UK govt demands an end to evidence-based drug policy

A new proposal from the UK government will remove scientists from the advisory council that analyzes and makes recommendations on drug policy, and allow the home secretary to ignore the committee altogether and ban any substance for a year regardless of scientific evidence or advice.

Ministers will not be required to seek the advice of scientists when making drug classification policy in future, under new government proposals.

The police reform and social responsibility bill, published last week, contains an amendment to the constitution of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) that would remove the requirement on the home secretary to appoint at least six scientists to the committee.

A further amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 would allow the home secretary to place temporary controls on substances for a year by statutory instrument.

The proposals will be of concern to the many doctors and scientists who have criticised the government's treatment of scientific evidence in the wake of the sacking, last year, of ACMD chairman David Nutt. The then home secretary, Alan Johnson, removed Nutt from the post after the scientist criticised politicians for distorting research evidence and claiming alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than some illegal drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and cannabis.

Government proposes to scrap need for scientific advice on drugs policy