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19/07/2007 00:00:00

UK: Jacqui Smith admits to smoking cannabis



---
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, has admitted that she smoked cannabis
while a student at Oxford University.

Her confession came after Gordon Brown indicated the drug could be
reclassified as more dangerous, as he announced the third review of the
issue in six years.

Asked today whether she had ever taken cannabis herself, Miss Smith, 45,
said: "I have. I did when I was at university. I haven't done for at
least 25 years.

"I am not proud about it, I did the wrong thing," she told GMTV, adding
that she had never tried any other illegal substances.

Asked if the confession made her unfit to be in charge of drugs
legislation, she said: "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 tackled".

A former teacher, Miss Smith attended Hertford College at Oxford. She
said that she smoked cannabis "just a few times".

She is not the first Home Secretary to confess youthful drug use.
Charles Clarke admitted trying cannabis a couple of times in his late teens.

The Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs is to consider whether
powerful new strains of cannabis mean that it should be moved back to
Class B. It was placed in Class C three years ago after a review
requested by David Blunkett when he was Home Secretary.

Shortly before the last election in 2005, Mr Clarke asked for the issue
to be reconsidered. In January last year, the committee recommended
keeping it in Class C, which carries lesser penalties for possession and
dealing.

It conceded that regular cannabis use can have "real and significant"
mental health effects. The modern form of the drug is far more potent
than that used in the 1960s because of the high content of THC, the
ingredient that provides the "buzz".

But advisers, who include leading medical specialists, concluded that it
was unlikely to cause schizophrenia. The committee said that while
cannabis could produce harmful effects, these were "not of the same
order as those of substances within Class B".

The Home Secretary is preparing a consultation on drugs laws. The
Government's 10-year drugs strategy runs out next year and is being
reviewed. Miss Smith will ask the public to comment on ways to improve
drugs education, treatment and bear down on dealers.

The Government move was seen as another retreat from the Blair legacy
and a response to the drugs warning from a Tory policy team last week.

The Home Office said the review would consider reports that the danger
from cannabis is increasing because of stronger strains like "skunk".

Supporters of a more liberal regime accused Mr Brown of political
posturing. A spokesman for the Transform pressure group said: "The
potency issue and the mental health issues associated with cannabis are
well understood and have not changed significantly since they were last
reviewed in 2005."

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: "We have long called for
the reclassification of cannabis based on the science and evidence
available which shows all too clearly the real damage this drug can do
to people – especially young people."

Keith Hellawell, the former Government "drugs tsar" who resigned over
the original reclassification, said: "There was never any justification
for reclassifying."

Marjorie Wallace, of Sane, the mental health charity, said: "Urgent
action is needed to prevent an epidemic of drug-induced psychosis, and
Sane welcomes this consultation on drugs strategy and the classification
of cannabis."

Mr Blunkett said he was "quite relaxed" about the latest review, saying
it was understandable that a new prime minister and home secretary would
want to take a look at all important areas of public policy.

It is estimated that as many as 500,000 individuals in Britain may use
the drug regularly. Some have developed schizophrenia-like symptoms and
mental health hospital admissions due to cannabis have risen by 63 per
cent in the past five years.

have your say:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/19/ncannabis519.xml


Source: http://www.ukcia.org/news/shownewsarticle.php?articleid=12705
Author: The Telegraph via UKCIA

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