Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by John Blackburn (DP144)

I am 61 years of age, a retired university lecturer and regular recreational drug user of 42 years.

Please find attached my written submission which is the history of my life and my association with drug taking.

I would be willing to give oral evidence should you wish to obtain further details from me.

I do not wish anonymity but would prefer you not to report me to the local constabulary.

Submission to the Inquiry into Drugs

1. I have been a recreational drug user for over 40 years and have enjoyed virtually every one of my experiences. These are the drugs I have taken and the routes of administration:

(a)Cannabis—grass, hashish, oil—smoked and eaten. I have taken cannabis on a virtual daily basis for over 40 years though on several occasions I have stopped voluntarily and completely for over a year.

The following drugs I have taken in the past some quite regularly but no longer do so.

(b)LSD—tablets, microdots and blotters—ingested.

(c)Amphetamine—tables and powder—ingested and snorted.

(d)Cocaine—snorted and smoked.

(e)Heroin—inhaled smoke (chasing the dragon).

(f)Ecstasy—tables and powder—ingested.

(g)Amyl nitrate—inhaled through nose.


(i)Since the age of 24, I have only taken small quantities of alcohol in social settings but for me it is not a recreational drug.

2. Through the whole period of my drug taking I have had a successful working life of nearly 40 years and taken and passed examinations for 10 degrees, diplomas and higher education certificates. I am a qualified telecommunications technician, biomedical scientist, teacher, and phlebtomist.

I am the author of a book on immunology which I wrote and illustrated—all done I must say while stoned on cannabis.

I have only taken one examination when stoned on cannabis (and that was an accident) and got a mark of 99% in an immunology paper—maybe I would have got 100% had I not. I have written a book and had papers presented at international scientific meetings and published in reputable scientific journals, the inventor of a laboratory assay and am a highly regarded teacher by my colleagues and many generations of students. From a working class background in a dismal housing estate in Lanarkshire I finished my working life as a senior lecturer in a prestigious university. I was also encouraged at one time to consider putting myself forward as a candidate for Parliament. I have lived in a happy and successful relationship with a non-drug taking woman for 36 years but who I have always informed when I am taking drugs and what.

3. I am not unique. In my life I have taken recreational drugs in the company of people employed in virtually every occupation—doctors, nurses, other medical workers, teachers, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, psychologists, engineers, scientists, computer programmers, journalists, civil servants, coal miners, building workers and of course some professional politicians. I could add many other occupations and professions to this list. Successful, responsible, motivated, caring, productive members of society and active contributors to their communities. These people are unnecessarily victimised and criminalised by the present prohibition of recreational drugs. Legal or not the vast majority of users I know will not stop because of the threat of prosecution or for that matter following prosecution.

4. What is relevant is that all of these people are responsible, hard working and are carrying out the essential work that keeps society going. Taking recreational drugs is an important component of their lives—helping many people to function by promoting relaxation or rejuvenation or just entertainment after work and on days off. These are not the people who are causing havoc in the streets of virtually every town centre at weekends. They are not the people who are filling the police cells and casualty departments every Friday and Saturday night. Most recreational drug users are discreet and the drugs they take rarely cause them to engage in the public and private antisocial behaviour often associated with alcohol abuse. The taking of recreational drugs is actually facilitating the normal functioning people who carry out work essential to our society and therefore the drugs taken by these people for recreational purposes are making a positive contribution.

5. The reality is that if proscription of the “harmless” recreational drugs was completely successful the quality of the lives of all of these workers would be affected and it would have effects on the quality of the work they do. The country’s economy, education, health and social care systems would suffer. All of us have however to live with the threat of prosecution and conviction which would cost us our jobs and remove us from the useful work we do and the positive contribution we make to society.

6. In 40 years I have been fortunate never to have been arrested which is again not unusual because prosecution of “middle class” users for the relatively small quantities of drugs we have in our possession will not enhance the career prospects of many police officers. Few of the professional people I have mentioned above have been arrested and convicted. This was not always the case—in the early 1970s I knew people who were convicted and put in prison for possession of what is considered insignificant quantities nowadays.

7. Another consequence of proscription is that there are no controls over the products we buy. As a medical scientist the idea consuming a substance that has no quality control or assurance is unthinkable but the only alternative is abstention. In the supply chain are many people who are only interested in making money. Every drug that I have taken over the years has had some “additive” or another from harmless tea leaves mixed into marijuana to borax added to cocaine. Sometimes drugs are mixed in combinations that the user may not want—for example ecstasy is being adulterated with amphetamines or cocaine with lignocaine. All of this makes the product less potent but earns more profit for the dealer. In the worst cases infected drugs, poisons or potential anaphylactic agents are released into the black market resulting in deaths.

The poorest consumers are the most at risk of being sold these dangerous drugs. Middle class buyers like myself can seek out sources and pay the extra money to obtain a high quality unadulterated product. When we find a good source may also be able to stock up with the quality product in the same way that a wine connoisseur may make a stash of an excellent vintage.

8. Your committee will no doubt receive a significant amount of evidence that will show that prohibition means that this multibillion dollar international market is in the hands of criminals. From local delinquents and thugs to international cartels and terrorist organisations. It is financing the gun crime in the streets of towns and cities all over the world and is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people around the world every year. Most of us users know that we are usually only one degree removed from people who we would wish absolutely nothing to do with wand have no desire to give them any of our money but the present circumstances force this upon us. Legalisation would remove the whole process from primary producer to consumer from the hands of the criminals who control the distribution and can assure the quality of the product that enters into circulation. At present a peasant grower of cannabis may get about $5 a kilogram for a product that will eventually be sold for about £10,000 to users in Britain. This is not “Fair trade”!

9. A legalised, controlled and regulated production system will benefit the primary producers take the distribution out of the hands of criminals and guarantee that the consumer has a safe, certified and reliable product. Most of us users would be happy to continue to pay the current prices if the massive profits that you will already be aware of could become Government revenue.

10. Prohibition and prosecution is never going to stop the trade and supply to those who people want to take recreational drugs.

The only responsible course of action now is to legalise.

I would be more than willing to come and address your committee to provide more details and to answer any questions that your members would wish to put to me.

January 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012