David Blunkett said yesterday that the Government's recent decision to reclassify cannabis was based on public opinion - rather than hard evidence.
The former Home Secretary was responsible for the widely-criticised original decision to downgrade the drug from a class B to class C drug.
Following an outcry from police and health professionals, Jacqui Smith, the current Home Secretary, has been forced to end Labour's four-year experiment by reversing the decision.
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Former Home Secretary and Chancellor Kenneth Clarke (left) and David Blunkett giving evidence at a Public Administration Select Committee on Thursday
She ordered the switch back, which was announced in May and takes effect in January, in defiance of the Government's independent advice body the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
She said there was a 'compelling case because 80 per cent of the cannabis seized on the streets was the stronger 'skunk' variety - and the potency of the drug has increased dramatically, rising threefold since 1995.
Mr Blunkett told MPs: 'There has been a debate about new forms of cannabis - skunk - and I understand why people respond in a democracy to general feeling.'
Defending the original decision to downgrade cannabis, he said: 'It did seem to us that it was the right thing to do in terms of placing the emphasis on education and the results have been substantial in terms of the drop in usage, particularly among young people and that is very encouraging.'
Mr Blunkett, who was giving evidence to the Commons public administration select committee as part of its inquiry into 'good government', was asked if politicians were afraid of being bold because they were 'enslaved' to the media.
He said: 'There are lots of examples of where politicians have taken very brave decisions. They don't appear brave years after, that is the problem, because the world moves on.'
Lighting up: Campaigners have argued that reclassifying cannabis to a Class B drug is justified because the 'skunk' variety is so popular
Critics claim that Miss Smith's recent tough words on cannabis are purely rhetoric as users caught by police will continue to escape arrest despite an apparent tightening of drug laws.
Under a 'three strikes' system, offenders face warnings and on-the-spot fines of £80.
Arrests would apply only to a third offence of possession.
Gordon Brown ordered a review of the downgrading of cannabis when he became Prime Minister last year.
In May this year he confirmed plans to reverse the decision and toughen the law on cannabis.
But figures gathered by the Daily Mail earlier this year found that fewer than one in ten cannabis users is prosecuted after being caught with the drug.
Last week, senior policeman delivered a fierce attack on the reclassification of cannabis after a long-term user who ignored medical pleas to kick the habit was jailed for life for murdering his girlfriend.
Detective Superintendent Andy West said the decision to downgrade the drug from Class B to C was the 'worst thing' he had seen in 28 years of policing.
Mr West led the investigation into the murder of Stephanie Barton, a 32-year-old trainee accountant.
Her boyfriend, Marc Middlebrook, the 27-year-old son of a teacher, had been a cannabis user for ten years when he stabbed Miss Barton 15 times with three knives as she lay naked in his bed at his home in Boston, Lincolnshire.
The former student had become convinced she was part of a conspiracy to kill him, Lincoln Crown Court heard.
# Kirsty Walker
# Mail Online
# October 23, 2008
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