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Cannabis testing in prison "contributed to the rise of spice"

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Testing prisoners for cannabis has 'massively contributed' to the rise in the use of spice in prisons, drugs expert Professor David Nutt says in an interview today.

'There were 16 deaths last year from spice in prisons', he told The Observer paper. 'There has never been a death from cannabis.' The failure to treat Britain’s heroin problem, he added, had opened up the market to 'even more potent opioids like fentanyl'.

Professor Nutt's comments come ahead of a public talk he is giving on 30 October, which the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is hosting with Drug Science. The talk marks the tenth anniversary of his dismissal from his position as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Also speaking at the event will be Professor Alex Stevens, who resigned from the ACMD this month, concerned that the government was compromising its independence.

In his interview, Professor Nutt says responsibility for regulating drugs should be moved from the Home Office to the Department of Health and Social Care. 'The Home Office is about crime', he said, 'drug policy is not based on reducing harm'. In Portugal, which adopts a public health approach to drugs, he notes, 'opiate deaths have fallen to a third of what they were before. Our deaths have gone up by two-thirds'.

Pointing out that alcohol is now a leading cause of death in men and women aged under fifty, he also calls for the power of the drinks industy to be curbed:

We have to use rational policies on alcohol. We can’t let the drinks industry dictate terms – how can it be that we still allow alcohol to advertise on TV when it costs the health service £3bn a year and policing £6bn?