Professor David Nutt, who was sacked as the UK Government drug adviser after claiming cannabis, LSD and Ecstasy were less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, will be the guest speaker at the sell-out first meeting of the Psychedelic Society of Edinburgh next week. Neil Young, one of the founders of the society, said: “In the UK, and most of the world, people cannot use most psychedelic substances without breaking the law.
“It’s a key principle of a liberal society that we should all be free to do what we want to our bodies so long as it does not harm other people. You can buy ten bottles of whisky and drink yourself to death, but you are not allowed to go into a forest and pick a mushroom or you’ll be put in jail.
“People know about the Sixties counter-culture with acid and LSD and how that kicked off. We’re trying to approach it in a different way with a bit more maturity and science.”
Before he was sacked by the Home Office in 2009, Prof Nutt clashed several times with government ministers over drug harm and classification. He was criticised for claiming that Ecstasy was statistically no more dangerous than horse-riding. He argued that illicit drugs should be classified according to the evidence of the harm they caused.
The professor is currently researching the effects of LSD on the brain. At the launch event next Monday he is expected to talk about the use of psychedelics to relieve anxiety in terminally ill patients.
Mr Young said: “If people are crippled with anxiety or depression we feel they have a right to some form of mental relief before they die. No-one wants to die suffering from anxiety. We should all be able to access these medicines.”
Mr Young and co-founder Ian Maclennan, 29, admitted they had trouble finding somewhere to hold the society’s launch. Eight venues turned them down and even the city-centre hotel which accepted their booking only did so on condition they did not publicise it. But it has proved a sell-out. “We didn’t expect so much interest,” said Mr Young. “We thought we might get about 50 people. But we had to keep increasing the capacity and now we’ve 500 people coming.”
He said the society hoped to hold regular events, including film screenings and open-mic “story-sharing” meetings where people could tell how psychedelics helped them overcome anxiety and depression.
“We want to create an atmosphere where people can come out and be proud of their use. It’s time to stand up and say we do use these things.
“The war on drugs is not working.”