The stupidity of banning legal highs

June 11, 2016 at 8:43 am (drugs, law, mental health, posted by JD, science)

By Les Hern (also at the Workers Liberty website and the current issue of Solidarity newspaper)

“Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain”, Goethe.

Towards the end of January, “mostly supine” MPs passed a bill after a “clueless debate”.

The Psychoactive Substances Act which is intended to ban “legal highs” (novel psychoactive substances — NPSs) is “one of the stupidest, most dangerous and unscientific pieces of drugs legislation ever conceived.”

“Watching MPs debate…it was clear most didn’t have a clue. They misunderstood medical evidence, mispronounced drug names, and generally floundered. It would have been funny except lives and liberty were on the line.”

Not my words but those of an editorial in New Scientist (30 January 2016) and a report by Clare Wilson. The act came into force on 26 May, meaning that previously legal “head shops” must cease selling NPSs. The banned drugs will only be available from illegal drug dealers.

The story starts with the panic about “legal highs”, chemicals with similar effects on mood to banned drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine or speed, hence the term “psychoactive”. Legal highs were not covered by drug laws that banned named compounds but not new ones with similar effects.

If history tells us anything, it is that humans take drugs. Sometimes, these drugs cause harm to those who take them or to society in general. Banning specific drugs makes their use more dangerous.

A logical approach would be to reduce the harm by controlling purity, taxing their sale, and educating users instead of criminalising them.

Drug users would prefer not to break the law, providing a considerable incentive to synthesise new drugs that mimic banned drugs but aren’t on the banned list. But these new drugs will have unknown side effects and there is no control on dose and purity. In contrast, the effects of many “traditional” drugs are known.

The rationale for banning NPSs was that they were dangerous. Legal highs were mentioned in coroners’ reports for only 76 deaths from 2004 to 2013 (Office for National Statistics). Despite the government’s banning of NPSs as fast as it could, the number of mentions was increasing (23 in 2013). Reliable data are extremely difficult to obtain and mere mention of a drug in a coroner’s report is not evidence that the drug caused the death.

As each NPS was banned, more were synthesised. There were 24 NPSs in 2009 and 81 in 2013, making the government’s actions futile, so some bright spark came up with the idea of banning the production and supply of all substances which produce “a psychoactive effect in a person… by stimulating or depressing the person’s central nervous system [thus affecting] the person’s mental functioning or emotional state.” A bill was proposed by the new Conservative government and specified that anyone producing or supplying (but not merely possessing for personal use) the previously legal NPSs could be sent to prison for up to seven years.

The proposal soon ran into problems.

Firstly, what is meant by stimulating or depressing the central nervous system?

Secondly, what constitutes an effect on a person’s mental function or emotional state?

Thirdly, how could it be proved that any suspected substance was psychoactive? After all, placebos can be psychoactive.

Fourthly, what about alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, many medicines, and foodstuffs such as nutmeg and betel nut (or, in my case, cake)?

Finally, would bona fide scientific research on psychoactive substances be outlawed?

Criticism poured in from scientists. Respected medical researchers said the bill was “poorly drafted, unethical in principle, unenforceable in practice, and likely to constitute a real danger to the freedom and well-being of the nation” (letter to The Times).

The Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust, and others wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May that “Many types of important research could potentially be affected by the Bill, particularly in the field of neuroscience, where substances with psychoactive properties are important tools in helping scientists to understand a variety of phenomena, including consciousness, memory, addiction and mental illness.”

Even the government’s Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), more in line with politicians’ wishes since the shameful “firing” of Professor David Nutt (see below), produced a list of objections. The government’s omission of the word “novel” made the bill apply to a vast number of other substances in addition to legal highs. It would be impossible to list all exemptions so benign substances, such as some herbal remedies, might be inadvertently included. Also, proving that a substance was psychoactive would require unethical human testing, since laboratory tests might not stand up in court.

