Source: Evening News, Norwich, UK

Pub date: Saturday, March 19, 2005

Subj:  Clarke's concern over cannabis



Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance


Home Secretary Charles Clarke has asked independent advisers to reassess the dangers of cannabis in the light of new medical research, it emerged today.


Mr Clarke, who is set to go head-to-head with Legalise Cannabis Alliance Don Barnard in his Norwich South constituency at the General Election, has highlighted recent studies suggesting a link between dope use and mental illness.


He has asked for particular guidance on the Dutch government's plans to introduce a higher classification for more potent types of cannabis known as 'skunk'.


Mr Clarke was last month involved in a spat with the Norwich-based Legalise Cannabis Alliance when he refused to attend their national conference, saying he had "no respect" for the party.


Former Home Secretary David Blunkett downgraded the drug from Class B to Class C in January last year, making its possession a non-arrestable offence in most cases.


But in a letter to the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), Mr Clarke said: "I think there is merit in the Advisory Council assessing whether their position is at all changed by the emerging evidence."


His letter, released today by the Home Office, referred to a New Zealand study which looked at how regular cannabis use affected the risk of developing psychotic symptoms later in life.


Mr Clarke went on: "I want to be clear what influence the evidence presented within these studies has on the overall assessment of the classification of cannabis.


"I am aware the Dutch Government are taking a particular interest in very high-strength strains and are considering whether cannabis above a certain strength should be a higher classification."


Mr Barnard said: "I don't disagree with what they are suggesting, but I believe many of these reports are written by academics for other academics and in the real world they are simply baloney.


"These supposed links with mental illness, which were first reported by the BBC, have gone all around the world. But other researchers who have looked behind the simplistic headlines at the research have found that it is riddled with holes."

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