The Prime Minister, drug experts and parents affected by cannabis have all come out in support of the Government’s decision to sack one of its drug advisers.
Professor David Nutt, the former chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), was sacked on Friday after he made comments criticising the Government’s reclassification of cannabis to class B.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Professor Nutt’s views sent out mixed messages about the drug’s harm.
Mr Brown said: “We cannot send out a message to young people that it’s OK to experiment with drugs and to move on to hard drugs.
“We have to send out a message to young people that it’s simply not acceptable.”
He also commented: “Scientific advice is very important and we value it.”
But he added that “advisers advise and ministers have to make decisions. In the interests of the public we have to show we are tough on drug dealing and the problems that drugs are causing in our communities.”
He continued: “We have to take a broader view in the round that was more than just the scientific advice.
“It’s about the effects on young people that drugs are harmful and not acceptable.”
Parents affected by cannabis have also spoken out about its dangers.
Jason Braham wrote to a national newspaper saying: “In 2006 my daughter was brutally murdered by a paranoid schizophrenic with a cannabis habit stretching back a decade to his early teens.
“Since then I have heard from parents who have had to witness the collapse of the personality of a child with a cannabis habit, as had the neighbours whose son killed my daughter.”
He continued: “Parents and teachers need support as they exercise their duty of care in alerting children to the dangers of this habit-forming drug.”
A mother whose son started smoking cannabis when he was 14 said that the classification of cannabis needed to be taken “seriously”.
Linda Spiller from Cornwall said: “We need to hear more from agencies such as “Ask Frank”, warning of the agitation, paranoia and mental illness” that can affect users.
She continued: “I am not the only mother to live with the heartbreak of cannabis. I would like there to be fewer of us.”
Drug experts have also warned of the harmful effects of cannabis.
Dr Clare Gerada, a south London GP and former member of the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said: “I have always been worried about how we are portraying cannabis as some sort of safe, harmless and benign substance and it isn’t.”
Professor B.T Golding from the University of Newcastle said that Professer Nutt’s view on ecstasy was wrong.
Prof Nutt has said that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than riding a horse.
When he made the claim earlier this year the Home Secretary accused him of “trivialising” the dangers of drugs and made him apologise to the families of people killed by ecstasy.
Prof Golding said: “To claim ecstasy is less harmful than alcohol or smoking is difficult to justify with the evidence.”
Prof Nutt made his comments in a lecture and briefing paper for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London.
His briefing accused former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of “distorting and devaluing” scientific research when she made the decision to reclassify cannabis.
He played down the risks of psychotic illness associated with cannabis, arguing that it is safer than tobacco and alcohol.