valid concern (just that it doesn’t trump my freedom in this context). And on that note, it is all very well you claiming that legalisation will increase the number of addicts without any evidence to support that, but you also said you didn’t think my examples of Holland and Portugal (where I understand liberal policies have appeared to work in terms of reducing the problems we’ve discussed) were “good comparators to the Brits”. Well, I’ll try to think of a country you might approve of…

130. Sevillista

@ukliberty

“don’t get silly, it’s not about “prices worth paying” to “ease drug supplies” at all, that’s a pretty poor characterisation of my argument.”

I know that’s not how you’d try and argue it, but it is what you’re saying. No amount of indirect harms to others (even every child a drug addict) can outweigh your right to liberty. So these harms- no matter how big – are a price worth paying for legalisation.

“Indeed, my freedom to ride horses shouldn’t be infringed merely because there is a serious accident every 350 hours, or the risk of spinal injury”

And I’m not arguing it. Riding a horse regularly doesn’t impact your capacity to function and is not addicted. Why would I be concerned?

” in fact I did say empirical evidence is a valid concern (just that it doesn’t trump my freedom in this context”

Unless you want to get semantic (you think it is a valid concern but not compared to the infinite benefits of legalisation for liberty) your argument is one that the evidence is irrelevant.

“you also said you didn’t think my examples of Holland and Portugal (where I understand liberal policies have appeared to work in terms of reducing the problems we’ve discussed) were “good comparators to the Brits”.

Compare the usage of legal drugs such as alcohol. In the UK many people binge drink and over-indulge – in Holland and Portugal this doesn’t happen. Hence my belief that they are not good comparators.

Erm, you seem not to realise that Portugal is not like Spain or France etc. Over-indulgence is quite common here and not just amongst the ex-pats like myself.

Anyway, time for some Mill:

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

@sevillista

you are bleating unsubstantiated and exaggerated fears which create a distorted sense of the real risks involved.

You are playing to the gallery, not dealing with reality.

You have confused the comparison between dufferent types of drugs and different places where different regimes are in place in an attempt to undermine the validity of any lessons to be learnt.

You have jumped to a conclusion about the consequences of change in the law, without supplying any supporting evidence, yet where evidence is supplied contradicting your interpretation you characterise the people who supply it as arguing that the evidence is meaningless.

Whether you are doing this deliberately or merely subconsciously I cannot say, but the logic of your argument is highly suspect.

So just to clear things up, you wish to defend the principle that there are situations where the state is better placed to make decisions for individuals and that this principle can only be defended by lying to the public…

Don’t you think that the public is prevented from making the best possible decisions by the inability to access the full facts and that the dishonest behaviour of those who wish to restrict the freedom of accurate information undermines their authority among the target audience which discourages us from following their advice?

@thomas

“you are bleating unsubstantiated and exaggerated fears which create a distorted sense of the real risks involved.”

Er, no. I’m clarifying that ukliberty sees indirect harms as irrelevant to the infinite benefits of liberty. This is somewhat given away by the phrase “I’m not saying that will happen by the way”.

“You are playing to the gallery, not dealing with reality.”

There’s no gallery. Following this discussion are Tim W, ukliberty and yourself.

“You have confused the comparison between dufferent types of drugs and different places where different regimes are in place in an attempt to undermine the validity of any lessons to be learnt.”

No. I have said there is a need for an empirical study of the impacts of legalisation that is applicable to the UK, as there are valid reasons to believe that the impact of legalisation here would be very different to the impact of decriminalisation in the Netherlands.

“You have jumped to a conclusion about the consequences of change in the law, without supplying any supporting evidence, yet where evidence is supplied contradicting your interpretation you characterise the people who supply it as arguing that the evidence is meaningless”

I haven’t “jumped to a conclusion”. Legalisation would decrease the effective costs of drug use (improved quality, no risk of police action against suppliers reducing their cost, not breaking the law), and reduce perceptions of the risk of consumption (increasing demand for drugs). That is fairly solid ground for assuming consumption will rise.

I would welcome a study that looks at the likely impact in the UK and we’ve got some evidence to discuss.

