At times during the Lords debate on cannabis, I began to wonder what they were smoking. The week had begun with the dismissal of Professor Nutt as a government adviser for saying that alcohol and tobacco caused more harm than cannabis.
Now the members of the Upper House were onto drugs as well. In a few days we had gone from a Nutt-case to an even Nutt-ier case. It was only 11am, but many of the noble lords and ladies were nodding off. Frankly, it looked a bit suspicious. Lord West of Spithead, the Security Minister, spoke for the Government.
As a former First Sea Lord, he is one of Gordon Brown’s goats (government of all the talents) so now we had a goat talking to us about “skunk” (a type of strong cannabis) and Nutts. He kept telling us that he “understood all the issues”. It’s what people say when they haven’t got a clue.
Lord West once excused his lack of grip on detail by reminding everyone that he was “a simple sailor”. This, at least, seemed to be his defence as to why scientific views can miss the point.
“These things have a real impact on the streets. People talk about them in a remote sort of airy-fairy way,” he said. “The reality on the streets is quite horrendous.”
Wearing a giant, floppy, candy-pink handkerchief, Lord West explained the policy on skunk. “I’m afraid I know from my own experience with my youngsters and their friends. My son has two friends, both of whom have been severely affected by the use of this really, really strong drug,” he said.
“It is a nonsense to say it doesn’t have appalling effects. The other thing is, all of the chaps who seem to do this, and the women, seem also to drink and smoke ordinary cigarettes as well! So there’s another issue.”
Lord West was also concerned about tackling drug-driving. “I think with skunk, particularly if they’ve had one glass of drink as well, it has a huge impact on their ability to drive.” So far, we had not had one fact. He was asked how much of the cannabis on our streets was skunk.
“If I may get back with the exact figure,” he said. “I know I’ve got those somewhere, but I can’t get it in time.” I began to suspect short-term memory loss. Then, when asked about medical uses of cannabis, he said: “I’m thrown back on being a simple sailor somewhat.”
A Lib Dem asked why the Navy had not seized more drugs this year. Lord West puffed up with pride. The Navy had been a “huge success”. It had captured cocaine worth £4 billion since 2000. In September HMS Iron Duke had made the biggest haul ever, capturing drugs with a street value of £240 million. The successes were having some impact. “That, plus the flights, is actually affecting the flow of drugs through West Africa. So it’s really good stuff!”
The handkerchief was dancing around joyfully now. “I’m always delighted to speak about the Navy! Today, 69 years ago, Captain Fegen got a VC steaming towards two German battle cruisers — a little merchant ship! We still have the same spirit going for drugs!”
I half expected to hear Rule Britannia swelling up. The entire chamber cheered “Hurrah!” Later, I learned that Captain Fegen went down with his ship. See what I mean about Nutt-ier?
The Times Online
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Lords all at sea as cannabis debate gets Nutt-ier by the day