Sunday, 1 November 2009

The clash between evidence and public opinion

Normally this would just be a facebook status or twatter tweet, but I thought it merited a blog.  Mark Easton writes the BBC's blog on the UK - his latest entry is on the sacking of Professor David Nutt, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The gist is that Nutt has been making comments in the public arena on drugs policy, when the ACMD is supposed to simply provide neutral evidence, even though his comments are based on evidence.

"To suggest that taking ecstasy is less dangerous than horse-riding, or that cannabis is safer than alcohol and tobacco - however true that may be - is to say the unsayable in the political drugs debate."

I'm not a massive fan of drugs: they're sometimes or often dangerous, and personally I get nervous around people on cocaine or other drugs who get lary and unpredictable. But laws around drugs should be made on evidence, and they should make sense. This isn't to say that cannabis and ecstasy aren't ever dangerous, but it's clear government is too scared to make or change policy on the basis of evidence in the face of public opinion - which is never balanced on the subject of drugs. This is wrong. Government should listen to the public but politics is about explaining your position and convincing people, not pandering to panic.

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