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19/07/2007 00:00:00

UK: Home Secretary admits smoking cannabis

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith admitted today that she smoked cannabis when
she was at university.

Ms Smith was asked on GMTV whether she had taken the drug while talking
about the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday that there would be a
review of the drug's classification.

She immediately responded: "I have. I did when I was at university. I
haven't done for at least 25 years."

Ms Smith told the programme: "I think it was wrong that I smoked it when
I did. I have not done for 25 years. I share other people's concerns
about the effect that cannabis has on young people and mental health

"So, actually I think in some ways I have learnt my lesson and I have a
responsibility as Home Secretary now to make sure we put in place the
laws and the support and information to make sure we carry on bringing
cannabis use down, which we are doing."

Asked how she felt about people who thought her admission might make her
unfit to be Home Secretary, she said: "On the whole I think people think
human beings should do jobs like this. I am not proud about it, I did
the wrong thing.

"One of the things about being a politician is that you are often
criticised for not knowing what's going on. I hope that my experiences
in my life have actually helped me understand that I do want crime

Appearing later on Sky News, Ms Smith faced more questions about her
drug use and insisted she had only ever taken cannabis. She said: "I
have never taken any other drugs."

Asked how she could carry on as Home Secretary after her admission, she
said: "I am not sitting here preaching to anybody. I was wrong when I
did it more than 25 years ago. I am not looking to excuse that."

People would expect her to be honest and do what she was elected to do
and, in the end, would judge her on that basis, Ms Smith said.

When she tried to say that many other people - including those in the
Sky studio - had probably done the same, she was cut short and told
those people were not in Government or making public policy.

Faced with this, she again insisted: "I am not sitting here trying to
excuse myself. I was wrong and I think drugs are wrong, and that is why
I have been part of a Government that has helped to double the number of
people who are in treatment.

"It is why I am pleased that the figures show there are fewer people now
taking cannabis..."

In a bid to move the debate back to policy, she said she would be
focusing on how to cut crime and make communities safer rather than what
she did 25 years ago.

But the subject would not die, and she was asked if Mr Brown was aware
that she had taken the drug when he offered her one of the top jobs in

She said: "The PM did not ask me but I was asked this morning and I
answered the question."

Asked if she agreed with the reclassification plan, she said: "I do
think there are lots of people who share my concerns that what we have
seen in recent years is an increase in the strength of some forms of

"We have seen clear evidence of the link to mental health problems and
it is right that we should now look at whether or not cannabis should be
reclassified from C to B to send out a strong message about its use, to
build on the progress we have already seen in actually cutting the use
of cannabis and the sort of crime related to wider drug use."

In a surprise U-turn yesterday, the Prime Minister ordered an urgent
review of the controversial decision taken three years ago to downgrade
the drug from Class B to C.

Insiders said Mr Brown's 'personal instinct' is that the change should
be reversed, with more arrests and stiffer penalties for users.

It follows overwhelming medical evidence linking the drug - particularly
stronger forms known as 'skunk' - to psychosis and a string of horrific

He told MPs that a panel of experts would be ordered to review 'whether
it is now right that cannabis should be moved from Class C to Class B.'

Whitehall sources said the latest move is being driven personally by Mr
Brown. They said his 'starting point' is that reclassification should
take place.

It is only 18 months since the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs,
under instruction from then Home Secretary Charles Clarke, carried out
its last review and recommended no change.


Author: via UKCIA

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