The government changed the bill to exempt scientific research but otherwise remained obdurate. An example of the inevitable confusion concerns alkyl nitrites (poppers). Known since 1844 and used to treat heart problems, they have a short-acting psychoactive effect and are generally safe.

However, the government referred to several non-specific risks and claimed that poppers had been “mentioned” in 20 death certificates since 1993 (far fewer than for lightning). After a Conservative MP appealed for poppers, which he used, not to be included, the government said they would consider the arguments later.

Another example concerns nitrous oxide (laughing gas), included in the ban despite its long history of use in medicine and recreationally. Discovered in 1772, laughing gas was greatly enjoyed by Sir Humphry Davy and friends, including the poet Shelley. It has an impressive safety record and has been used in dental and childbirth anaesthesia and sedation since 1844.* Nevertheless, the government referred to “the harms” of recreational laughing gas and included it in the bill. In fact, the deaths “caused” by nitrous oxide result from incorrect methods of inhalation which could be eliminated by education.

The Act was finally implemented on 26 May. Independent expert David Nutt described the government’s policy as “pathologically negative and thoughtless.” He predicts that deaths from drugs will increase as people turn to illegal drug dealers in the absence of legal “head shops.”

Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This just about sums up successive governments’ policies towards drugs.**


**But not all drugs. Nicotine and alcohol are legal, despite their addiction potential, toxicity, and role in causing accidents. See, for example, Smoking and accidents

Labour’s problems with scientific evidence

Tories don’t have a monopoly on cluelessness.

Expert neuroscientist Professor David Nutt was “sacked” from his position as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by the right-wing press’s favourite Labour politician, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson. This was after Nutt showed that cannabis, then being upgraded to Category B (the same as codeine, ketamine, mephedrone or speed) was less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

This wasn’t an ordinary sacking since Prof Nutt gave his time and expertise freely, believing that it was important to present the evidence to improve the quality of the debate. Three members of the ACMD resigned in protest.

Nutt stated in a lecture to fellow academics that the evidence showed that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. Johnson called this “campaigning against government policy” and “starting a debate in the national media without prior notification to my department.”

Johnson was then accused of misleading MPs since Prof Nutt had given prior notice of the content of his lecture and no journalists were invited. Further, as an unpaid advisor, Nutt was not subject to the same rules as civil servants. Other ACMD members who resigned said that they “did not have trust” in the way the government would use the ACMD’s advice and that Johnson’s decision was “unduly based on media and political pressure.”

Shamefully, PM Gordon Brown backed Nutt’s removal, saying that the government could not afford to send “mixed messages” on drugs. Both Brown and Johnson (some people’s favourite to replace Jeremy Corbyn) were quite happy to send the wrong message.

Supported by other scientists, Nutt was awarded the John Maddox Prize for standing up for science by the pro-evidence charity Sense About Science.

The government subsequently accepted a new ministerial code allowing for academic freedom and independence for advisers, with proper consideration of their advice. Under this, Nutt would not have been dismissed.

• Nutt now works with Drugs Science

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Tax fraud isn’t HSBC’s only crime: there’s money-laundering as well

February 10, 2015 at 6:52 pm (capitalism, crime, David Cameron, drugs, Jim D, tax, terror, Tory scum)

HSBC building

The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee gets it 100% right in her latest column; this week’s revelations about HSBC should be a gift to Labour if the party leadership make the most of it:

Labour is lucky this global story blew up in a week already dominated by a tax avoidance row: it was a Tory blunder to put up the Monaco-dwelling head of Boots to call Labour a “catastrophe”, when his company pays a fraction of the UK tax it did before switching its base to Switzerland. Timing is important here: the HSBC revelations haven’t emerged on Labour’s watch. Both Eds have frequently – and rightly – apologised for Labour’s feeble regulation of banks pre-crash, while always reminding Cameron and Osborne that they called loudly for less banking “red tape” in those days.

