A new drugs council could be set up to work independently from the Home Office to ensure political freedom for scientists, Professor David Nutt, the Government’s former chief drug adviser, said.
Professor Nutt disclosed he had been approached by a “charitable benefactor” who offered to fund a new committee to explore the issues without external influence.
Prof Nutt was forced to step down from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by Alan Johnson, by the Home Secretary last month.
Mr Johnson said he had no confidence in Prof Nutt after the adviser criticised the Government’s decision to reclassify cannabis and said many drugs were less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.
Earlier in the year, the academic garnered controversy when he suggested that taking Ecstasy was less risky than riding a horse.
A large portion of the scientific community reacted with anger to his departure from the post and five members of the ACMD – pharmacist Marion Walker, forensics expert Les King, chemist Simon Campbell, psychologist John Marsden and scientific consultant Ian Ragan – have resigned in protest.
Speaking at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies last night, Prof Nutt disclosed he had been approached about setting up a rival committee but refused to give further details.
He said: “There is the possibility we could set up an alternative committee. At least, one charitable benefactor has come forward to fund it.”
Prof Nutt also said there needed to be a more equal partnership between politicians and scientists if panels such as the ACMD had a future.
He said he had only met one of the two Home Secretaries he had advised in his time on the panel and that was Mr Johnson, who he saw only once.
By Andy Bloxham