08 Jun CLEAR Backs ‘Primary Source Campaign’ in the British Media

With the news headlines full of drugs reform headlines, it has been a tough time for prohibitionists. With each passing day, the pressure mounts for the evidence based policy that has been missing for some time. 40 years on, we can now look – with hindsight – at failed policies and the correlation of facts.

There are those words again; ‘facts and evidence’. Sensible words, and yet, fear encompasses the basic ethics of such a notion. The call for an evidence based policy has now mounted to such a degree, that it cannot be ignored. This year alone, a Royal Commission on Drugs debate (behest of Lord Norton of Louth) was a fruitful exercise in highlighting the stance of the current government’s opinion based policy over facts and evidence. The debate proved to be of use; lord after lord chastised the current drug policy.

Just a few days later, an all party group led by Baroness Meacher – including Lord Lawson and the former heads of the BBC, MI5 and the CPS – set out to review the facts and evidence, and are now working with the Beckley Foundation to construct the potential policy that has long been neglected.

On the eve of the Misuse Use of Drugs Act’s 40th anniversary, eminent figures from law enforcement, popular culture and politics, wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister asking for a decriminalisation of drug users. It is deemed that this approach would have public benefits.

The Government has also acknowledged this approach is beneficial given their decriminalisation of the so called “legal high” users once the ban is in place. Despite this perceived hypocrisy, the Home Office put out an instant rebuttal to Release’s letter to the contrary.

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Then came the Global Commission on Drugs report. The ructions of this move certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons, but perhaps still has not received the weight of media that it should, especially given the gravitas of the findings and those behind it. Once more, an instant refusal to even look into the report is somewhat perplexing.

Countering the arguments for a facts and evidence based policy is the usual news headlines of: “drugs are bad because…”

This is actually not relevant to the dialogue. It is a simple shift of onus to muddy the discussion; the perception that something is harmful to act as justification of current law is a crude interpretation.

I’m sure we’re all aware of tabloid science and the sincere lack of anything legible to the actual studies, but it is this basic facet that keeps the status quo alive and well. The intellectually lazy are happy with sensationalism. Thankfully, to counter the insidious legacy of pseudo-science we have The Guardian’s Dr Ben Goldacre.

Dr Goldacre makes it his business to educate and correct the dangerous malaise of scientific interpretation. His book and website – Bad Science – addresses cannabis and the nonsense that surrounds the substance due to journalistic alteration:

http://www.badscience.net/index.php?s=cannabis

Dr Ben Goldacre has recently put out a campaign concept to correct the Bad Science in our media; his Primary Source campaign sets out to alleviate the strain of media interpretation that is now accepted as fact. Goldacre’s idea is beautifully simple:

Any scientific news article should host a link to the primary source.

It’s almost too simple; so why has this never been done before? We can of course speculate as to why.

CLEAR fully supports a primary source campaign in the British media. Any journalistic definition of science needs a simple link so an interested reader can view it for themselves.

Perhaps we should go one step further, with the recent and crass comments on Radio 4 from Nadine Dorries MP – proclaiming cannabis is 50 times stronger now than yesteryear – we need to hold any scientific claim to account when said in the public domain. Nadine Dorries can perhaps provide a link via her own site, or allow a space on the radio channel’s site for citations. This would not take much time or effort to implement, and it would allow a lucid and truthful dialogue to resume.

With a clear reiteration, Dr Ben Goldacre’s primary source campaign is in desperate need of implementation. Please do feel free to inform editors and journalists of this simple premise where applicable.