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The Conversation - Professor Nutt on Cannabis and Psychedelics

12/06/2013 12:21 BST | Updated 11/08/2013 10:12 BST

David Nutt, Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London and Chair of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, has eloquently criticised the 'scientific censorship' imposed by the UN single conventions that restricts and chokes the study of controlled substances such as cannabis, MDMA and psilocybin in medicine.

The article, published in the new academic journalism site, The Conversation, beautifully details the luddism that has hampered research into drugs that have been on the Schedule 1 list, meaning: of no medical value.

Despite centuries of anecdotal evidence into the use of cannabis as an effective, non-organ toxic medication, successive governments have stonewalled the progression of scientific research and maintained the criminalisation of individuals caught cultivating and in possession the substance. Professor Nutt makes the striking comparison to that of the Catholic Church banning the telescope, and that of Galileo's house arrest saying,

"Three centuries later we have an equivalent case of scientific censorship."

Professor David Nutt recently hit the headlines over the Channel 4 programme Drugs Live in which live control studies took place with willing celebrity test subjects trying MDMA live on air. There is a growing body of evidence that MDMA could be beneficial to those suffering from depression and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Similar studies are also taking place with psilocybin, the active component of magic mushrooms; Wednesday 12 June plays host to a conference on this very subject at Imperial College London.

The website, The Conversation, which hosts Professor Nutt's call for unity in contesting the political intransigence on drugs, is a new journalism project featuring the sharpest academic minds in their relevant fields. With most political and scientific subjects covered, The Conversation looks set to be a welcome addition to all interested evidence-based discussion.

In this potentially explosive salvo from Professor Nutt, he details the restrictions and barriers that impede prospective research into scheduled substances and presents attainable alternatives:

"In the UK we could exempt hospitals from the need to have the licenses - they could hold cannabis safely alongside heroin." Professor David Nutt continues to say that "we could exempt small amounts of the drugs from control at all."

As it stands, the restrictions dictate that special licenses are needed before any research can commence on controlled substance such as cannabis, MDMA, LSD etc., and these come complete with the conditions appended of full ancillary police checks, and at the cost of over £5000 - these licenses can take over a year to obtain. It soon becomes wholly apparent how restrictive this can be and goes to show just why we've not progressed in the utilisation of cannabinoids, and other drugs, in serious therapy. The UK government is still anchored to its position that cannabis has no medical value despite its use in the US, Netherlands, Israel, and many other countries around the world. Most recently, France has relented and granted the medicinal use of cannabis.

Such an unremitting voice of scientific sense is sure to be welcomed by the UK residents who are increasingly marginalised from the rest of the world in their criminalisation due to using cannabis as their chosen therapy. Cannabis has long been used by those with M.S., but also those who suffer from long-term pain based disabilities such as M.E. and Fibromyalgia. In recent weeks, the Huffington Post covered the breaking story of an Israeli study that documented complete remission of Crohn's disease in patients that used cannabis and whom didn't respond well to various other therapies. Professor Nutt writes that the banning of cannabis was 'purely political'.

In his parting paragraph on The Conversation website, Professor Nutt delicately requests unity and change in world perspective, calling the UN conventions outmoded and UN-scientific. The Professor's lingering, resonating final sentence appeals for a coalition of scientists, patients and civil liberty groups to form and work together in enacting the change necessary to further the plight of scientific research into these restricted and potentially beneficial drugs.

This must-read piece from Professor Nutt can be viewed in full by searching The Conversation website. Follow The Conversation on Twitter and Facebook.