A weed of an argument

I’m afraid we’re not going to let this one lie. A new week begins, and the row deepens over David Nutt’s sacking as the UK government’s chief scientific advisor on recreational drugs, with home secretary Alan Johnson defending his actions in a letter to the Guardian. This short ministerial missive displays a peeved tone, in addition to the usual political hyperbole over cannabis use.

“As for his comments about horse riding being more dangerous than ecstasy, which you quote with such reverence, it is of course a political rather than a scientific point. 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.

This is not even wrong. In comparing the popular party drug with equestrian leisure pursuits, Nutt was making a rhetorical point calculated to have maximum media impact, but with an eye to the potential political fallout. In the absence of full and proper public debate around relative drug harms – an absence due in large part to political sabotage by governments and compliant media – what else are Nutt and his colleagues supposed to do?

Politicians and political pundits do not have a monopoly on public comment and analysis.