Cocaine, Cannabis and Opium: Which Politicians Have Used Drugs and What Did They Take?

The confession by Environment Secretary Michael Gove that he once took cocaine has again shone the spotlight on past drug use by leading politicians.

The Tory leadership contender has said he “deeply regrets” using the illicit substance two decades ago, but he is not alone.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has confessed to taking cocaine

Boris Johnson, the favourite to succeed Mrs May as Conservative leader and prime minister, admitted to GQ magazine in 2007 he tried cocaine and cannabis as a teenager at Oxford.

“I tried it at university and I remember it vividly. And it achieved no pharmacological, psychotropic or any other effect on me whatsoever.”

Boris Johnson, who is running to succeed Theresa May as Prime Minister, leaves his home in London
Boris Johnson admitted taking cannabis but said he once ‘sneezed’ into some cocaine

He later gave a different account while appearing on satirical TV panel show, Have I Got News For You.

“I think I was once given cocaine but I sneezed and so it did not go up my nose. In fact, I may have been doing icing sugar,” he said.

On cannabis he said: “There was a period before university when I had quite a few (cannabis joints). It was jolly nice. But apparently it is very different these days. Much stronger.

“I’ve become very illiberal about it. I don’t want my kids to take drugs,” he added.

Asked about his previous comments on drugs in a 2008 interview, when he was standing for Mayor of London, Mr Johnson said: “Well, that was when I was 19. It all goes to show that, sometimes, it’s better not to say anything.”

Following that interview, Mr Johnson said days later: “To say that I have taken cocaine is simply untrue.”

He added: “As I have said many times, I was once at university offered a white substance, none of which went up my nose and I have no idea whether it was cocaine or not.”

File photo dated 16/11/18 of Prisons Minister Rory Stewart who has sought to play down reports that convicted sex offenders have been housed in budget hotel chains upon their release from prison.
Rory Stewart, secretary of state for international development, has smoked opium

International Development Secretary Rory Stewart has apologised for smoking opium at a wedding in Iran.

Speaking to Sky News last week, Mr Stewart admitted to making a “very stupid mistake” 15 years ago, and said he “went to Iran to see the damage that opium was doing to communities.”

He added: “I’ve seen it as a prisons minister. It was something that was very wrong, I made a stupid mistake.”

Mr Stewart insisted it “had no effect” on him “because I was walking 25-30 miles a day”.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he might have once tried cannabis in his youth, telling The Times “I think I had a cannabis lassi (drink) when I went backpacking through India.”

He cheekily added that it was “almost as naughty as wheatfields” in a dig at his beleaguered leader’s “guilty moment”‘.

Former cabinet minister, Esther McVey
Esther McVey said she ‘tried some pot’ when she was ‘much younger’

Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has admitted she smoked cannabis.

The Tory leadership contender said had “tried some pot” when she was “much younger”.

Britain's former Prime Minister David Cameron
David Cameron said politicians deserve a private life

In the wake of Mr Gove’s admission, ex-leader of the House of Commons and leadership rival Andrea Leadsom told The Independent: “I have never taken cocaine or Class A drugs.

“Everyone is entitled to a private life before becoming an MP. I smoked weed at university and have never smoked it again since.”

The current crop of leadership candidates have, then, been open about their drugs use, but former Conservative prime minister David Cameron took a different tack.

While running for Tory leader in 2005 (with Gove a member of his team), the future PM was asked at a party conference fringe meeting whether he had taken drugs at university.

“I had a normal university experience. “There were things that I did then that I don’t think that I should talk about now I’m a politician.”

Later, on the BBC’s debate show Question Time, he was asked if he thought that drug-taking at university is “all part of an ordinary university experience?”, in modern-day Britain.

Mr Cameron was applauded for replying that politicians deserved a private life before entering politics.

Austerity - according to George Osborne's plans - had only a few years left to run
George Osborne denied accusations he took drugs

His close friend and former chancellor George Osborne, on the other hand, has taken a firmer approach.

The current editor of the Evening Standard was forced to deny taking drugs after newspapers printed a picture of him with his arm around a woman described as a “cocaine-snorting hooker”.

Mr Osborne suggested he was the victim of a “smear campaign”, adding: “The allegations are completely untrue, and dredging up a photo from when I was 22 years old is pretty desperate stuff.”

In 2007, several ministers in Gordon Brown’s government, including chancellor Alistair Darling, home secretary Jacqui Smith and deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, admitted using cannabis in their youth.

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper said she tried cannabis at university

Yvette Cooper, then minister for housing, said cannabis use at university was “something that I have left behind” while Andy Burnham, now Mayor of Greater Manchester, admitted smoking the drug.

U.S. President Bill Clinton looks down while speaking in the White House briefing room about the mass slaying of students at a Colorado high school April 20. Clinton said the federal government will provide any assistance needed to deal with the tragedy. It is believed that up to 25 students were killed after gunmen went on a rampage at Columbine High School today
Bill Clinton smoked ‘but did not inhale’ while trying a joint

In 1992, US presidential hopeful Bill Clinton famously said he tried marijuana while at Oxford University but “didn’t inhale”.

U.S. President Barack Obama answers reporters questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House June 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama fielded questions about the War Powers Act and his authority to continue military support in the NATO-led offensive against Gaddafi forces in Libya and the ongoing budget negotiations with Congress.
Barack Obama admitted to taking cannabis and cocaine

The remark has been lampooned many times, including by then senator Barack Obama in 2006, who said: “When I was a kid, I inhaled … that was the point”.

Mr Obama also admitted to using “a little blow” (cocaine) in his first book Dreams From My Father.


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