“Whether you are doing this deliberately or merely subconsciously I cannot say, but the logic of your argument is highly suspect.”

My argument:
1. There are some people who are not in “the maturity of their faculties” and should be “protected from themselves”.

2. If drugs were legalised, consumption will rise among these groups and there will be more drug addicts. Legalisation would be good for some people (non-addicts who responsibly use drugs), bad for these vulnerable groups.

3. As a result, legalisation is a trade-off between the interests of different groups.

Entirely logical. I don’t see how you could disagree with it – except through trying to argue that the impacts of legalisation on the consumption of children/addicts will be nil.

I would make the further step that, as legalisation is a trade-off between the interests of different groups, it is a political decision and should look at the costs/benefits of legalisation.

This is where ukliberty (and yourself?) would disagree is that you would argue liberty is an innate human right with an infinite benefit (provided direct harms to others are compensated), and indirect harms are necessary evils for society to pay for (and pay to try to prevent) to protect this human right.

On this logic, even if every child became a drug addict as a result of legalisation (i.e. government regulation and education completely fail), legalisation would still be the right thing to do. Please tell me how I’m misinterpreting what you are trying to say.

“you wish to defend the principle that there are situations where the state is better placed to make decisions for individuals and that this principle can only be defended by lying to the public”

No. You are (deliberately?) framing my argument to a false way and making things up to help you argue against it.

My view is that legalisation will have pros (drug users can more easily access their drug and not be told they are criminals by society) and cons (more children unable to make good decisions will become drug addicts). I believe that a decision on legalisation is therefore a political decision, based on the relative sizes of these costs and benefits and their distribution between different groups of society.

The State is better placed than to make decisions than SOME individuals.

And please find where I said that “this principle can only be defended by lying to the public”. You’re making that up. I said that empirical evidence on the impact of legalisation should be gathered, which is surely the opposite.

“Don’t you think that the public is prevented from making the best possible decisions by the inability to access the full facts and that the dishonest behaviour of those who wish to restrict the freedom of accurate information undermines their authority among the target audience which discourages us from following their advice?”

I would if that was the case. But it’s not.

Please tell me how the Government is preventing people accessing accurate information. Are they banning Mr Nutt publishing his research now? Preventing him speaking in public are they? Do they make educational materials up in what they teach children or provide a balanced summary of evidence on harms? Are they going to arrest you for suggesting drugs aren’t harmful?

No. They are following their policy where the classification of drugs represents evidence on scientific harms together with other factors. Mr Nutt is unable to operate within the current policy framework and his position is untenable.

Clearly hit a nerve there.

I think you need to read through your comments again, because you’re being inconsistent.

In the interests of keeping things brief I’ll respond by picking you up on this line:
“The State is better placed than to make decisions than SOME individuals.”

So does that justify introducing laws which detrimentally effect significantly more people and do so in ways which may be more harmful, but not directly and immediately apparent?

Is the problem necessarily one where the interests of different groups get traded off against each other, or is there another way round the problem?

Frankly I can’t believe you are supporting the status quo.

135. sevillista

@thomas

“Clearly hit a nerve there”

Your last post was “you are bleating…You are playing to the gallery, not dealing with reality…you are confused…you have jumped to a conclusion”. Worth responding to.

“Is the problem necessarily one where the interests of different groups get traded off against each other, or is there another way round the problem?”

It’s possible that there is. Which is why I’m interested in a decent study of what the impacts of legalisation would be in the UK, rather than assertions based on a 1970s study by a US economist.

I am completely in favour of an evidence-informed policy. This is no moral position I am taking – just a concern that the benefits to certain people are outweighed by the costs to others. I don’t see how that is so difficult to understand.

What I disagree with is that there is an innate human right to “liberty to consume drugs” that has an infinite benefit outweighing all possible indirect harms. Which is what ukliberty was arguing I think (though I’m sure he will probably correct me again!).

“Frankly I can’t believe you are supporting the status quo”

Again, where did I say this?

I’ve made 4 points.

