Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Double Standards from the Evening Standard on cannabis classification?

There was a welcome outbreak of common sense in Yesterday's Evening Standard, a paper more often prone to reactionary drug war posturing, in its leader editorial on the David Nutt furore:

Spin and drugs

The row over the firing of drug expert David Nutt was almost inevitable. Professor Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, was dismissed at the weekend; Home Secretary Alan Johnson accuses him of running a campaign against official policy.

But Professor Nutt made his comments about the Government's policy on cannabis under extreme provocation.

The ACMD was set up in 1971 as an integral part of the Misuse of Drugs Act year: its purpose is to advise ministers on the latest scientific thinking on drugs, and the intention of the Act was for that advice to inform policy.

So it was that cannabis was downgraded from a class B to a less dangerous class C drug in 2004, on the ACMD's advice.

In 2008, however, the Government reclassified cannabis as class B, despite the ACMD's objections - not because of the science but largely thanks to a media hue and cry over the alleged dangers posed by strong "skunk" cannabis.

If that is to be the basis of policy, it is hard to see what the point of the ACMD is any more.

The bigger worry is what this suggests about ministers' attitudes to science and to spin.

Gordon Brown likes to portray himself as less obsessed with spin and headlines than his predecessor.

That was always implausible but when such cynical objectives override science, and a policy that affects many people's lives, that is truly depressing.

A decent commentary, but couldn't help from prompting me to cast my mind back to the 'media hue and cry over the alleged dangers posed by strong "skunk" cannabis', and the particular papers that were the main culprits behind it. Ahem:

Follow the latest developments and coverage on the David Nutt/ACMD story in the miniblog (right)

or on

pic from Oct 15th 2007


teekblog said...

:-) Nice one - it does seem rather rich of the Standard to blame teh meeja for the hue and cry, when they lead the charge...

Evan Harris has, as ever, hit the nail on the head in his letter to the Guardian.

Anonymous said...

Change of ownership anyone? They're not exactly the hate mail any more. I still read the same paper as the rest of you though, official badge of the middle class left such as it is.

James said...

That was a misprint for "Deadly skink floods capital". There was a lizard, and- oh I can't be bothered.

Denny said...

It's worth bearing in mind that the Standard did recently acquire a new editor who has promised to turn around their previously negative editorial stance on any number of issues. Might be worth giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who, upon reading the headline "Deadly Skunk Floods London", has an image in his head of a fury animal dressed as ninja breaking into the Thames Barrier control room?

Anonymous said...

Ninja skunk breaking into Thames barrier? What have you been smoking?

Ian said...

There was actually a sensible comment piece by (I think) Simon Jenkins in the Standard yesterday. Basically he called down a pox on the houses of all the mainstream political parties for their failure to adopt drugs policies that pay any attention to the evidence.

james said...

Not only is it under new ownership but they apologised on the front page for the rubbish they'd been publishing in the past. It seems really unfair to faccuse them of flip flopping on this.

Anonymous said...

using strong skunk to justify re-clasification of canibis is like using the dangers of stong absinth (80% or more) to make alcahol illegal

Neuroskeptic said...

"There was actually a sensible comment piece by (I think) Simon Jenkins in the Standard yesterday"

I was amazed. Simon "HIV? Whatever" Jenkins actually wrote something good about science... the End Times near.

Anonymous said...

Oh the irony! My "skunk" connection works at the Evening Standard. I pick up my supplies in their lovely open-plan offices on Derry Street. Apparently the press exaggeration has been great news for dealers, he tells (the gullible) customers that he has skunk so it's more expensive -- but same old stuff!