Professor Les Iverson, a retired pharmacologist, has in the past mirrored Professor Nutts comments that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco and even called for the drug to be made legal.
He said: “Cannabis should be legalised not just decriminalised because it is comparatively less dangerous than legal drugs alcohol and tobacco.”
Yesterday Professor Iverson played down any potential clashes with Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, by suggesting the debate had moved on – and that he had changed his mind since his speech at a dinner in 2003 hosted by the Beckley Foundation, a charity in favour of regulating rather than banning drug use.
He said: “I don’t remember saying that, it’s certainly not my position now. That was a view I had in 2003 and a great deal has happened since then.
“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.”
Prof Iverson, who has sat on the committee for five years, said much more active attention was currently being paid to so-called legal highs such as mephedrone.
“I’m not the drug adviser to the government, I’m a spokesman for a large group of people on the advisory council, only a few of whom are scientists.”
In October, Mr Johnson sacked Prof Nutt for “crossing a line” into politics. Prof Nutt, who is setting up a rival think-tank, said he was simply reiterating scientific fact.
Five other members on the panel subsequently resigned in protest and have yet to be replaced.
Professor Colin Blakemore, the neuroscientist, said Prof Iverson, a friend and former colleague, was conservative by nature but nevertheless shared the same views as his predecessor.
“I see no reason that Les Iverson’s view on ecstasy deviates from the conclusions of the ACMD in that it should be classified as B rather than A.
“Similarly on cannabis that should have remained at C rather than being downgraded.”
In the weeks that followed Prof Nutt’s sacking, the home secretary tried to smooth over the row by making a number of concessions to his drugs advisers.
Mr Johnson agreed to write to panel members to explain any decisions that went against their advice.
He also said he would not prejudge decisions on drug classification ahead of the committee issuing advice.
– Article from The Telegraph.