1. The Government was correct to sack Mr Nutt – it is quite right that factors other than scientific research on harms are taken account of, and politicians to take different views on the impact of uncertainties and on the evidence base where this is contested than the scientists who directly advise them
2. There is a Millian paternalistic rationale to intervene to prevent certain people from use of drugs or guide their use of drugs
3. The indirect harms of legalisation are relevant to the decision as to whether this is a good idea or not; and there is a justifiable political decision to be made
4. I am not convinced by the arguments for legalisation that have been presented – and think a full study should be done on this to provide better evidence

Note how there is nothing that says “the status quo in drug policy is the correct one”.

Sevillista, if you don’t believe every child will become an addict, why are you worried about it so much that you consider this (unquantified) risk to outweigh other considerations?

Also, why are you satisfied that “alcohol being part of our culture” outweighs the 8.6k young people who have alcohol problems and the 1 in 1000 people a year who die because they drink? Or do you think alcohol should be made illegal?

Please tell me how the Government is preventing people accessing accurate information.

Because they say substances should be ranked by harm but don’t rank them by harm, but according to other considerations. It’s their congenital dishonesty and populism that prevents us from accessing accurate information.

Setting aside my objection on the grounds of liberty, no offence to uneducated postmen but I don’t believe Alan Johnson is competent to decide what I may not do.

Let me address your points.

1)unless you can identify what the precise nature of the ‘other factors’ taken into account in the classification policy are it is presumptive to reach a conclusion whether it was correct to sack Prof Nutt.

2)unless you can determine the precise identity of the ‘certain people’ for whom restraint of their behaviour can be justified according to a ‘Millian paternalistic rationale’ then you are giving carte blanche to the forces of government to intervene.

3)you speak of a trade-off between the costs and benefits to different groups of a change in the law, yet here you recognise that the political decision is dependant only on ‘harms’ (and only indirect ones at that).

4)you say you wish for a more detailed study to be undertaken into the potential legalisation of drugs before it can be considered – I say a more detailed study should have been undertaken into the potential criminalisation of drugs before it occurred (and it would be enlightening to read any that were).

My general criticism of your position is that you are only looking at half the argument and are doing so inconsistently.

138. Sevillista

@ukliberty

“Sevillista, if you don’t believe every child will become an addict, why are you worried about it so much that you consider this (unquantified) risk to outweigh other considerations?”

It’s the logical point I’m making. How many ways can I say it?

You contend that only direct harms that are caused to others by your use of drugs that are relevant to a decision to legalise.

You said yourself that there are no trade-offs – your innate human right to liberty is the only thing of relevance.

Following this through, even if every child became a drug user this would have no relevance, and it would still be unjustified for government to take any action that would impinge on your rights. That is a fair reflection of your beliefs isn’t it?

If not, then we are in agreement- the trade-offs and the evidence on what would happen on legalisation are relevant.

“Because they say substances should be ranked by harm but don’t rank them by harm, but according to other considerations”

If you read the Government’s report on its decision, you will see that is not what they are saying – see paragraphs 7.4 to 7.6 of Parliament Order and Impact Assessment of the Reclassification of Cannabis – nor in particular the first sentence http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/publication-search/cannabis/impactassessment2?view=Binary

“The Government does not dispute the ACMDs findings on harm…(but) where there is a clear and serious problem but some uncertainty surrounding a drug’s full potential to cause harm, the Government considers it must err on the side of caution and take such preventative action as is necessary to protect the public…in reaching it’s decision the Government has also taken into account wider issues”

@Thomas

It seems we have a similar position on this to be honest. You say the evidence on indirect harms is relevant as do I.

I acknowledge that there are benefits from non-addicted drug users having easier access to drugs, from people not being criminalised and from the increase in liberty. There are also costs- which you seem to acknowledge are relevant to the decision.

Where we differ is in our reading of what the evidence says, and maybe our views on the trade-offs between them.

Sevillista, why are you satisfied that “alcohol being part of our culture” outweighs the 8.6k young people who have alcohol problems and the 1 in 1000 people a year who die because they drink? Or do you think alcohol should be made illegal?

As for what the Government says, “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” springs to mind. Science and Technology Committee:

We acknowledge that in this sensitive policy area scientific advice is just one input to decision making. The Home Office should be more transparent about the various factors influencing its decisions.

