A judge has criticised those who claim cannabis is harmless as 'simple' after hearing how a man brandished a pistol in public while suffering drug-induced paranoia.
In a veiled attack on the Government's sacked chief drugs' adviser, Professor David Nutt, Judge Brian Lewis said he was in no doubt that Giovanni Mercuri's cannabis use was to blame for his serious difficulties and strange behaviour.
The 25-year-old narrowly avoided jail after being caught with a blank firing revolver in a nightclub in March this year.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how Mercuri had been diagnosed with cannabis-induced psychosis following the incident, which also saw him hospitalised under the Mental Health Act.
Sentencing him to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, Judge Lewis said: 'Those simple souls who try to persuade us that cannabis is harmless should simply look at cases like yours.
'There is no doubt it causes serious difficulties and can cause the form of psychosis which you are suffering from.''
The judge's comments came hours before three more of the Government's drugs' advisers quit in the wake of the controversial sacking of Professor Nutt more than a week ago.
Prof Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, was fired after he criticised Home Office policy on cannabis, particularly the Government's decision to upgrade the legal classification of cannabis from C to B.
He also argued that ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes and claimed taking ecstasy was no more risky than horse riding.
Two advisers - Marion Walker and Les King - quickly resigned in protest at Professor Nutt's sacking, on Friday October 30, and today a further three members of the ACMD followed suit.
Chemist Simon Campbell, psychologist John Marsden and scientific consultant Ian Ragan stepped down following showdown talks with Home Secretary Alan Johnson on yesterday.
Ian Davies, prosecuting, told the court that Mercuri was in Bakers Bar, West Street, Southport, Merseyside, in the early hours of March 12 this year when a doorman spotted him with some cannabis.
When confronted Mercuri, who works at his family restaurant, did a 360 degree spin on the dance floor, before pushing the starting pistol down the side of his seat and leaving the building.
The doorman, who believed Mercuri was acting 'very strange' but was not drunk, subsequently discovered the gun.
Police were called and the nightclub evacuated. Meanwhile, Mercuri boasted to a taxi driver about what he had done, claiming he had left a loaded gun on a table in Bakers.
He was arrested a few hours later.
Yesterday Mercuri, who has previous convictions for assault and car theft, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm.
The hearing was told he had been given the gun by a friend for his own protection.
His barrister, Simon Driver, said that although Mercuri had carried the gun around for a few hours, he had not threatened anyone with it and left it behind, along with his jacket, when he left the nightclub.
Mr Driver said Mercuri had been hospitalised following the incident under the Mental Health Act.
'He was clearly unwell and displaying signs of paranoia,' Mr Driver added.
Mercuri has since taken his psychiatrist's advice and has stayed away from cannabis after being diagnosed with cannabis-induced psychosis, the barrister said.
Judge Lewis sentenced Mercuri to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years and also placed him under a four month curfew, banning him from leaving home between 9pm and 7am.
'Make no mistake, if you breach any of these orders you will come back before me and go straight to prison,'' the judge said.
''No sob stories, medical reports or letters from your mother will help.''
November 11, 2009