Mowlam hints at softer line on use of cannabis

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Mo Mowlam hinted yesterday that the Government might adopt a softer line on cannabis because there was no conclusive scientific evidence to suggest that it resulted in people moving on to use hard drugs.

Mo Mowlam hinted yesterday that the Government might adopt a softer line on cannabis because there was no conclusive scientific evidence to suggest that it resulted in people moving on to use hard drugs.

The Cabinet Office Minister, who is responsible for drugs policy, said that using cannabis might not be "an addictive process". She said: "The scientific evidence is not yet available to suggest that, [as] some people say, smoking cannabis leads to taking heroin."

She said the evidence would be kept under review and hinted that it could provoke a government rethink. "We are not a closed government to new ideas. But it doesn't mean that any decision has been made," she told BBC Television's On the Record programme.

Her determination to keep an open mind reflects concern among some ministers that Labour's hard line on drugs may seem out of touch with the public mood following the admission by eight members of William Hague's Shadow Cabinet that they had tried cannabis in their youth.

However, Downing Street was quick to stamp on the idea of a rethink. "We have absolutely no plans to decriminalise or legalise any drugs that are currently illegal," said a spokeswoman.

Ms Mowlam's remarks could put her at odds with Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, who shares Tony Blair's hard line on soft drugs.

Charles Clarke, a Home Office minister, said in a written Commons reply last month: "It is undoubtedly the case that most users of class A drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, started off by using so-called soft drugs, normally cannabis."

He said it was difficult to establish a causal link, but that there was increasing evidence of one, citing research in New Zealand that showed regular cannabis users had a 59 per cent higher risk of using other illegal drugs than non-users.

Yesterday Ms Mowlam said the effects of long-term addiction to alcohol were much more damaging than the equivalent use of cannabis during the same period.

She again hinted at differences with the Home Office when she praised as "a very good job" and "very useful" a Police Foundation inquiry that recommended a relaxation of penalties for cannabis use and a downgrading of the drug from class B to C.

Ms Mowlam said: "The overall response of the Government was the rejection of certain recommendations and not of others."

Ms Mowlam went on to say that the Government's "Just Say No" anti-drugs campaign would now be extended following concern that such a message had little impact on teenagers, and insisted: "Just Say No has never been our policy. It was the Tories'."

She added that the proposed campaign was only one relatively minor part of a much broader strategy that was making progress.

Keith Hellawell, the Government's "drugs tsar," will publish his second annual report tomorrow.

Ms Mowlam, who is to stand down from Parliament at the next general election, indicated inadvertently that the election would probably be held next May by commenting that she would not be in her post next summer.

Comments