If the Government wishes to take into account public opinion in making its decisions about classification it should adopt a more empirical approach to assessing it. The Government’s current approach is opaque and leaves itself open to the interpretation that reviews are being launched as knee-jerk responses to media storms.

We have found no solid evidence to support the existence of a deterrent effect, despite the fact that it appears to underpin the Government’s policy on classification. In view of the importance of drugs policy and the amount spent on enforcing the penalties associated with the classification system, it is highly unsatisfactory that there is so little knowledge about the system’s effectiveness.

The Government’s desire to use the Class of a particular drug to send out a signal to potential users or dealers does not sit comfortably with the claim that the primary objective of the classification system is to categorise drugs according to the comparative harm associated with their misuse. It is also incompatible with the Government’s stated commitment to evidence based policy making since it has never undertaken research to establish the relationship between the Class of a drug and the signal sent out and there is, therefore, no evidence base on which to draw in making these policy decisions.

A more scientifically based scale of harm than the current system would undoubtedly be a valuable tool to inform policy making and education.

It is vital that the Government’s approach to drugs education is evidence based. A more scientifically based scale of harm would have greater credibility than the current system where the placing of drugs in particular categories is ultimately a political decision.

In our view, it would be unfeasible to expect a penalty-linked classification system to include tobacco and alcohol but there would be merit in including them in a more scientific scale, decoupled from penalties, to give the public a better sense of the relative harms involved.

Forgot to add that sadly they don’t consider the risks associated with prohibition either.

@ukliberty

“Sevillista, why are you satisfied that “alcohol being part of our culture” outweighs the 8.6k young people who have alcohol problems and the 1 in 1000 people a year who die because they drink? Or do you think alcohol should be made illegal?”

I think the evidence suggests that the benefits outweigh the harms for alcohol. It’s as simple as that.

“As for what the Government says, “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” springs to mind”

I don’t understand your point. They would say what?

I thought you were saying the Government were lying and saying the decision to reclassify the evidence was solely based on harms and contradicting the science by doing so? When what they have clearly stated on the record they agree with the scientists on the harms but have reclassified on the precautionary principle due to unknowns in the science and because the classification system is based on other factors too.

Oh- and ukliberty- I’m still interested in your answer on the more philosophical discussion we’re having about whether your innate human right to liberty to take drugs would outweigh a cost of legalisation as high as (say) every child becoming a drug addict.

Or does there come some point at which this right to liberty can be over-ridden by the needs of society?

(this is a hypothetical question about whether evidence on indirect harms matters in the decision to legalise or not, so please don’t come back and accuse me of being unrealistic about harms. Just imagine there is a drug for which this is true and tell me if it would be legalised if you were the PM for the day)

@sevillista

isn’t it time we started to distinguish between the physically dependent addicts who live perfectly ordinary lives without letting their condition overly affect them or their relationships because they have the income to sustain their situation and those that don’t, can’t and turn to violence and property crime in various forms as a result because they are conditioned by the context of their situation to be criminalised?

Are the Keith Richards and Will Selfs of this world such abominations that they set examples of absolutely no worth? Should we strike down Queen Victoria from memory because of her laudanum habit?

Or are you prepared to admit you have a middling class-based prejudice? Why is the intended target of the law the general populace and the control of our behaviour, and why is a completely separate standard used to apply to those of independent means?

If it is the social context of the behaviour which is the determining factor in the level of harm in your calculations rather than the behaviour in itself, doesn’t this set an unhealthy precedent whereby the coherence of the law is undermined – and that this creates social disorder where more people are likely to ignore the laws of the land?

144. Sevillista

@Thomas

Regarding your first para, isn’t forming a view based on harms already making that distinction?

” and turn to violence and property crime in various forms as a result because they are conditioned by the context of their situation to be criminalised?”

I see. Drug addicts turn to crime not because they are unable to support their addiction financially, but because they’re criminalised because of drug law. If they were not criminalised, they would find the resources. Are you seriously trying to argue that?

“Should we strike down Queen Victoria from memory because of her laudanum habit?”

You seem to want to turn my view based on harms into some moral crusade basses on tut-tutting at drug users to make your argument. It is not. It is based on harms.

