A Christian doctor who takes a firm line against drug use has been appointed to sit on the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
Dr Hans-Christian Raabe has said that children should simply be taught to say no to drugs.
The move is seen as a change in direction for the panel, which has focussed on a “harm reduction” approach until now.
Dr Raabe has preferred to focus on prevention and made his views clear in a briefing to MPs.
“Harm reduction has its place”, the GP said, “but I’m concerned that it’s the only policy being advocated.”
“In schools, for example, where the majority of children don’t take drugs, we still need a prevention approach.”
The doctor published an article in the online British Medical Journal which criticised a report by the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy.
The Centre had claimed that increased cannabis consumption proved that prohibition was failing.
Calling the report “flawed”, Dr Raabe said, “The only way of stopping people from dying from drug-related deaths is to prevent drug use in the first place!”
The GP had co-signed a letter in 2004, which warned against the Government’s decision to reclassify cannabis to Class C.
The letter stated: “A person who uses cannabis by age 15 has more than a four-fold increased risk of developing schizophrenia symptoms over the next eleven years compared with a person starting to use cannabis by 18.”
The drug was restored to the stronger class B classification in 2009.
A previous Chairman of the ACMD, Professor David Nutt, had said that smoking cannabis created only a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness.
Prof Nutt hit out at the appointment of Dr Raabe this weekend, stating that it “confirms in my mind that the ACMD cannot be considered to be a body that has science at the heart of its decision-making.”
Prof Nutt was sacked as Chairman of the ACMD by the then Home Secretary in 2009 for saying that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and nicotine.
But Dr Raabe has advocated that strong family life is key to addressing all these matters:
“Marriage is associated with greater happiness, less depression, less alcohol abuse and less smoking”, the GP said in a briefing document to MPs.
Dr Raabe’s appointment has been met with strong opposition from a number of sources:
Danny Kushlick, of the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, said “That a religious ideologue has been appointed to the ACMD is disturbing. I don’t understand how the Government can square this with a desire to have a scientific, evidence-based view of drugs policy.”
Former MP, Evan Harris, an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Policy, said, “This appointment is at best a waste of a place on an important committee and at worst designed to wreck what is already a fragile committee.”
And the BBC’s Home Editor, Mark Easton, commented on his blog that Dr Raabe’s views on homosexuality were causing such fury among other members of the ACMD that at least one was threatening to step down.
Commenting on the opposition, Dr Raabe said that society was “in danger of believing that if you are a Christian you are not fit for public office or you are biased or a bigot.”
Dr Raabe will hold the post, which is unpaid, for three years.