United Kingdom

U.K. 'Drugs Tsar' Gets Sack for Telling the Truth


Last week British Home Secretary Alan Johnson fired University of Bristol neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt as chairman the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for failing to recognize that "his role is to advise rather than criticise." Translation: Nutt made the mistake of publicly telling the truth about drugs. In particular, he noted that the hazards posed by marijuana pale beside those associated with cigarettes and alcohol, and he said the British government's decision to move marijuana from Class C to Class B, which is associated with more severe penalties, was based on political rather than scientific considerations. Nutt had already attracted attention with a tongue-in-cheek Journal of Psychopharmacology article highlighting the hazards of "equasy" (a.k.a. horseback riding), the main point of which was that the dangers posed by MDMA (Ecstasy) have been greatly exaggerated. He also butted heads with Johnson's predecessor, Jacqui Smith, over the reclassification of cannabis. Two other members of the advisory council have resigned in protest of Nutt's sacking. But given his candor, it's surprising he got the job of "drugs tsar" to begin with and that he kept it as long as he did.

The BBC's Mark Easton has background here.

[Thanks to Hugh Akston for the tip.]

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  1. Two other members of the advisory council have resigned in protest of Nutt’s sacking.


  2. in protest of Nutt’s sacking.


    1. Your reply is sassier, X.

  3. U.K. Busts a Nutt

    1. I’m thinking:

      Drug Tsar Nutt Gets Testy, Sacked

      1. Nutt Sacked, Pharma Reformers Testy

  4. Hey, how come the UK gets to use the cooler “tsar” spelling?

    If I ever have a stroke and become a all-powerful-state-loving president, I’m going to purge the administration of all “czars” and replace them with Augustuses.

    1. You’ve given up on the togas though, right? Flip flops for everyone. Awesome. Togas for everyone=FAIL.

      1. Are you crazy? Togas are the best thing ever.

        1. Tell that Caesar. To easy to hide daggers in them. I have many enemies. I can’t watch my back all the time.

          1. Maybe you could get a toga with Kevlar/Spectrashield or something that will stop daggers?

            1. Stealth togas are in development.

              1. I don’t think they are effective. HnR already did the story. Apparently, the guy mistakenly put on his stealth toga and went to fix himself coffee. A woman and her child cut across his lawn and saw him naked. He’s now on the sex offender list.

    2. Nah, keep the Russkie connection and call the commissrs.

  5. Hugh you blog whore! This should have been sent in by Warty. What with all the genatalia references in it.

    1. Genitalia references? I don’t get it. What ever do you mean?

      1. I’m profiling you Warty. Just go with it.

    2. I was actually a little disappointed in Jacob for not going the obvious route with the headline. Next time its going straight to Cavanaugh.

  6. Johnson fired … Nutt … for failing to recognize that “his role is to advise rather than criticise.”

    Wasn’t Nutt *advising* the public about the relative dangers of drugs?

    Sounds like Nutt could fight this with a good solicitor (or barrister — I can never tell the difference).

    1. What the–? The Tsar can’t ‘criticise’ policy?

  7. Rich,

    It’s quite simple. Barristers are heterosexual; solicitors are gay.

    1. Thanks, PL. But *bannisters* are gay too, right?

      1. Only if you slide down them. Wearing a wig.

        1. If you really want to remember the distinction, watch A Fish Called Wanda. Cleese plays a barrister–he’s the dude who goes to court. The guy who actually represents the client is the solicitor.

          I met some Irish barristers when visiting Hyannis back in the 80s. Naturally, half the (admittedly drunken) discussion was about the wigs.

          1. I gather that the other half was about sliding down solicitors. 😉

            1. Soliciting solicitors is illegal.

  8. No, teabagging references yet?


    Rowdy Roddy Piper was on Always Sunny this week. Don’t make me make you eat that trash can, ProL.

    1. Dear Zod. . .the sheer awesomeness of it. . .I’m stunned into speechlessness.

  10. I think the odds of something like this ever happening in the U.S. are approximately…………..zero.

  11. Since Epi is hurling such obscene references around HnR I’m gonna throw my own into the ring.

    Alaskan Firedragon

    Definition here

  12. PL – “kaiser” has a nice ring to it.

  13. Nah, too German.

    Though that does raise a good point: Why not cut to the chase and call these officials “Caesars?”

  14. No, +1 for rewarding only those who read the story to see the gem within.

  15. Naga, that still pales in comparison to the Spacedock and Strawberry Shortcake.

  16. You clicked on a Naga link? I know you can cleanly evade a Rickroll–or worse–but still.

  17. It was an urbandictionary link, dude. The only thing I need to fear from that is horrible grammar and multiple idiotic definitions for “donkey punch”.