“Or are you prepared to admit you have a middling class-based prejudice?”

What is “middling class” about concern for those who are unable to make the best decisions for themselves?

My background is far from middle-class. I’ve seen many people I know get into drugs and end up wasting their potential due to addiction. Why work at school, why try and work when getting stoned and spending your life high is far more fun and your body and mind craves the chemicals you are addicted to.

Isn’t the middling class prejudice here thinking that your right to liberty outweighs the welfare of those who do not have the support networks, intelligence, aspirations that you did. Look at the stats – addicts are far more likely to be from working class backgrounds.

“doesn’t this set an unhealthy precedent whereby the coherence of the law is undermined – and that this creates social disorder where more people are likely to ignore the laws of the land?”

You could well argue the same for many other laws eg abolish speed limits – many ignore them; abolish tax laws- many evade and avoid tax…

I don’t think so.

Automatically consigning people to the scrapheap because they’ve taken drugs, or too many for another section of society’s liking is preemptive and doesn’t bear any relation to the real state of the individual.

On the issue of criminalisation you’ve reversed my argument. Once an individual has broken the law in the first instance then it is a progressive step to say ‘having broken one law, what difference is it to go the whole hog’.

Hundreds of thousands of people finance petty drug habits without resorting to prositution, theft, burglary, robbery or fraud – however, artificially escalating the seriousness of the problem is in nobody’s interests. They do so because even though they may not be fulfilling the potential you seem to feel it is their duty to reach.

I accept that drug use may be an individual limiter, but government legislation is equally as much, if not more so. If we want a meritocratic society is it right that people like Marlon King are essentially blacklisted from their chosen profession for having paid a debt to society? Instead by judging individual behaviour in the way that you have suggested is to moralise, while also creating and normalising social exclusion based on that self-selecting morality.

It comes down to a view whether drug-taking is in itself ‘fun’, or whether it is escapism from a world which isn’t actually as ‘fun’ as some political leaders project it must be.

If you hold that it is the former then I suggest that you have already accepted the conditioned expectations of the current establishment that many people will not and cannot achieve personal satisfaction and are doomed to live lives of petty frustration.

If you hold that it is the latter then you recognise the former is simple snobbery which encourages disassociation in all its’ forms – and which does so because that is a means of asserting power over you against your real interests.

There is a simple fact that numerous people derive a sense of self-worth from competitive consumption (not only drugs).

This is a wider social problem which has been encouraged by politicians to cover for their failings to manage the economy in the interests of all. The mixed message that self esteem is to be measured by comparison while offering only rejection to those who fail to live up to the mark will inevitably only drive scoiety’s ‘losers’ into spirals of dejection and greater destructivity.

So it’s not a question of whether drugs are ok or not ok, and whether drug use should be encouraged or discouraged, but because the prohibitive and punitive attitude has consistently failed we should instead be asking what is actually the most effective way of minimising general harm levels and breaking the vicious circle.

The current law is a sham and counterproductive. Government should not attempt to control behaviour, it should ensure that any behaviour choices individuals make can be conducted constructively in a safe environment and that we all have sufficient access to the requisite information to do so.

@Thomas

“Automatically consigning people to the scrapheap because they’ve taken drugs”

Where did I say this?

“or too many for another section of society’s liking”

Or this? You seem determined to put an argument based on morals into my mouth to give you something to argue about.

It’s about harms, not about what society likes or dislikes.

“On the issue of criminalisation you’ve reversed my argument. Once an individual has broken the law in the first instance then it is a progressive step to say ‘having broken one law, what difference is it to go the whole hog’.”

What is your argument?

That the innate problem drug addicts face (difficulty earning money by holding down a job due to being high combined with a need for a lot of money to finance their addiction) will magically be solved on legalisation? It seems far-fetched.

“There is a simple fact that numerous people derive a sense of self-worth from competitive consumption (not only drugs)”

So drug-taking has benefits in your mind. Any benefits would be taken into account in weighing up the evidence on whether legalisation is good or bad.

“Government should not attempt to control behaviour”

That’s a bold statement.

What about, say, people who like killing or hurting other people or stealing other people’s things? What about those who are unable to make the best decisions for themselves through mental illness? What about businesses who prefer to dump their waste in rivers rather than pay for proper disposal?

