‘Cannabis Casualty’? Brit Government Goes After Scientific Independence


Photo: Political Scrapbook
U.K. drugs advisor David Nutt was sacked for… well, advising about drugs.

​It all started late last year when David Nutt, chairman of Britain’s Advisory Committee on Drug Misuse (ACDM), was sacked by Home Secretary Alan Johnson after Nutt said scientific evidence showed cannabis and ecstasy are less dangerous than alcohol.

Now more than 80 leading scientists in the United Kingdom have signed a document rejecting a set of government principles which they say would compromise their scientific integrity, reports health editor Sarah Boseley at The Guardian.

Photo: transform-drugs.blogspot.com
The British press, with its sensationalist and wildly inaccurate headlines, fell right in with the government policy of suppressing the truth about cannabis

​The clash, between many of the country’s most respected scientists and the government, is shaping up over what the researchers see as an attempt by the U.K. to control what is said by those sitting on advisory committees.
The most controversial part of the government proposed ground rules — crafted to stop scientific advisors publicly disagreeing with government policy — is that independent scientific advisors and government ministers should “work together to reach a shared position, and neither should act to undermine mutual trust.”
If that reads like a prescription for muzzling scientists who are prone to speak inconvenient truths, then you’re reading it the same way the scientists are.
Since Nutt’s sacking by the home secretary, five other members of the drugs committee have resigned in protest.
Sense About Science, which backs the independence of scientific advisors, said Tuesday night that two more advisors intend to quit if the government didn’t change its stance.
Other scientists agreed, saying they would not work with the government under the proposed new rules.
“The academic community is outraged,” said Tracey Brown, managing director of Sense About Science.
“Unless they [the government]listen, they will have no advisory committee on the misuse of drugs at all,” said Dr. Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP.
Sense About Science says the government’s scientific advisors should have academic freedom to express views openly and without restriction, and in so doing they should be protected from political or other interference.