Monday, 2 November 2009

The Liberal Democrats need to position themselves as the party that will listen to scientific advice

Professor David Nutt was a frustrated man whose recommendations (backed up by scientific evidence) were being ignored by a series of non-scientific Labour politicians. He was making statements that undermined government policy and it is understandable that he has irritated Alan Johnson to the point where he has fired him. Professor Nutt was not some loose cannon though. He was the chair of an indepedent advisory council that was almost entirely supportive of his views. They voted 20 to 3 to keep cannabis as class C and now appear to be ready to resign en masse in protest at his dismissal.

I am heartened by the responses coming from prominent Liberal Democrats on this issue but, with the Tories stating they would have sacked him sooner, we have a fantastic opportunity to establish clear water between ourselves and the other parties on this. We can be the party that listens to evidence presented to us by experts, and the party that formulates policy based upon expert advice. Now is the time to ask scientists, sociologists and economists the bigger question in drug policy:

Does prohibition actually work in reducing the harms drugs cause to individuals and society?

On the 12th of November the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation will be in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons launching their publication "After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation" I hope to hear the Liberal Democrats welcome these proposals and to see evidence that they are re-examining their rather confused drugs policy as a result. As the founder of the Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, I will be attending the launch of the Blueprint for Regulation and hope to use it as a starting point from which to push for an examination of current Liberal Democrat policy, the discussion of other policy options and the production of a motion proposing more sensible policy for consideration by party members at Spring conference.

If you wish to join the drug policy debate within the party, please contribute your thoughts at www.lddpr.org .uk

1 comment:

Chris Black said...

I'd be very happy if we got the reputation as the party that listens to scientific advice.

But that should include questions such as 'should we keep nuclear power?' and 'should we introduce GM crops?'

Scientific advice doesn't always give the answers that you, me - or Alan Johnson - wants to hear.