There are undoubtedly circumstances where Government should try and control behaviour.

@152 “That the innate problem drug addicts face (difficulty earning money by holding down a job due to being high combined with a need for a lot of money to finance their addiction) ”

Is it? What do you base this assertion on? What do you think would be the likely effects of the legalisation of, say, heroin (cannabis is an easy one, let’s aim higher)?

Goedel recognises the point that is being made.

There are literally millions of people who go into work with hangovers from being drunk, and I’ve been in several companies where friday afternoons are a complete write-off. Yet this is considered perfectly reasonable behaviour

Drug-taking is widely encouraged in many industries – I very much doubt anyone would be surprised how many people couldn’t work without various chemicals as a crutch, but the conspiracy of silence comes from those who are most guilty about it. What is your poison, Sevillista? Marmalade?

“There is a simple fact that numerous people derive a sense of self-worth from competitive consumption (not only drugs)”

This is a comment on the consumerist culture of contemporary society, not a value judgement on the effect of drugs.

Drugs may cause damage in various ways, but they are themselves a symptom of a deeper problem – why is it that living and working conditions are so terrible that we are so discontented to want to get intoxicated and experience altered states of mind?

FWIW my opinion on any benefits of drugs is neither here nor there, the millions of people who take them have clearly made up their minds, so why not try arguing with them directly instead of trying to insinuate anything of the behaviour of a faceless commenter who you’ll never meet and couldn’t identify if you did.

When you say we need to more studies and this demonstrates your open-mindedness, I say that’s either neglecting or denying the growing body of new evidence which is available and it has the effect of pulling the wool over our eyes to the failures of the present.

In your comment at 141 you claim to be arguing against “assertions based on a 1970s study”, yet the facts of eg the recent Portuguese experience were alluded to at the top of this thread and you have yet to even acknowledge anything but the proclamations of Anglo-saxon academia. Is that what it will take for you to come to a more considered view?

I don’t know Sevillista, either you’re accidentally misinterpreting what has been written, deliberately misreading it, or you lack standard literacy and communication skills. I think you’d make an interesting case study to try to understand which this is and why this is so.

When you drop the blinkers of your self-affirming middle-class MOR prejudice and stop reading things into what others have written, your comments will have far more value.

Blairites, pah!

“That the innate problem drug addicts face (difficulty earning money by holding down a job due to being high combined with a need for a lot of money to finance their addiction) will magically be solved on legalisation? It seems far-fetched.”

Not far fetched at all.

I’ll agree that a mass murderer might not be the very best example for my point but Harold Shipman was a heroin (diamorphine, which is just the pharmaceutically pure form) addict for decades. Held down one of the more denamnding jobs in the country, that of GP.

@goedal

“Is it? What do you base this assertion on? ”

Evidence.

Drugs cost money.

Money requires either a non-employment source of income (not something many addicts have access to) or the ability to hold down paid work.

Not many addicts appear to have the ability to hold down paid work. Being constantly high seems to impair this ability.

To feed their addiction they require an alternative source of income.

I don’t understand how legalisation would change this.

@Thomas

“Yet this is considered perfectly reasonable behaviour”

Is it? If I came into work drunk or continually came into work with hangovers that seriously impaired my ability to work I would be quickly fired.

“What is your poison, Sevillista? Marmalade?”

Why is what I do of any relevance to the argument? I know it’s fun to personalise, but it really does have nothing to do with whether the Government should consider the impacts if legalisation on different groups and weigh up the benefits and costs before making a decision. Even if I was a junkie that would still be true.

” so why not try arguing with them directly instead of trying to insinuate anything of the behaviour of a faceless commenter who you’ll never meet and couldn’t identify if you did.”

FFS why do you continually insist I’m making an argument based on morals? Does pretending I am make your argument stronger?

“When you say we need to more studies and this demonstrates your open-mindedness, I say that’s either neglecting or denying the growing body of new evidence which is available and it has the effect of pulling the wool over our eyes to the failures of the present.”

And you can say that. I have not seen any studies of the likely impact of legalisation in the UK.

