Former government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt claims that many banned substances, such as recreational drugs, are less harmful than alcohol and should be decriminalised
Former government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt claims that many banned substances, such as recreational drugs, are less harmful than alcohol and should be decriminalised

A former government drugs adviser has claimed that many banned substances, such as recreational drugs, are less harmful than alcohol and should be decriminalised.

Professor David Nutt, who fell out of favour with the Labour Party three years ago following a series of outlandish claims, has said that the criminal aspect to drugs is far more dangerous than the drugs themselves.

"They should be decriminalised, there is no doubt about that. It is clear, if you are using a drug less dangerous than alcohol, that is a rational choice. If, like crack cocaine, it is more harmful of course, that is different. Addiction is also another matter but it requires treatment," he said.

Nutt claimed that "selling heroin in supermarkets" was, of course, not what he advocated, though he was in favour of people being able to purchase other drugs like MDMA and cannabis in pharmacies.

"It is clear that the best way of preventing people from coming to harm is education," he said. "People need to know what they are doing. I do not see any reason why people should not access drugs like cannabis or MDMA through a pharmacy.

"At least then, you would know what you are getting. You could then deal with the issues under things like trade laws; that would give people a great deal of safety. When PCP was being made available in New Zealand, under this system, it was made by companies to a very high quality."

At the launch of his new book, Drugs - Without the Hot Air, Nutt said the criminalisation of drugs might have medical benefits, but it was otherwise a greater setback to science than opposition to stem cell research.

"Before LSD was banned in 1965, there were lots of studies done, since then, there has been one," he explained.

A Home Office spokesperson told the Independent: "The Home Office licensing regime enables bona fide institutions to carry out scientific research on controlled substances while ensuring necessary safeguards are in place."