Alex Massie

Ecstasy and the Agony that is Jacqui Smith

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So the government is going to reject advice that Ecstasy be reclassified as a Class B drug. No surprise there. Got to adopt a tough stance on these matters, you know. Not that the penalties for possession of a Class B drug are anything other than absurdly draconian themselves: you can still be locked away for five years or, for the crime of selling a drug to your friends, receive as many as 14 years imprisonment. This does not seem a lenient approach to me.

Meanwhile, a government expert makes the obviously true point that more people are killed horse-riding each year than as a result of taking Ecstasy and that this sort of statistic should encourage one to reassess how we approach risk and, you know, life. This, naturally, produces a witless response from the Home Secretary:

Professor Nutt's article, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology last week, said: "Drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life. There is not much difference between horse-riding and ecstasy."

He said horse-riding accounted for more than 100 deaths a year, and went on: "This attitude raises the critical question of why society tolerates - indeed encourages - certain forms of potentially harmful behaviour but not others such as drug use."

Ecstasy use is linked to around 30 deaths a year, up from 10 a year in the early 1990s.

Fatalities are caused by massive organ failure from overheating or the effects of drinking too much water.

Speaking during Home Office questions in the House of Commons, Ms Smith said: "I've spoken to him this morning about his comments. I've told him that I was surprised and profoundly disappointed by the article reported."

She added: "I'm sure most people would simply not accept the link that he makes up in his article between horse riding and illegal drug taking.

"For me that makes light of a serious problem, trivialises the dangers of drugs, shows insensitivity to the families of victims of ecstasy and sends the wrong message to young people about the dangers of drugs."

Cue demands that the Professor "apologize" - increasingly, these days, an indication that the offender has nothing for which to be sorry and, generally speaking, a sign that there's plenty of cant and humbug flying around. That being so, I was amused by my friend Mr Eugenides' response:

I suppose we must be thankful that la Smith is not responding by calling for horse riding to be banned. (One imagines they would be tempted if they thought it would fly. After all, riding's for toffs anyway, isn't it?)

Quite so.


UPDATE: Steven Poole has more.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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