Ms Toynbee isn’t always a favourite with us here at Shiraz, but the piece quoted from above is a hum-dinger, and well worth reading in full.

Left Foot Forward‘s Ruby Stockham, meanwhile, has put 4 questions to David Cameron that should be repeated ad nauseam between now and the election.

But it’s worth remembering that the crimes of HSBC under Stephen Green (aka Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and minister for trade and investment between 2010 and 2013) were not restricted to colluding in tax fraud: they also extended to money-laundering.

In 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine for money laundering for clients that the US authorities said included Mexican drug cartels (as well as providing services to lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh though to include supporters of al Qaeda).

The Daily Telegraph‘s David Hughes reported on July 17 2012:

While the Treasury select committee is giving the third degree to Mervyn King and his chums over the Libor debacle, a potentially much bigger banking scandal is breaking in the United States. The US Senate has launched a coruscating attack on HSBC for its slapdash approach to money-laundering regulations. The bank could face a $1 billion fine.

According to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “the culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time.” Just how polluted was revealed in the Senate report into the scandal. For example, between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations. According to the report, both Mexican and US authorities warned HSBC that the amount of money could only have reached such a level if it was tied to illegal narcotics proceeds. This is explosive stuff for the “world’s local bank”, as HSBC calls itself.

As these other, perhaps even more serious, scandals from the noughties have not been widely reported in the last few days (except by the FT‘s excellent Jonathan Guthrie), here are a couple of links to articles from July 2012:

David Hughes’s Telegraph piece (quoted from above), here

The Telegraph‘s report on the US Senate’s findings, here

Ned Simons at the Huffington Post (which mentions the alleged al Qaeda funding) here.

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Asian Network’s Nihal on grooming

June 29, 2013 at 1:18 am (BBC, child abuse, conspiracy theories, drugs, Human rights, Islam, Jim D, men, misogyny, Pakistan, Racism, religion, sexism, thuggery)

Don’t even think about commenting on this issue without having listened to this!

Starts at 11.57

The BBC Asian Network bills the programme as follows:

Debate about grooming cases, live from Oxford

Nihal’s phone-in [in fact the phone-in is preceded by an hour’s debate from Oxford, which is the crucial part of the programme -JD] is coming live from the Cowley Road in Oxford where seven men groomed and sexually abused girls as young as eleven over a period of eight years. He will be getting reaction to the sentences given to the men and asking what lessons can be learnt from what has happened.

The issues up for debate are extremely sensitive – so much so that a lot of people from the area did not want to talk to us. Five of the seven men found guilty were of Pakistani origin and most of the people who BBC Asian Network has spoken to in the area either knew them – or knew someone who knew them.

Nihal asks – who is to blame for this terrible abuse, apart from the men themselves? Why were they able to get away with the abuse over an eight year period?

If the men were so well known in the community, why were their crimes not reported sooner? Is the fact that many of them came from the Pakistani community a relevant one? 

The main debate lasts for one hour and forty minutes, but it’s well worth putting the time aside for.  If you can’t do that, at least listen to the wise words of Julie Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Britain, at about 30.20. This is only available for the next four days:

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Behind the Brazilian protests

June 21, 2013 at 6:36 am (Civil liberties, corruption, democracy, drugs, Human rights, Jim D, Latin America, protest, sport)

An articulate young woman called Carla Dauden explains what it’s all about:

Amazingly, Carla recorded this before the protests broke out.

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On the road with Woody Herman

June 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm (drugs, good people, jazz, Jim D, music, wild man)

In all the political excitement of the past few weeks, I’ve missed the centennial of the birth of bandleader Woody Herman (born 16 May 1913 – died 29 October 1987).

Woody deserves to be remembered because of his great ‘Herd’ bands from the 1940s onwards, and because he was a very rare phenomenon in the world of (white) swing-era big bands: a leader who was universally loved and respected by his musicians (Gene Krupa is the only other case I know of)

Above: Woody on clarinet and vocals in 1964, introducing the band including Jake Hanna on drums at a crazy tempo (NB: by this time, the band was ‘clean’).

