Ben Goldacre in The Guardian:
The Commons home affairs select committee is looking at the best way to deal with cocaine. You may wonder why they're bothering. When the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs looked at the evidence on the reclassification of cannabis it was ignored. When Professor David Nutt, the new head of the advisory council, wrote a scientific paper on the relatively modest risks of MDMA (the active ingredient in the club drug ecstasy) he was attacked by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith .
In the case of cocaine there is an even more striking precedent for evidence being ignored: the World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted what is probably the largest ever study of global use. In March 1995 they released a briefing kit which summarised their conclusions, with some tantalising bullet points.
“Health problems from the use of legal substances, particularly alcohol and tobacco, are greater than health problems from cocaine use,” they said. “Cocaine-related problems are widely perceived to be more common and more severe for intensive, high-dosage users and very rare and much less severe for occasional, low-dosage users.”
The full report – which has never been published – was extremely critical of most US policies.