Govt drug chief clarifies his stance on cannabis

The Government’s new drugs adviser who previously called for cannabis to be legalised has distanced himself from his previous position saying “it’s certainly not my position now.”

During an interview with Radio Five Live Professor Les Iversen said: “We have now to confront the more potent forms of cannabis. We have the new evidence that arose since 2003 linking cannabis to psychiatric illness. I think it’s quite free for a scientist to change his mind when faced with new facts.”

Prof Iversen’s appointment as the interim chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) was announced yesterday.

However, it was quickly overshadowed by revelations that the retired pharmacologist had previously been in favour of legalising the drug.

In an article for the Evening Standard in 2003 Prof Iversen said that cannabis had been “incorrectly” classified as a dangerous drug and labelled it “one of the safer” recreational drugs.

During a lecture in the same year, he said: “Cannabis should be legalised, not just decriminalised, because it is comparatively less dangerous than drugs like alcohol and tobacco.”

Prof Iversen’s appointment follows the dismissal of the council’s previous chairman Prof David Nutt, who was fired for criticising the Government’s decision to toughen the law on cannabis.

Previously the Government had weakened the law but this move was widely regarded as a disaster and the Government was forced into a U-turn.

While cannabis was at the weaker Class C classification judges, police, parents and mental health experts called for it to be moved back up to Class B because of the damage it caused.

There are now more than 22,000 people a year, almost half under the age of 18, being treated for cannabis addiction. In 1997 the number was 1,600.

In July last year a study showed people who try cannabis just once can show signs of behaviour linked to schizophrenia.

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