I had the privilege of seeing Woody’s band in action in the 1970’s, and they were great. I didn’t know that by then Woody was desperately tired but had no choice but to stay on the road because the IRS were after him for unpaid taxes, due to fraud by his manager.

Woody’s Herds, over the years, had included the likes of Bill Harris, Dave Tough, Flip Phillips, Ralph Burns and the famous ‘Four Brothers’ sax section of Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Herbie Stewart and Serge Chaloff.

I said that Woody was loved by all, which is true. But some of his sidemen (especially those who had “the habit”) caused him considerable grief and one – Serge Chaloff – drove even the placid Woody to retribution. Woody’s account of his revenge was told to Gene Lees and published in Bill Crow’s book Jazz Anecdotes:

Woody began to be aware of what was wrong with his collection of sleeping beauties. And he found that Serge Chaloff was the band’s druggist, as well as its number one junkie. Serge would hang a blanket in front of the back seats of the bus and behind it he would dispense the stuff to colleagues. This led to an incident in Washington D.C.

The band not only looked bad, it sounded bad. And Woody, furious at what had happened to it, had a row right on the bandstand with “Mr Chaloff,” as he called him, emphasis on the first syllable.

“He was getting farther and farther out of there,” Woody said. “And the farther he got out there he got the more he sounded like a faygallah. He kept saying ‘Hey, Woody, baby, I’m straight, man, I’m clean.’ And I shouted, ‘Just play your goddam part and shut up!’

“I was so depressed after that gig. There was this after-hours joint in Washington called the Turf and Grid. It was owned by a couple of guys with connections, book-makers. Numbers guys. Everybody used to go there. That night President Truman had a party at the White House, and afterwards all his guests went over to the Turf and Grid. They were seven deep at the bar, and I had to fight my way through to get a drink, man. All I wanted was to have a drink and forget it. And finally I get a couple of drinks, and its hot in there, and I’m sweating, and somebody’s got their hands on me, and I hear, “Hey, Woody, baby, whadya wanna talk to me like that for? I’m straight, baby, I’m straight.’ And it’s Mr Chaloff. And then I remembered an old Joe Venuti bit. We were jammed in there, packed in, and … I peed down Serge’s leg.

“You know, man, when you  do that to someone, it takes a while before it sinks in what’s happened to him. And when Serge realized, he lets out a howl like a banshee. He pushed out through the crowd and went into a telephone booth. And I’m banging on the door and trying to get at him, and one of the owners comes up and says, ‘Hey, Woody, you know, we love you, and we love the band, but we can’t have you doing things like that in here.’ And he asked me to please cool it.

“Well, not long after that, I was back here on the coast, working at some club on the beach. Joe Venuti was playing just down the street, and I was walking on the beach with him after the gig one night, and I told him I had a confession to make. I’d stolen one of his bits. Well, Joe just about went into shock. He was horrified. he said, “Woody, you can’t do things like that! I can do things like that, but you can’t! You’re a gentleman. It’s all right for me, but not you!”

Woody’s ‘First Herd’ at its best (1945): North West Passage.

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‘Terrorism’: Greenwald may have some fraction of a point…

April 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm (crime, drugs, Guardian, Guest post, islamism, language, mental health, murder, Pink Prosecco, religion, United States)

A new report claims that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are part of a 12-man sleeper cell - raising the possibility of further terror attacks on the East Coast of the United States

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

The acronym TL:DR might have been invented for the prolix Glenn Greenwald, but I’ve decided to try to answer Jim’s challenge at the end of his post of April 23 and see what Greenwald might be getting at here. Is it, as Jim was inclined to think, just ‘incoherent gibberish’?

