Seven ministers admit to having smoked cannabis

A STRING of British Government ministers yesterday followed Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in admitting they used cannabis in their youth.

A total of seven Cabinet ministers, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, confirmed they used the illegal drug as students. And two more ministers at the Home Office also said they tried it at university.

The admissions came after Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s announcement of a review of the classification of cannabis, which may reverse the 2004 decision to downgrade it from a class B drug to the less serious class C.

Mr Brown’s spokesman said the Prime Minister — who has denied ever using illicit substances — was “quite relaxed” about his Cabinet colleagues’ admissions of past indiscretions.

Ms Smith, who will have to decide whether to reverse her predecessor David Blunkett’s decision on declassifying cannabis, made her admission in an early-morning interview on GMTV.

Asked if she had ever tried cannabis, she said: “I have. I did when I was at university. I haven’t done for at least 25 years.”

Shortly afterwards policing, security and community safety Minister Tony McNulty said: “At university I encountered it, I smoked it once or twice, and I don’t think many people who were at university at the time didn’t at least encounter it.”

And the Home Office later confirmed another minister Vernon Coaker, who has responsibility for drugs policy, had also taken cannabis in the past.

Mr Darling said he had tried the drug “occasionally in my youth”. His deputy at the Treasury, Chief Secretary Andy Burnham said he had used it “once or twice at university and never since”.

Spokespeople for Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Business Secretary John Hutton also confirmed they were former cannabis users.

A spokeswoman for Ms Kelly said she smoked it “in her youth (but) realised it was foolish and gave up”.

Mr Hutton’s spokesman said: “He smoked cannabis when he was at university over 30 years ago. He regrets doing it now, having seen the damage that cannabis can cause among some of the young people in his constituency.”

Mr Brown’s spokesman told reporters at a regular daily briefing: “The prime minister is quite relaxed about the situation.”

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