Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Stupid drug laws having stupid effects

I've banged on about drugs policy enough times on this blog for most readers to know my view. But just in case you're new in summary our drugs laws are stupid. Very stupid. They do not take into account the evidence correctly and front line politicians, especially in the Home Office have time and again shown themselves to be wilfully blind to the harms their laws are causing. Whenever challenged they consistently come out with a statement which is some variation on "drugs are harmful which is why they are illegal" completely failing to engage with the debate and missing the point that most campaigners fully recognise they are harmful which is why we want the law to change to help reduce that harm!

I do try to give the benefit of the doubt to those who disagree with me on this. It can be difficult sometimes though when the evidence seems to be deliberately ignored.

A good example of this comes today with a report that Professor David Nutt, former advisor to the government who was unceremoniously sacked for telling the truth (and who I once interviewed) is saying that the current drugs laws are preventing him from doing research properly. Specifically he has been trying to source clinical grade psilocybin which is the primary active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Psilocybin was recently added to the list of "controlled substances" and Professor Nutt now cannot get hold of it. Regarding the study he wants to do to see if the substance could help with depression he said:

"It hasn't started yet because the big problem is getting hold of the drug. Finding a company to provide a clinical-grade psilocybin had proved impossible as none is prepared to go through the regulatory hoops". 
"So we are between a rock and a hard place, which is very unfortunate, because if this is an effective treatment for patients then they're obviously being denied that possibility so one of the things we have to do now is have a more rational debate about the way the drugs laws are being implemented."

For me though the most noteworthy aspect of this report is the response of the Home Office. A spokesperson said:
"Our licensing regime enables legitimate research to take place while ensuring that harmful drugs don't get into the hands of criminals. We have no evidence to suggest that the current listing of psilocybin as a schedule one substance is a barrier to attracting funding for legitimate research."

But we have one of the most respected psychopharmacologists in the country saying that there is precisely this problem. I can only assume that the reporter who got the quote was telling the spokesperson about the problem Nutt had encountered which elicited that response.

I don't think I have ever seen a clearer example of the Home Office wilfully ignoring the evidence that is in front of them. They are being told that there is a problem with the sourcing of psilocybin. In other words they are being given evidence that their policies are preventing legitimate research and their response is to say there is no evidence for that.

Yes there is. Nutt just gave it to you.

Until we can get around this kafkaesque culture of wilfully ignoring the evidence in the Home Office we are never going to get anywhere in trying to get a more sensible drug policy.

No comments: