UK’s new drug czar wanted marijuana legalised

News Source: Times Online Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs January 14, 2010 - A RETIRED academic who once called for marijuana to be legalised was appointed as the British government’s new adviser on the harm caused by drugs.

Les Iversen, a former pharmacology professor at the University of Oxford, was made interim chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of DrugsThe Times of London reports.

He replaces David Nutt, who was allegedly fired for criticising the government’s decision to reclassify marijuana as a more serious drug.

After the British Home Office announced his appointment, it emerged that in a 2003 lecture Iversen said that "there have been no deaths to date caused by use of cannabis. Cannabis should be legalised, not just decriminalised, because it is comparatively less dangerous than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco."

Also that year he wrote that marijuana had been incorrectly classified for nearly 50 years as a dangerous drug and that it was one of the "safer" recreational drugs.

When questioned about his remarks during a radio interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Iversen said he no longer held the same views.

"I don’t remember saying that. It’s certainly not my position now," he 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."

He said that he accepted it was the British home secretary’s prerogative to make decisions about drug classification and to accept or reject scientific advice.

The dispute over his predecessor Nutt’s sacking provoked a crisis over the role of scientific advice within the government.

It prompted British ministers to commission a review of how the government deals with scientists and forced Alan Johnson, the home secretary, to give assurances to the remaining council members on how they would be treated in future.

The council is required to keep drug misuse in Britain under review, advise the government on drugs that are likely to be misused and advise on the possible harmful effects of drugs.

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