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Sacked drugs advisor pledges new expert body

Reckons more resignations are to come

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Professor David Nutt, sacked last week by Home Secretary Alan Johnson for disagreeing with government policy, is considering setting up a new drugs advisory body.

Quite how this would work, when the government seems unwilling to listen to the independent advice it is already being given, is not clear.

Nutt said the current Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is hopelessly flawed and needs redesigning. Nutt and two other senior scientists resigned from the ACMD and others are expected to follow next week.

The remaining members of the council are meeting Johnson next Tuesday. If progress is not made, Nutt expects more resignations, according to the Beeb. The scientists are expected to ask Johnson for written guarantees on the council's future role.

The prof also said he had been offered funding to pay for an independent advisory body. The ACMD costs £150,000 a year to run.

The problem for the government is that the ACMD is required by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. So the government may not need to listen to them but they do need to have them around.

In fact, as the Beeb notes, the ACMD is already in breach of its statute because its pharmacist, Marion Walker resigned after Nutt was sacked.

Nutt said that several projects had been put at risk by the departure of Les King from the ACMD, former head of drugs intelligence at the Forensic Science Service. These included work on artificial weed, sold under the brand Spice, research on polydrug use - which more closely reflects how drugs are used in the real world - and the effects of ketamine use on the bladder.

About the only people to have publicly supported Johnson's stance are the Tory Party.

Nutt said it was time Britain dealt with its real drug problem - booze. He told the BBC that if alcohol was created for the first time tomorrow it would quickly be outlawed. He said "The government has to wake up to this timebomb and the health risks of alcohol." ®

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