Do you have any evidence for that?

by scotslawstudent

Apparently mephedrone is deadly and we should ban it. Apparently I know that because one person possibly might have died of it. Way, way out in front of this is lightning, donkeys, your bath, driving and so on. Stalin famously insisted that all intelligence he was given was to be corroborated by at least one other, independent source. This is a great way to avoid misinformation tainting your decisions and, despite being a murderous despot, this was a fairly good idea.

I believe in evidence based policy making, it’s why I was so pleased that the Science and Technology Committee re-started their Evidence Checks. These are not checks that the thing being investigated works or not, just that the government policy is supported by evidence. It comes down to wanting to reasonably trust the state to spend their money on things that work.

The problem with banning something because it possibly, maybe killed one person is that you’re banning something based on purely anecdotal evidence. If you don’t want homoepathy on the NHS because there’s no reliable evidence for it, then why would you want drugs banned without similar evidentiary support? We’re not quite as crazy about drug offences as the USA but we’re not a million miles off, we need a better way to pick what substances we’re going to toss people in jail for than “I read about it in the Daily Mail.”

On a similar note, the EU has decided to require that producers of “superfoods” prove what they say they can do. This seems entirely reasonable – if you want to sell me white veal on the basis that it will make cancerous growths sprout legs and walk out of my body I don’t see why you shouldn’t have to prove that. The producers could don’t have to say it’s a superfood – they could always say “buy it just because it’s tasty.” Naturally the superfood producers think this is ridiculous and they shouldn’t have to be held to the same standard as drug companies, presumably because they cure illnesses in entirely different ways. It seems to be a case of food producers wanting to make the sort of claims that pharmaceuticals do without needing to put the work in first.