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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Drugs minister 'smoked marijuana'
Vernon Coaker
Mr Coaker says he did not enjoy smoking marijuana
The new minister for drugs policy has admitted smoking cannabis.

Vernon Coaker said he had had "one or two puffs of marijuana" while a student but had not enjoyed the experience and decided not to repeat it.

The Home Office minister, who was handed his role in this month's Cabinet reshuffle, denied taking harder drugs.

He made his admission on a visit to Coventry as part of a nationwide tour to see how the government's drug strategy is affecting communities.

He told the Coventry Evening Telegraph: "When I was a student, I took one or two puffs of marijuana but that was it. I think it was once or twice."

The MP for Gedling, who was a student at nearby Warwick University, praised the efforts of drugs workers in Coventry during his first official visit in the role.

'Fully committed'

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The minister briefly tried cannabis at university in the 1970s on one or two occasions. This is clearly a very long time ago, when he was a student.

"The minister has been open about his past experiences and is fully committed to taking forward the government's drugs strategy."

A former Government whip, Mr Coaker's previous jobs include stints as parliamentary private secretary to Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and to former Education Secretary Estelle Morris.

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who was fired in the most recent reshuffle, also admitted smoking cannabis while a student.

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