HL Deb 25 March 1971 vol 316 cc990-2

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their attention has been drawn to the report of the Oxford research scientists, who have found strong evidence that cannabis is unsafe and in some cases may be highly dangerous, and whether they will take steps to make the danger widely known to the public.]


My Lords, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has seen the recent reports about the research into the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis that is being conducted under the direction of Professor W. D. M. Paton of the University of Oxford, and he has also noted certain papers published by Professor Paton and his associates which describe aspects of this research. The findings so far are preliminary, but Her Majesty's Government will be watching the future progress of this continuing research with interest. The possession of cannabis is already illegal.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask him also to investigate the other statements that have been made by Professor Paton and also the research workers in Jamaica with regard to the possible effect on the fԓtus? He will see that in those papers it is suggested that cannabis and thalidomide may have the same effect on the fԓtus.


My Lords, an interdepartmental co-ordinating committee on the misuse of drugs has been set up recently to facilitate the work of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs which will be established under the Bill which is now before your Lordships. This body has a research sub-committee with a responsibility, inter alia, to ensure that the Advisory Council is kept fully informed of all research developments, and it will certainly include those to which the noble Baroness has referred.


My Lords, will my noble friend agree that this issue of the most authoritative evidence that can be obtained about the potentially harmful effects of this and other drugs is of very real importance?


Yes, my Lords. Although some of the results of Professor Paton's research to date appear to be significant, it would be premature to draw firm conclusions from them at this stage. But the research at the Department of Pharmacology at Oxford to which the Question referred will continue, with support from the Medical Research Council, for another three years, and it seems likely that this will make an important contribution to the total research on cannabis and its effects which has been carried out in several countries and which it is hoped will eventually illuminate the whole problem of cannabis taking.


My Lords, does the noble Lord know that, as a result of a report recently published in the United States of America, Governor Rockefeller of New York announced on Tuesday that he would recommend to the Legislature of New York that the penalty for cannabis possession should be reduced to one week; and does not this indicate a remarkable divergence of medical opinion on the subject?


My Lords, I do not want to be drawn into a discussion on the penalties for the possession of cannabis: we are to discuss the Misuse of Drugs Bill on Third Reading later to-day. But I would say to the noble Lord that the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in the United States have recently set up a major research project on the subject of marijuana and health, and they will be reviewing across the whole field of social medicine as well as scientific research the effects of cannabis. From their research project social policies in the United States will flow.