  18. Naga’s ability to fake URLs on mouseover should not be underestimated.

    1. I did that? You may overestimating my skills.

      1. Artistic license, man!

  19. Epi,

    You need urbandictionary for pointers on “donkey punch”?

    Pro Lib,

    I haven’t rickrolled anyone in a very long time.

    1. That’s ’cause we won’t let you.

      1. Lies!

        Your jedi mind tricks are not as subtle as you would like to believe. I’m just waiting. Biding my time. Watching . . .

  20. Don’t question me, Naga. Ever. If you do, I will sic Steve Smith on you. And then you can look up “prolapsed rectum” at urbandictionary.

    1. Steve Smith is a myth, man.

      1. That’s what Steve Smith wants you to think, Art. He likes to surprise his victims. Just ask Xeones.

    2. And then you can look up “prolapsed rectum” at urbandictionary.

      Or just watch some old John Waters movie.

      1. Dammit, don’t bring up Waters in a drug-related thread, because then I get more confused about Walters.

  21. I think the odds of something like this ever happening in the U.S. are approximately…………..zero.

    And you’d be wrong, assuming you’re talking about a political appointee having the courage to talk about drug legalization.

    One of the reasons I hated Bill Clinton…

  22. BP,

    She went down for batin’.

    1. Yes, but she probably wouldn’t have, had she not earlier talked about the mere possibility of drug legalization.

      I already hated SoCons; Clinton throwing Elders under the bus to appease them was a greasy, slimy move. And I respect Elders more than any other political appointee than I can think of over the past 20 years.

      1. +1, but honestly, political appointees with an independent streak almost never make it. It’s a shame.

      2. Yes, I mean how many SG’s would encourage masturbation (look it up)? Usually they just call it voting and hae done with it.

  23. solicitors are gay

    Really? The ones who solicited me didn’t look like they had Adam’s Apples. Good thing I didn’t take them up on their offer.

    Also, I don’t think there’s anyway you can travel around the world for $200. I mean, that seems crazy cheap.

  24. Yes, English is funny, isn’t it? In the U.S., it is the clients who solicit. In England, the clients are solicited.

  25. Don’t ever move to Britain, Pro Lib – I’d feel terrible to see you walking the streets like that.

    Even if they do spell “Tsar” correctly, it’s not worth it.

  26. BP,

    Scotland, man. If Pro Lib moves to “Britain”(fictional, colony of Scotland) he would no doubt be attempting to regain his throne.

    1. I prefer the term, “wrest back.”

  27. You can take ProL’s virginity, but you can never take his FREEDOM.

    (This was told to me by Steve Smith.)

    1. I should tell you what that Braveheart reference costs me with my wife. You wouldn’t do it again. No, not even you, Epi.

  28. First thing I do when I take my place as the rightful King of Scotland is to lift the ban on swords. In fact, I’m going to make the carrying of swords mandatory.

  29. Water cooler comments.

  30. I think the odds of something like this ever happening in the U.S. are approximately…………..zero.

    [Alexander] Shulgin formed a relationship with the DEA and began holding pharmacology seminars for the agents, supplying the DEA with samples of various compounds, and occasionally serving as an expert witness in court. He also authored a definitive law enforcement reference book[3] on controlled substances[1] and received several awards from the DEA.[1]

    In 1994, two years after the publication of PiHKAL, the DEA raided his lab; allegedly finding problems with his record keeping, the agency requested that Shulgin turn over his license for violating the license’s terms, and he was fined $25,000 for possession of anonymous samples sent to him for quality testing. In the 15 years preceding the publication of PiHKAL, two announced and scheduled reviews failed to find any irregularities.

  31. Two other members of the advisory council have resigned in protest of Nutt’s sacking


    I will buy a damn subscription already.

    …but if i stop getting copies in the mail again and receive another postcard saying that you can’t send mail to my address i am going to make copies of it and post links to it here every single day.

  32. In particular, he noted that the hazards posed by marijuana pale beside those associated with cigarettes and alcohol

    Yeah, ok, so he said something nice about marijuana, while beating the regulatory drum for other substances not yet entirely illegal.

    When marching in the street to depose a tyrant, the person next to you may be marching because the tyrant didn’t go far enough.

  33. One question: what do they call the guy in charge of drug policy in Russia? The Drug Fuhrer?

  34. “Two other members of the advisory council have resigned in protest of Nutt’s sacking

    Sounds like something Anderson Cooper would say while covering a tax protest…

  35. I’ve always associated nut sacking with the British left.

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