A former drugs adviser to the UK government has said that ecstasy and meow meow ought to be sold legally in nightclubs.
Professor David Nutt, who was sacked last year from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for saying the government's reclassification of cannabis from Class C to Class B was politically motivated, told the London Evening Standard that the measures would "probably be safer than what we’re doing at the moment".
Nutt was speaking after recent calls for the 'legal high' mephedrone (also known as meow meow) to be banned following claims that the drug caused the deaths of at least seven teenagers. With tabloid pressure exerted, and a general election in the offing, a swift ban looks likely. And Nutt's replacement on the ACMD, Professor Les Iversen, is playing ball, telling the Home Affairs Select Committee he'd be recommending meow meow be classified as Class B: "These drugs are amphetamines by another name," was his uncompromising verdict.
Meanwhile Nutt reiterated the position that saw him fired by the government: that alcohol is the most dangerous drug: "For me, as a father with four children, aged 18 to 26, the drug that I know could kill my kids is alcohol. It is the drug that has caused the most damage to my kids' generation," he explained.
A pamphlet released in October 2009 widely publicised Nutt's claim that the only drugs more harmful than alcohol were heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and methadone. He classified LSD and ecstasy (a form of MDMA) as less harmful than tobacco.
"The ACMD could say that one confirmed death is enough evidence to make mephedrone a controlled drug, or
they could say they believe in the precautionary principle, but neither of those is scientific and if they do go down that route then they will have lost scientific credibility.
"It is an open question whether mephedrone is more or less harmful than MDMA. We really don't know, but I would say that they are probably similar."
A 21-year-old meow meow dealer from Gloucestershire told the Times on Wednesday that he was looking forward to the drug being made illegal. "It's selling as low as £2 a pop just now, but as soon as they make it illegal, I can push it up to £40. Kerching! I'll make a killing," he said.
Nutt's alternative solution to the black market that would inevitably result from a ban is "some sort of regulated use for MDMA or mephedrone where people, maybe in clubs, could have access to small amounts, safe amounts under guidance".
If not the establishment, Nutt at least has the backing of a 31,000-strong Facebook group called 'Support Professor David Nutt: We want an evidence-based drugs policy'. But there seems little hope of calmer heads prevailing in the current climate. Nutt says only one death was confirmed as caused by meow meow, but the media is claiming as many as seven deaths are 'linked' to the drug.
Meanwhile, yesterday Northern Ireland's Health Committee chairman Jim Wells gave a novel reason why a ban on meow meow ought not to be delayed: "They're buying it cheaply, stockpiling it and will sell it on the black market when the ban comes in. The longer period you give for that the more stockpiling will occur."