The British government's chief drug advisor David Nutt is "extremely disappointed" after being asked to leave for claims that cannabis, ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes.
In a lecture and briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London, Professor Nutt attacked what he called the "artificial" separation of alcohol and tobacco from other, illegal, drugs.
All drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, should be ranked by a "harm" index, he said, with alcohol coming fifth behind cocaine, heroin, barbiturates, and methadone. Tobacco should rank ninth, ahead of cannabis, LSD and ecstasy, he said.
"I think we have to accept young people like to experiment - with drugs and other potentially harmful activities - and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives. We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong."
He said cannabis was "not that harmful" a drug and repeated his warning to parents about the impact of alcohol on their children: "My children are much more likely to die or be seriously injured from alcohol than any of those other drugs. The greatest concern to parents should be that their children do not get completely off their heads with alcohol because it can kill them ... and it leads them to do things which are very dangerous like kill themselves or others in cars, get into fights ... get raped, engage in other activities which they regret subsequently. My view is that if you want to reduce the harm to society from drugs, alcohol is the drug to target at present and all parents should be very aware of that."
Read more here: Channel 4: Drug adviser asked to resign after comments
UPDATE: Two members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs resigned today in protest at Alan Johnson's treatment of Professor David Nutt. Another member told the Guardian that the experts were "planning collective action" against Johnson, adding: "Everybody is devastated. We're all considering our positions."
See: David Nutt's sacking provokes mass revolt against Alan Johnson