” but the proclamations of Anglo-saxon academia. Is that what it will take for you to come to a more considered view?”

What is unconsidered about my view? There is no evidence for the UK so I have formed a view based on the likely impacts on supply and demand, particularly among children from less well-off backgrounds who find it more difficult to make good choices and lack information.

If I was going to launch a new product in the UK I would not do my market research in Portugal – it wouldn’t give me good info on the likely response to my product in the UK and how I Should design it. Similarly with drugs policy. We can learn something, but it would be silly to form our policy entirely on the basis of it.

“you lack standard literacy and communication skills”

I disagree with you so I am illiterate?

Weak.

“When you drop the blinkers of your self-affirming middle-class MOR prejudice and stop reading things into what others have written, your comments will have far more value.”

Ah – the moral argument again. And you accuse
me of being unable to read?

My mother is a waitress earning minimum wage, my father used to work a machine in a factory until he became unemployed 10 years ago. Solidly middle class then.

And what the fuck is prejudiced about wanting to form a view on the basis of facts on the impact of legalisation. Surely the prejudice is wanting to legalise without evidence and assuming harms are small?

@timW

“Harold Shipman was a heroin (diamorphine, which is just the pharmaceutically pure form) addict for decades”

Tim – you’re right. Harold Shipman is a great advert for heroin use.

“Not many addicts appear to have the ability to hold down paid work.”

Please can you expand on this?

It seems on face value to be a very dubious statement. So this would be an opportune moment to provide some of the evidence you vaunt.

Tim’s example is very illustrative.

Sevillista,

@ukliberty

“Sevillista, why are you satisfied that “alcohol being part of our culture” outweighs the 8.6k young people who have alcohol problems and the 1 in 1000 people a year who die because they drink? Or do you think alcohol should be made illegal?”

I think the evidence suggests that the benefits outweigh the harms for alcohol. It’s as simple as that.

What are the benefits? Revenue? Employment in the drinks industry?

Inconceivable that drugs could bring the same benefits?

“As for what the Government says, “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” springs to mind”

I don’t understand your point. They would say what?

Pretty much anything, no matter how inconsistent with their other claims, to help them with their particular position of today.

I thought you were saying the Government were lying and saying the decision to reclassify the evidence was solely based on harms and contradicting the science by doing so? When what they have clearly stated on the record they agree with the scientists on the harms but have reclassified on the precautionary principle due to unknowns in the science and because the classification system is based on other factors too.

No – I’m saying that one week the claim is that “the primary objective of the classification system is to categorise drugs according to the comparative harm associated with their misuse”, and another week it’s based on policing priorities, public perception, sending a message, the precautionary principle, unknowns in science… delete depending on what is politically expedient on the day.

153. Sevillista

@Thomas

You are conflating “addict” with “moderate use”.

I can point to lots of evidence that drug addicts struggle to hold down jobs. Look at the employment rates of heroin or crack addicts for example.

And if I was looking for a poster boy
for “Addiction has no harms” I’d probably try and come up with a better one than Harold Shipman.

@ukliberty

“Inconceivable that drugs could bring the same benefits?”

No it’s not inconceivable. Hence I would want to look at the evidence and make a decision on that basis. I have an open mind about it. I don’t think the evidence is there yet though and an independent review looking at the various benefits and harms of legalisation would be extremely valuable.

Though I’m not sure even evidence of extensive harms could convince you that legalisation is not a good thing, as you believe “there is no trade off” and the innate human right to enjoy your (responsible and informed) drug use has infinite benefits that society must adapt to (eg if the cost is all children becoming addicts than so be it).

“the claim is that “the primary objective of the classification system is to categorise drugs according to the comparative harm associated with their misuse”, and another week it’s based on policing priorities, public perception, sending a message, the precautionary principle, unknowns in science… delete depending on what is politically expedient on the day.”

Is it too difficult to believe that, as the Government states, all these factors are important?

Can’t you see a correlation between harms and classification, suggesting that this is an important consideration?

Sevillista,

Though I’m not sure even evidence of extensive harms could convince you that legalisation is not a good thing, as you believe “there is no trade off” and the innate human right to enjoy your (responsible and informed) drug use has infinite benefits that society must adapt to (eg if the cost is all children becoming addicts than so be it).

