The "Just Say No" drugs lobby will be much cheered, I suspect, by the appointment of Dr Hans-Christian Raabe to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
He has long argued that the committee has been dominated by "groups and organisations that promote 'liberal' drug policy or may even support the legalisation of drugs".
However, I understand that at least one member of the council is so incensed by the appointment that he is considering resigning. The Home Office, which prompted seven resignations when it sacked ACMD chair Professor David Nutt, might find itself facing yet more as it tries to replace those who have gone.
Dr Raabe could certainly not be dismissed as soft on the issue of drugs. He has argued that "it is futile to pursue discredited policies of so-called 'harm-reduction' and vital that the government and the nation are totally committed to the ideal of a drug-free society." But it is his less his views on narcotics and more his opinions on homosexuality that are causing fury.
In 2009 he stood as MEP candidate in the North West region for the Christian Party/Christian Peoples Alliance Party and is a leading light in the Manchester-based Maranatha Community which is dedicated to "re-establishing Christian values in society". It is an organisation with very strong anti-gay views and has briefed MPs against measures for homosexual rights.
One member of the ACMD told me this afternoon:
"The Council prides itself on basing its views on evidence. This man put his name to documents which include very questionable views... His appointment makes me extremely uncomfortable."
Dr Raabe is said to be on holiday this week and was unavailable for comment. His appointment to the ACMD would seem to reflect a determination within government that this key advisory body should include voices from outside the drugs establishment.
A few years ago Dr Raabe helped write a pamphlet entitled A Warning Cry to the People of Great Britain in which the Maranatha Community warned that drug problems were part of a "morally self-destructive society". He has also urged health officials to consider drug-prevention schemes that involve spirituality.
"From a Christian standpoint we are concerned that the issue of drug misuse is frequently focused only on the physical and perhaps also the emotional aspects of drug misuse, ignoring the spiritual dimension", Dr Raabe's organisation has stated, adding that, "consideration, encouragement and support should be given to the established track records of many Christian help groups and drug treatment centres."
The Maranatha's approach is at odds with much current policy. It argues that "harm-reduction accommodates and normalises, rather than prevents, drug misuse" and the organisation has been very critical of educational material teaching young people about safe drug use.
"This is a contradiction in itself, since there are no safe ways of taking drugs. This type of educational material encourages rather than discourages drug misuse. It should not be used in schools or in any health education context."
Such views could lead to some frosty moments inside the ACMD committee room. Existing members of the council are avowed "harm-reductionists" and regard Dr Raabe's appointment as provocative. But I am informed that more than one member of the committee is gay or lesbian and it is his views on homosexuality which may lead to an ACMD member quitting.
Mark Easton, Thursday 20 January 2011
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