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Johnson forced to defend sacking of drugs adviser

By Nigel Praities

The Government is facing a storm of protest after the controversial dismissal of its most senior adviser on drugs misuse.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson sacked Professor David Nutt – chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs – on Friday, after the publication of comments that appeared to criticise the Government's policy on classifying drugs.

Two members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs have resigned in protest at the sacking, and other academics have leapt to his defence.

Professor Nutt said cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco and was reclassified from class C to B for political reasons. He has also previously commented that horse riding is more dangerous than ecstasy.

Writing in Guardian, the Home Secretary said Professor Nutt was a ‘reputable scientist' and was not dismissed because of his views.

‘He was asked to go because he cannot be both a government adviser and a campaigner against government policy,' Mr Johnson wrote. 'This principle is well understood and long established.'

‘There are not many kids in my constituency in danger of falling off a horse – there are thousands at risk of being sucked into a world of hopeless despair through drug addiction,.'

According to reports, Dr Les King, adviser to the Department of Health and a senior chemist, and Marion Walker, a fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, have resigned from the ACMD.

Professor Maurice Elphick, professor of animal physiology and neuroscience at Queen Mary, University of London, said: ‘If politicians really do want to have an objective assessment of the relative risks to health of different recreational drugs, then they should listen to what the medical scientist has to say, not sack him.'

Home secretary Alan Johnson sacked Professor Nutt last week Home secretary Alan Johnson sacked Professor Nutt last week

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