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New chairman of drugs advisory group

Retired Oxford academic, Les Iversen has been appointed new interim head of the Home Office's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs

Retired Oxford academic, Les Iversen has been appointed the new interim head of the Home Office's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)

Iversen succeeds Professor David Nutt in the role after his controversial dismissal following his criticism of the government's toughening stance on cannabis and ecstasy.

The appointment, lasting 12 months, will see Iversen chair the group which seeks to make "recommendations to government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its regulations."

The appointment is not free of controversy though, with many media outlets commenting on remarks Iversen made in 2003 regarding his own lenient stance on cannabis, claiming that it was "incorrectly" classified as a dangerous drug.

He defended these comments in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live following news of his appointment saying: "That was a view I had in 2003 and a great deal has happened since then.

"We have now to confront the more potent forms of cannabis. We have the new evidence that arose since 2003 linking cannabis to psychiatric illness."

Aside from his former role as professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, Iversen has written two books on drugs – 'Science of Marijuana' and 'Speed, Ecstasy and Ritalin: the science of amphetamines' – and has been greatly involved in research into the medicinal uses of cannabis, as well as its links with mental health.

Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, whose office the ACMD reports to, said regarding the appointment: "The ACMD makes a valued and important contribution to our understanding of drugs and their harms. I'm pleased Professor Iversen will be bringing his experience to the role of interim chair.”

Iversen himself said: "I am honoured to take up this position and look forward to ensuring the ACMD provides government with continued expert advice on drugs issues in the UK."

14th January 2010

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