Tag Archives: Psychoactive Substances Bill

Problems identified with enforcing prohibition of legal highs

There was an excellent article on Victoria Derbyshire show yesterday about the dramas the legal highs legislation is going through now the Police are having to consider its enforcement.  The problems centre on the practical difficulties for police of proving that a substance is ‘psychoactive’, that is, that it actually gives people a high.  Whilst this might lead to a surreal career opportunity for someone, the very process of defining what a legal high is shines a wonderful light on the futility of prohibition, with legal experts straining to find a form of words which makes mind altering substances illegal whilst still allowing for the use of substances as diverse as Super Tennants and Incense used by the Church of England!

The obvious answer is of course to end prohibition, gradually, and start proper regulation and control.  Cannabis is an excellent first step, and it would be wise to make a success of that before moving on to other drugs, but the legal highs legislation is a wonderful opportunity to make the wider point whilst the country is listening.  The government aim is to avoid the risks to users health and well being from dangerous legal highs, which is a noble aim.  The entire thrust of the legislation however is now concentrated on giving police the powers to define legal highs in order to the shut down the shops selling them.  This only makes sense in a very narrow ‘technical’ manner.  If successful, the shops might be closed down, or maybe the sellers will either tweak their products to side-step the definition or simply move into the darker parts of the internet, which will only increase the risks to the end users. In the meantime the police have wasted money and man-power, the exchequer has raised not a single penny in taxation, and if anyone still believes that prohibition will stop the end users demand for these legal highs then they’re probably indulging in some mind altering substances of their own.  

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 11 Comments

Brian Paddick upsets the Daily Mail over drugs policy. Oh what a shame.

Brian Paddick is not some hippy anarchist. He used to be the Assistant Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police for goodness’ sake. He knows, therefore, about what works in trying to tackle drug addiction. And it’s not the futile “war on drugs” which successive governments have insisted on waging. Prohibition just doesn’t work. All the evidence points to that. Drug users who need help should get it through the health service not the prison service.

Funnily enough, the Daily Mail doesn’t much like his plan to amend the government’s ridiculous law banning legal highs.

This afternoon, Brian moved his amendments to the Bill. Here’s his speech in full:

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: Teresa May’s pipedream

 

The draft Psychoactive Substances Bill worries me.

Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it.  Recent discussions of drug misuse generally do not look back far enough.  Every Voice reader already knows that prohibition does not work, mostly because of market forces, but it is sobering to read just how often over the centuries and in how many places that lesson has been learned the hard way.  Again and again the same sequence has recurred: moral panic, decisive action, free publicity for forbidden fruit, final result worse than before.  My favourite source of historical information is a 620-page report published in 1972 by the American Consumers Union entitled “Licit and Illicit Drugs” (large pdf).

Posted in Op-eds | 12 Comments
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  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 15th Dec - 6:04pm
    Nonconformistradical 15th Dec '19 - 5:38pm "What sort of ‘average’ are you implying? Median or mean?" There are more than two types of average (just...
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