Thursday, January 27, 2011

more christians: that'll help

It did of course go spectacularly tits up eventually, but I suppose you might say that the last government at least started off with the right idea regarding the people appointed to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs - i.e. appoint some actual sciencey people who know stuff about the subject and are trained in the sober and detached evaluation of evidence. Granted, they sacked the lot of them as soon as they started making recommendations that weren't in line with the government policy that had already been decided on in advance (by a lengthy consultative process involving Cabinet ministers reading the Daily Mail a lot), but, well, it's possible to come away believing that they were at least dimly aware of how this sort of thing ought to work, if only it were administered by someone with a functioning spine.

The current government, on the other hand, are clearly just taking the piss with the appointment of Dr Hans-Christian Raabe to the ACMD, Raabe being affiliated not only with the entirely self-explanatory Christian Party (for whom he was a candidate for the European Parliament in 2009), but also the groovy-sounding Maranatha Community, who, by contrast, far from being the bunch of harmless lentil-eating tree-hugging hippie types their name would suggest, are in fact the usual bunch of Bible-bashing homophobic nutters. So there seems to be legitimate cause for concern over his suitability for the job.

It always comes back to the same question: on what basis do we seek to regulate private individuals' private use of drugs? Is it about relative harm? If so, then the position of nicotine and alcohol needs to come under serious scrutiny, and so does any other non-drug-related activity that can potentially cause harm, like horse-riding, mountain-biking, swimming, DIY, you name it. This was essentially the position that Professor Nutt invited the government to take, with less than successful results.

But what other measure is there? If you say that, well, clearly surfing is morally OK but having a nice bit of crack of a Friday night isn't, then you really need to explain why. Whence comes this moral distinction? Well, we know where Dr Raabe gets his from, which is the worrying part.

The Guardian article I linked to earlier is by Dr Evan Harris, former MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, doctor, blogger, Vice-President of the British Humanist Association and all-round good bloke.

You'll note I say "former MP", because Harris lost his seat (after several recounts) by the paltry margin of 176 votes at the general election, mostly as the result of a shockingly vicious and dishonest campaign by animal rights loony Keith Mann (who chose to target Harris because of his links to the Pro-Test advocacy group) and partly because of some unhelpful boundary changes, but probably not helped by one of the more eye-bulgingly insane Daily Mail articles I've ever read - a bold claim, I know. Then again it could be argued if you're pissing off Damian Thompson and Christina Odone you must be doing something right.

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