To my slight annoyance, I think Greenwald may have some fraction of a point.  I suspect that, rather than having a well worked out and coherent definition of terrorism which we apply impartially to every possible case, many of us may decide whether or not something is a ‘terrorist’ act for less objective reasons.  And it can’t be denied that the words ‘Islamic’ and ‘terrorism’ are often associated together.

It is for this reason, Greenwald argues, that people have been quicker to use the word ‘terrorism’ about the Boston bombers than about, say, the Aurora cinema shooting. He cites Ali Abunimah’s argument that the ‘terrorist’ label may not be an accurate one:

“Abunimah wrote a superb analysis of whether the bombing fits the US government’s definition of “terrorism”, noting that “absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted ‘in furtherance of political or social objectives'” or that their alleged act was ‘intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.'”

But even Greenwald himself can’t avoid the evidence that at least one of the brothers was very likely influenced at some level by an ideology with clearly defined goals:

“All we really know about them in this regard is that they identified as Muslim, and that the older brother allegedly watched extremist YouTube videos and was suspected by the Russian government of religious extremism”

He tries to argue that just because someone is strongly Muslim that does not mean that the acts of violence he commits inevitably spring from his faith, asserting that “the mass murder spree by homosexual Andrew Cunanan was not evidence that homosexuality motivated the violence.”  This is a pretty weak argument because there is no pattern of terrorist acts committed in the name of homosexuality, no series of YouTube videos encouraging such crimes.

But Greenwald perhaps misses a trick here:

“It’s certainly possible that it will turn out that, if they are guilty, their prime motive was political or religious. But it’s also certainly possible that it wasn’t: that it was some combination of mental illness, societal alienation, or other form of internal instability and rage that is apolitical in nature.”

It may not be appropriate to draw such a clear distinction between mental illness on the one hand and politics and religion on the other. Alienated and unstable people may be attracted to extreme ideas or ideologies

A pretty obvious focus for a disturbed young man who happens to be Muslim is jihadist extremism.  Now if your focus is instead, say, the Knights Templar or fantasy role playing games and you go on a random killing spree, then no one is going to link your acts to videos preaching violence in the name of your pet obsession. So – to sum up – the unhinged actions of a deranged young Muslim are more likely to associate themselves with an ideology linked to several recent politically motivated and well organised acts of terror –and thus Greenwald may be correct, in a sense, in arguing that Muslims are more likely to be labelled terrorists.

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Thalidomide: insult added to injury

September 2, 2012 at 10:05 pm (capitalism, children, crime, Disability, drugs, Human rights, Jim D, media, profiteers, science, women)

“How do you wrestle with your conscience when the injustice you have perpetuated has destroyed the lives of children and left thousands of thalidomide victims still enduring pain and suffering, without adequate compensation?” – Sir Harold Evans, former Sunday Times editor, in today’s Observer.

After fifty years, Grünenthal, the company responsible for Thalidomide and the deformity and ruined lives of an estimated 10,000-to-20,000 children, has finally issued an apology. Of sorts.

The company has unveiled a statue and released a statement saying that it “regrets” the deformities and agony caused to babies born to mothers who took Thalidomide as a supposed treatment for morning sickness and other prgnancy-related difficulties, in the late 1950’s and early ’60’s.

But the company has not increased the meagre compensation it reluctantly provided to victims in 1968, nor admitted to the scandalous extent of its profit-driven criminal negligence when it released the drug in the ’50’s, without proper testing and with fraudulent claims about its safety. Exactly how much Grünenthal knew about the risks at the time of the drug’s launch is not clear: but for sure, they ignored early evidence of the terrible side-effects (including the wife of one of its own employees, who used Thalidomide and gave birth to a baby without ears before the drug was put on the market).