Quite, this bit of our discussion is about the basis for the Government’s position.

As far as I know, except for Tranform’s there has not been any research into the costs (not just economic but social costs) of prohibition of particular drugs in the UK.

“the claim is that “the primary objective of the classification system is to categorise drugs according to the comparative harm associated with their misuse”, and another week it’s based on policing priorities, public perception, sending a message, the precautionary principle, unknowns in science… delete depending on what is politically expedient on the day.”

Is it too difficult to believe that, as the Government states, all these factors are important?

But how much weight is given to each factor? As the Science and Technology Committee said, it isn’t at all clear: “The Home Office should be more transparent about the various factors influencing its decisions.”

And again, what about the costs associated with illegalisation?

I refer you to the quotes I provided in @139.

Can’t you see a correlation between harms and classification, suggesting that this is an important consideration?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand this question. I already said I understood harms to be the main consideration.

As for addicts holding down jobs, what is an addict? Someone who needs a half bottle of wine a night, or to get out of their mind on booze on Fridays?

155. Sevillista

@ukliberty

“As far as I know, except for Tranform’s there has not been any research into the costs (not just economic but social costs) of prohibition of particular drugs in the UK.”

And building up the full evidence base around all the aspects of legalisation can only be a good thing. I agree with that.

“And again, what about the costs associated with illegalisation?”

I can only agree. These should be taken into account.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand this question. I already said I understood harms to be the main consideration”

I thought you were suggesting they weren’t. If you look at the classification system, cocaine and heroin are ranked as more harmful than cannabis and speed which are ranked more highly than tranquilisers. Suggestive of harms being the key factor in the classification system.

The bar chart at the top of this article places cannabis on the threshold of classes B and C. So placing it in B rather than C would not appear to be the science-ignoring position even in a completely harms based system.

Sevillista,

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand this question. I already said I understood harms to be the main consideration”

I thought you were suggesting they weren’t. If you look at the classification system, cocaine and heroin are ranked as more harmful than cannabis and speed which are ranked more highly than tranquilisers. Suggestive of harms being the key factor in the classification system.

The claim is that they are the main consideration, which is why I understood them to be the main consideration.

Anyway, suppose the weights given to each factor were as follows in a particular scenario: harms make up 49%, the other factors (policing priorities, public perception, sending a message, the precautionary principle, unknowns in science, how it looks to the Daily Mail) 51%. We can say harms are the main consideration, even though the other factors in combination outweigh them.

But I doubt there is that much thought behind it at all – call me a cynic.

Incidentally, I hear cannabis use declined in 16-24 year olds after it was reclassified from B to C – the largest change occurred around the time Jacqui Smith admitted using it in the 80s.

I’m not saying there is causation, merely correlation, and I await with interest the results of this latest experiment with the ABCs – also I wonder what will happen if more politicians ‘come out’ as users of drugs in their youth.

157. john mcsharry

its a dual reality


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Article:: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/3EZeVm

  2. John Risby

    RT @libcon: Article:: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/3EZeVm

  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    Article:: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/3EZeVm

  4. John Risby

    RT @libcon: Article:: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/3EZeVm

  5. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liberal Conspiracy, John Risby. John Risby said: RT @libcon: Article:: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/3EZeVm […]

  6. Nicola Davies

    RT @libcon: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/30ZyLK

  7. On government advice | Sim-O

    […] the evidence is there for all to see that Nutt knew what he was talking about and some jumped up twat that wouldn’t know his arse […]

  8. “Labour is in denial over cannabis row” « Harpymarx

    […] And Neil Robertson from Liberal Conspiracy is right when he says: […]

  9. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by libcon: Article:: Prof. Nutt: Death by a bar chart http://bit.ly/3EZeVm

  10. Selected Reading 03/11/09 « Left Outside

    […] Nutt from Liberal Conspiracy, and a quite extensive discussion in the […]

  11. Carnival of Socialism « Harpymarx

    […] Alan Johnson correct to sack Professor Nutt, Neil Robertson thinks it reflects just how hysterical this country has become in the drugs debate while Chris is […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.