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Top drug boffin renews criticism of cannabis policy

High on science

The Home Office's chief drug advisor has today stoked the row over the reclassification of cannabis and ecstasy, accusing the government of "devaluing" scientific evidence.

Professor David Nutt heads the committee of boffins that advises the Home Office on drug classification.

Last year then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith ignored his committee's scientific recommendation and bumped cannabis back up to class B. He was also unimpressed by her decision earlier this year to keep ecstasy at class A, despite his assessment it is no more dangerous than riding a horse.

Alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than cannabis and ecstasy, he said today, renewing his criticism of the Home Office.

"As we have reviewed the evidence on cannabis very extensively in the last 10 years there's not been anything we've seen to say it is more dangerous than class C drugs," he said on the Today Programme.

"It's about the whole way society assesses the relative harm of drugs... the majority of the public do not want people to be given a five year prison sentence for posession of cannabis, which is what would happen if it's class B."

The Home Office said it is "determined to crack down on all illegal substances and minimise their harm to health and society as a whole".

In a new paper, Nutt argues the distinction drawn between the harm caused by illegal and legal drugs is moral and political, not scientific. ®

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