Row Over Cannabis Renewed

Last year in 2008, Cannabis was reclassified from a class C drug to class B by ex home secretary Jacqui Smith, supported by the Home Secretary David Blunkett. Now the government’s chief drug adviser Professor David Nutt has accused ministers of “devaluing” the evidence for Cannabis.

The Professor, from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, believes that Cannabis does not cause major health issues. The Home Office have been quick to point out that his view does not reflect that of the Government. A spokesperson for the council also added that the Professor was speaking academically, not on behalf of the council. Nutt criticized Smith of devaluing scientific research that had been presented to her.

Cannabis had been classified as a class B drug since 1971 up until 2004 when it dropped to class C, but this decision only stood for 4 years before returning to class B again. The reclassification was reversed despite the government’s advisers recommending to keep it the same. Ministers wanted to make the change as a precautionary measure.

Professor Nutt expressed his views about what he considers to be the “artificial separation” of tobacco and alcohol from illegal drugs in a lecture he gave at Kings College, London. The Government, however, are still determined to crack down on every illegal substance.

During his talk, Professor Nutt said that only a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness was created by smoking cannabis, and also thought that those who had successfully moved ecstasy from class B to class A had “won the intellectual argument”.

The reclassification of cannabis came after growing public concern about ‘skunk’, one of the strongest forms of cannabis.

One of the statements that the Professor made during his briefing paper and lecture was that taking ecstasy is no more dangerous than “riding a horse”. He also voiced concerns that the reclassification would in fact cause more people to take the drug. Research cited by the Professor estimated that to prevent just one episode of schizophrenia, you would have to stop 5000 men aged between 20 and 25 from ever taking cannabis.