Government drug adviser linked to foundation that promotes LSD
The Government’s leading drugs expert is listed as an adviser to a charitable foundation, headed by an aristocrat, which campaigns for the liberalisation of drugs laws.
Professor Les Iversen, the head of the official Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), is named on the website of the Beckley Foundation, run by Lady Neidpath, who has admitted taking mind-altering substances and accepts her sons may smoke cannabis.
The ACMD is at the centre of a row over the regulation of ‘legal high’ drug mephedrone – known as Meow Meow – which the Government recently announced it would ban.
Eric Carlin, a member of the ACMD, resigned following the decision, saying ministers had only acted on the drug to appear to be “acting tough” in the run-up to a general election.
Professor Iversen’s predecessor David Nutt, who was sacked in November after claiming the use of alcohol and tobacco poses a greater danger than cannabis and ecstasy, is also listed as a Beckley Foundation adviser.
Professor Nutt believes regulation of the supply of mephedrone, for example by handing it out in nightclubs, would be “safer” than an outright ban.
Professor Iversen wrote a paper for the foundation in 2003 that concluded alcohol was more dangerous than cannabis, but says he has not had anything to do with the organisation since 2005.
He has also said he no longer holds the same views on the dangers of cannabis.
The Beckley Foundation has called for the reintroduction of LSD for medical use and has funded clinical trials to study its effects on the human brain.
It has also urged the lifting of criminal convictions for use or possession of cannabis.
Lady Neidpath told the Mail on Sunday: “We don’t meet, but Professor Iversen has never asked me to remove him from our scientific advisers list.
“The last time I asked him to talk at one of our seminars he said he couldn’t because of his Government role. I completely understood.
“‘He has never asked me to remove him from our advisers list but I suppose if people now make a great fuss about it he may ask me to remove his name.”
Ann Widdecombe, the Tory MP and former Home Office minister, called on Professor Iversen to resign as head of the ACMD.
“The fact that he was prepared to lend his name to a body pushing for softer policies on drug use means he should not be advising the Government on this issue.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Professor Iversen has presented to the Beckley Foundation. However, he is not employed by them.
"Professor Iversen has publicly stated that he fully supports the report that the ACMD produced in April 2008 concerning its consideration of cannabis. The ACMD believe that cannabis is a harmful drug and poses a real threat to the health of those who use it."
Other names on the list of Beckley Foundation advisers include Andre Tylee, Professor of Primary Care Mental Health, at the Institute of Psychiatry and King's College, University of London, and Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and a former chief executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC).
By Alastair Jamieson
Published: 4:42PM BST 04 Apr 2010