Cannabis: Charity's fears over effect of drug

IPSWICH: A drug awareness charity is struggling to cope with the numbers of people in Ipswich affected by the consequences of cannabis use, it emerged today.

IPSWICH: A drug awareness charity is struggling to cope with the numbers of people in Ipswich affected by the consequences of cannabis use, it emerged today.

Ipswich's Iceni Project revealed its concern for the mental health of long-term users following a Home Office decision to sack drug advisory professor David Nutt over his controversial stance on recreational drug classification.

Patrick Palmer, manager and co-founder of Iceni, which has offered support, advice and treatment to drug users from its Fore Street base since 2000, said he had been left shocked by accusations that ministers had distorted scientific evidence on cannabis.

“It's frightening to hear these comments,” he said. “It's a pity some of these so-called experts don't spend time in units such as ours.”

Professor Nutt's dismissal at the weekend has led to resignations by two other members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which provides ministers with evidence on the harm caused by various substances.

Professor Nutt claimed alcohol and tobacco caused more harm than LSD, ecstasy and cannabis and that smoking cannabis caused a relatively small risk of psychotic illness.

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However, Mr Palmer said: “Alcohol and cigarettes are a problem in this county, but cannabis also carries with it a number of issues regarding how it affects people's mental health.

“Our quota of clients is full and we now have a list of people waiting for support. We are really quite concerned about the number of people still experiencing problems.”

Mr Palmer said he was in no doubt that the downgrading of cannabis from Class B to Class C in 2004 led to an increase in the number of people requiring treatment.

Iceni is due to start a cannabis treatment programme to deal with what it calls “the sheer number and diverse mix of people in need of support to overcome dependency on cannabis”.

Speaking earlier this week, Professor Nutt said his sacking had “cast a huge shadow over the relationship of science to policy”.

Was the government right to upgrade cannabis classification? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Ipswich MP Chris Mole today lent his support to Home Secretary Alan Johnson for reacting to what he described as advisory body scientists “overstepping their remit”.

Mr Mole said that there was little room for campaigning among those sitting on government advisory panels.

“I think it's always difficult for advisory bodies giving professional guidance to the government,” he said.

“They face the danger of overstepping their remit in terms of setting policy.

“Ministers have to strike a balance between scientific evidence and public opinion and people like David Nutt should understand that by making these judgements he is stepping into the policy making domain of ministers.”