It’s been an eventful week for the war on drugs. Drugs legislation received a double-pronged attack from the UK’s psychedelic resistance movement; attacking simultaneously the health front, and in a bold move, the already weakened economic flank. Captain David Nutt lead the attack following controversial research on psilocybin and its links to alleviating depression, while his Avengers, Richard Branson and Ruth Dreifuss, of the Global Commission on Drug Policy addressed the House of Commons with a kick-in-the-jewels move suggesting the government was foolish not to take advantage of the revenue produced from the taxation of cannabis.
Allegedly the group dreamed up the attack on the government while attending a house party in central London. While heavily under the influence of psychedelics they recall intense feelings of euphoria and an overwhelming sense of well-being. Branson had previously remarked at enjoying getting high in his spare time and dressing up like Ussain Bolt, the 100m gold medal champion, (which later gave him the idea to endorse him in the new broadband advert). He said ‘blacking up’ and wearing a spaceman helmet gave him a sense of freedom while he was high and it was a crime cannabis was illegal.
Nutt had long understood the link between psychedelics and ‘the giggles’ but was yet to prove the theory in a way that could be represented in a pie chart. So while studying the brain under the influence of psilocybin he discovered the anterior cingulate cortex was inhibited and is usually overactive in depressed patients. These findings, along with Branson’s no nonsense taxation of cannabis have been cleverly timed to give the media a nice flabby piece of rump to sink its teeth into; and at the same time redden some faces in the cabinet. With an estimated 6 million cannabis users in the UK (about 9% of the population) what government would be in their right mind not to tax that kind of revenue in a recession?
The government are expected to retaliate with a long delay. Committee Chair Rt Hon Keith Vaz said “We will be talking to a number of people during what is sure to be a long-running inquiry”. In the meantime the government hopes the press will get bored and enough stupid teenagers will overdose on some kind of new legal high to make the whole thing seem politically unpopular again. Millionaire Richard Branson may have to put his dreams of the first UK ‘brown cafÃ©’ on hold for a while.
Branson has a logical argument aside from the increase in tax monies. In his address he cites Portugal as a role-model; treating their citizens as addicts rather than criminals to cure the problem from the bottom up. 5 years after decriminalisation the Cato Institute (Washington D.C.) reported there to be significantly less overdoses and drug-related HIV cases. If caught with a personal amount (enough for a 10 day party) then a judge would decide if treatment, a fine, or no sanction was necessary.
However decriminalisation is a step closer to legalisation, which is a touchy subject where the government is concerned. David Nutt has already been sent off the playing field for talking out-of-turn and has been forced to form his own team of militia to fight for the freedom of controlled substances. He now has a millionaire entrepreneur (who may moonlight as a masked crusader) at his side, but it’s an ongoing battle to change the public opinion at large and pie charts and free biscuits alone aren’t going to cut it. This week the war on drugs may have failed, but something suggests it’s not yet won.