Health campaigners have accused the Government of creating “dangerous confusion” over the mental health risks of smoking cannabis after it scrapped a multi-million pound publicity campaign.
The Home Office announced in January that the publicity drive would launch in the spring but, six months later, it has been quietly pushed to one side. .
The scheme was recommended by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, a Home Office committee made up of scientists, medical experts, drugs charity workers and police. It said that a major campaign was required to let people know about the mental health risks and to combat confusion about the drug brought about by the change in its classification, from class B to class C. .
Days later, Charles Clarke, the home secretary at the time, told the Commons: “The illegal status of the drug is not enough. We need a massive programme of public education to convey the danger of cannabis use.” .
Paul Goggins, then a Home Office minister, subsequently said the campaign would be launched “in the spring” and would cost “many millions of pounds”..
The decision to scrap the campaign has brought an angry response. One member of the advisory panel, who asked not to be named, said: “We decided a campaign about the risks associated with mental health was needed. If charities and members of the public are saying they have not seen any sign of this campaign, then that speaks for itself.” .
Prof Robin Murray, from the Institute of Psychiatry, said: “This has caused a dangerous confusion about cannabis among young people. We are seeing more people with cannabis-related mental health issues.” .
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “This Government’s confused policy has sent out the message that it is okay to take drugs. They have compounded this error by failing to warn people of the very harmful consequences of taking cannabis.” .
Mr Clarke declined to comment on the scrapping of the publicity campaign. .
A Home Office spokesman said that information about drug use was provided on the website talktofrank.com and that the Department for Education and Skills was running a campaign for 11-to-14 year olds giving information about drugs. .