In Britain, the Distillers Company (now part of Diageo) distributed the drug with the approval of the Ministry of Health (then on very good terms with Distillers) until, eventually, the scandal was exposed by the Sunday Times. It was a dark chapter in the history of medicine but a fine example of courageous, campaigning journalism. The Sunday Times had to take on not just Distillers, but the legal establishment and the Tory government of the day. The attorney-general, backed by the House of Lords obtained an injunction preventing publication of the paper’s devastating findings, and the paper had to spend millions of pounds fighting for the right to publish. Eventually, thanks to the tenacity of then-editor Harold Evans and the paper’s proprietors, the truth came out, the drug was withdrawn and a compensation settlement of £28m was reached with the UK victims.

But the compensation in the UK and world-wide, remains thoroughly inadequate and the battle for justice for all the victims, continues. As Evans notes in his Observer piece:

“[D]ecency requires me to identify some heroes in the struggle for justice – the thalidomide victims, now in middle age, who continue to fight for others: Freddie Astbury, president of Thalidomide UK, who describes the CG apology without compensation as a disgrace; the Lords Jack Ashley and Alf Morris, who fought so hard for the victims in their lifetimes, and Labour’s minister of health, Mike O’Brien.”

I will leave to one side, for now, why it is that Evans is writing in the Observer rather than the paper he edited at the time of the scandal and which played such an honourable role back then, the Sunday Times

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My Funny Valentine: Chet Baker live in Italy!

February 13, 2012 at 11:51 pm (Asshole, drugs, jazz, Jim D, love, song, strange situations)

Baker made several memorable instrumental and vocal recordings of this number in the fifties. But this 1959 live version filmed in Italy, is fascinating for a number of reasons (one of which involves the pianist…). Baker, a junkie, was an asshole of a human being, but a wonderful crooner and a pretty good trumpet player. Play (or sing) this to your loved one today:

In a bit, in the comments, I’ll tell you about the pianist. Unless someone beats me to it.

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The war on drugs – the bodies continue to pile up

September 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm (crime, drugs, James Bloodworth, law)

A cross-post from James Bloodworth of ‘Obliged to Offend’

Almost 40 years ago, on 28 January 1972, United States President Richard Nixon signed his war on drugs into law. Drugs are “public enemy number one”, said Nixon, and drug addiction had “assumed the dimensions of a national emergency”.

In the 40 intervening years, the US government has spent some £2.5 trillion attempting to destroy the illegal drugs trade at a horrendous human cost – both at home and abroad.

In Mexico 34,612 people have been killed since December 2006 when President Philip Calderon initiated the country’s war against the drug cartels. According to the BBC, the US/Mexico cross-border drugs trade is worth an estimated $13bn (£9bn) a year. A US state department report estimated that as much as 90% of all cocaine consumed in the US comes via Mexico.

Around the world a “clampdown” on drugs continues unabated – from Russia to the US to Columbia to Afghanistan. The same failed policies are being repeated time and again, flying in the face of all the evidence and leaving behind a trail of devastation and a pile of bodies.

In Britain, Professor David Nutt was sacked in 2009 as chief drugs advisor by Home Secretary Alan Johnson for scientifically challenging the hysterical culture of current drugs debate. In the US, the discourse around prohibition is equally mired in falsehood, with attitudes unlikely to change unless there is a spread of the violence that plagues Mexico across the border and into the US.

In June of this year, a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy argued that the “global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world”. Previously a 2006 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) noted that, “the total number of drug users in the world is now estimated at some 200 million people, equivalent to about 5 per cent of the global population age 15-64.” The report went on to say that “In…North America [and] Western Europe, abuse levels remained constant for opiates…In Europe…cocaine use continues to expand.”

Globally, the illegal drug trade supports a worldwide crime empire second only in value to oil. Yet while Latin America functions as a violent narcotics sweatshop for the nouveau riche of London and New York, more visible consequences of prohibition in Britain can be seen on the pallid faces trying to catch the eyes of shoppers on many of London’s most famous streets. Brushing them aside as they ask for spare change is easy enough of course, but you won’t get rid of them that easily. Nick Davies, in his excellent book Flat Earth News cites a confidential Downing Street report which was leaked to the press in 2005 claiming that black market drug users were responsible for 85% of shoplifting, between 70 and 80% of burglaries and 54% of robberies.

