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U.K. Drug Czar Fired for Saying Illegal Drugs Less Harmful Than Alcohol, Cigarettes


U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has fired the nation’s ’drug czar’ after David Nutt said that LSD and ecstasy are less dangerous drugs than alcohol or tobacco, the Daily Mail reported Oct. 31.

The decision was subjected to withering criticism by Nutt and others in the U.K. research community. Previously, Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), had criticized the Brown government for its decision to reclassify marijuana as a Class B drug, contrary to the advice of its own scientific board.

“He [Gordon Brown] is the first Prime Minister, this is the first government, that has ever in the history of the Misuse of Drugs Act gone against the advice of its scientific panel,” Nutt said. “And then it did it again with ecstasy and I have to say it’s not about (me) overstepping the line, it’s about the government overstepping the line. They are making scientific decisions before they’ve even consulted with their experts.”

Home Secretary Alan Johnson fired Nutt, saying he had ’no confidence’ in him after Nutt made his comments about the relative dangers of illegal and legal drugs. Johnson said the remarks “damaged efforts to give the public clear messages about the dangers of drugs.”

Nutt has called for all drugs, regardless of legal status, to be ranked according to a ’harm index’ that would rank alcohol only behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, and methadone. He has harshly criticized Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith for their decisions on regulating drugs like marijuana and ecstasy.

This is the first time that an ACMD chair has been fired. A Home Office spokesman said, “The role of the chair of the ACMD is to provide independent scientific advice, not to lobby for changes in policy.”

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