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Drugs Tsar sacked for cannabis claim; Minister's 'no confidence' vote.

Byline: EXAMINER

THE Government's chief drugs adviser has been sacked after claiming cannabis, ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes.

Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, sparked outrage earlier this week after he criticised the decision to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug.

It is understood that Home Secretary Alan Johnson asked him to consider his position in the wake of the comments, saying he had "no confidence" in him.

In a lecture and briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London, Prof Nutt attacked what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from other, illegal, drugs.

He accused former Home Secretary JSacqui Smith, who reclassified cannabis, of "distorting and devaluing" scientific research.

Prof Nutt, who took over the job once held by former West Yorkshire police chief Keith Hellawell, said smoking cannabis created only a "relatively small risk" of psychotic illness.

And he claimed advocates of moving ecstasy into class B from class A had "won the intellectual argument".

All drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, should be ranked by a "harm" index, he said, with alcohol coming fifth behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, and methadone. Tobacco should rank ninth, ahead of cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, he said.

He also repeated his claim that the risks of taking ecstasy are no worse than riding a horse.

Ms Smith's decision to reclassify cannabis as a "precautionary step" sent mixed messages and undermined public faith in Government science, he said.

He added: "I think we have to accept young people like to experiment - with drugs and other potentially harmful activities - and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong."

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* ECSTASY: Controversial views led to dismissal
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Oct 31, 2009
Words:320
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