Many of Britain’s 300,000 heroin users suffer health problems such as septicaemia, hepatitis, ruptured veins and, occasionally, overdose. What much of the public discourse around drug addiction ignores, however, is that almost all of the harmful effects of heroin are caused not by the drug itself, but by toxic contaminants which are added by unregulated and unscrupulous street sellers. In the respected Merck health journal they are clear about the effect prohibition has on drug content and quality:

“Long-term effects of the opioids themselves are minimal; even decades of methadone use appear to be well tolerated physiologically, although some long-term opioid users experience chronic constipation, excessive sweating, peripheral edema, drowsiness, and decreased libido. However, many long-term users who inject opioids have adverse effects from contaminants (eg, talc) and adulterants (eg, non-prescription stimulant drugs); cardiac, pulmonary, and hepatic damage from infections such as HIV infection and hepatitis B or C, which are spread by needle sharing and nonsterile injection techniques.”

Opponents of legalisation will evoke the possibility of increased drug use as a consequence of the legal availability of hard drugs. The likelihood of this happening, however, must be set against a backdrop of worsening drug conflict in the developing world and increasingly dangerous substances being peddled on British streets; not to mention the fact that drug-fuelled crime shows little sign of abating any time soon.

Legalisation is not necessarily the solution, but may be the least bad option. The other option, if you can call it that, is to let the bodies continue to pile up for another 40 years.

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This Record is not to be Broadcast

June 26, 2011 at 2:27 am (BBC, drugs, gin, history, jazz, Jim D, music)

75 records banned by the BBC 1931-57

Acrobat Records: ACTRCD9015 (3xCD)

This latest CD set from Acrobat introduces us to the BBC’s policy 1931-57 to ban any record which trespassed their headings of:

Sexual and drug innuendo: George Formby With My Little Ukelele In My Hand; Cab Calloway Minnie The Moocher; Johnny Messner She Had To Go And Lose It At The Astor; Andrews Sisters Rum And Coca Cola; Kitty Wells It Wasn’t God Who Made Honkey Tonk Angels; Johnny Ray Such A Night; Billy May Main Title; Stan Freberg John And Marsha

Anti-religion: Arthur Askey The Christening

Bogus religiosity: Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra Light A Candle In The Chaple; Frankie Laine Answer Me

Religion in popular songs: Billie Holiday God Bless The Child

Promoting suicide: Billie Holiday Gloomy Sunday

Advertising: Henry Hall Radio Times

Anti-BBC censorship: Norman Long We Can’t Let You Broadcast That

Classical music rehashed as jazz or pop: Tommy Dorsey Song Of India (Rimsky-Korsakov); Spike Jones Blue Danube (Strauss); Glenn Miller The Story Of A Starry Night(Tchaikovsky)

Nostalgia and Infidelity for troops: Mills Brothers Paper Doll; Bing Crosby I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Other: Bing Crosby Deep In The Heart Of Texas (so factory workers did not bang their tools in time!); Benjamin Brittain The Foggy, Foggy Dew (too tragic); George Melly Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair (tasteless); Spike Jones I Went To Your Wedding (vulgar, ugly)

Poor Dennis Lotis, with the Ted Heath Orchestra, had 3 tracks banned by the BBC committees. Who were these people? There are far more tracks on the CDs than mentioned above. In fact, there are 75 tracks. All of them are fascinating in their own way. Great memories for me – and for you! Oh, I must not forget two more which were banned, that may surprise you: Jo Stafford It Is No Secret; Beverley Sisters Greensleeves.

Just buy it – to take you back to when you were – ‘Young and easy under the apple boughs’ (Dylan Thomas).

[This review is by Edward Black in the July edition of Just Jazz magazine].

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