Weakening laws against cannabis would send the wrong message to vulnerable people, the Government has said, as it rebuffed a call for a review from a former senior police officer.
Bernard Hogan-Howe says he oversaw a tough drugs regime at the helm of the Metropolitan Police but now thinks it could be time for a change.
However, the Home Office and the mother of a man who died after experiencing cannabis-induced mental illness rejected the idea.
Lord Hogan-Howe fronted a Channel 4 Dispatches programme and wrote a Mail on Sunday article about his proposal.
He says a body of experts should be established to “look at the accumulating evidence on legalisation with open minds”.
And the ex-police chief added that the UK could consider following Canada’s lead in legalising the drug.
But the call followed a disturbing case of a cannabis-using driver who killed a doctor, and a study that underlined the effects of cannabis on the brain.
Challenging the former police chief, the Home Office said there was a “potential grave risk of increased misuse of drugs” if cannabis was decriminalised or legalised.
“The decriminalisation of cannabis would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery they can cause to families and society”, a spokesman added.
“Decriminalisation or legalisation would send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people”.
Janie Hamilton also challenged the call. Her son was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2014 but doctors believe his psychosis led him to refuse treatment.
“I could never bring myself to endorse the legalisation of a drug that derailed my son’s life and so many other young people’s that I have seen in mental health wards”, she said.
Earlier this month a 22-year-old cannabis user was jailed in the UK for seven years after crashing into a young doctor. He plead guilty to dangerous driving and driving while over the limit for cannabis.
Jake Rogers’ actions – overtaking at nearly 90 mph – also led to life-altering injuries for his girlfriend.
Separately, a study in Canada found cannabis use was affecting the brains of teenagers.
Despite the lead author expecting alcohol to have a major effect, it was marijuana that was linked to errors in working memory, reasoning and ability to control behaviour.