Young people caught with cannabis should not always face criminal penalties, the Government’s leading drugs advisor has controversially claimed.
Les Iverson’s comments were swiftly rejected by Home Secretary Theresa May, with Number 10 also indicating that the Prime Minister did not support such a move.
And the contentious claim was also rebuffed by a national newspaper columnist who warned of the mental, physical and societal danger of cannabis.
Prof Iverson, who is the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), made the comments at a Parliamentary inquiry into drugs policy.
He said civil penalties, such as compulsory drug education or temporary driving licence removal, should be considered for people caught with the Class B drug.
Prof Iverson commented: “We would like to see less young people given criminal records because that has an impact on the rest of their lives in terms of getting a mortgage, getting a job, a college place.”
In its submission to the inquiry the ACMD said its call was not a “proposal for decriminalisation”.
But responding to the comments, Theresa May said: “I have a very tough view on drugs. That view is informed by people I speak to who have seen the damage the drugs have done to people in their family.
“I think there are far too many people who think drugs is something you can do without it having an impact, but it does have an impact.”
And a Downing Street spokesman said that David Cameron agreed with her stance.
Melanie Phillips, a national newspaper columnist, said: “Cannabis is a danger not just to the mental and physical health of the user – its implications in the onset of psychosis are terrifying – but to society from the user, through a range of antisocial behaviour from inertia to aggression.”
She said Prof Iverson’s comments showed an “extraordinary attitude” from a public official, adding: “If a government adviser were to suggest it for any other crime, you wouldn’t see his heels for dust.”