Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Jeremy Collingwood (DP164)

Excellent to see that the way in which drugs are managed in our society is being reviewed.

I have been a weed user for some 40 years, known addicts (to assorted substances), been in the music (reggae) business and come across large scale drugs business and studied and written about drugs (amphetamines in WWII, cultural templates etc) at University. My partner of 20 years was in and out of Mental Health Hospitals (in Tottenham), so I saw another side of drugs.

I have also been a Board member of a major UK retailer, accountable for £260 million turnover and a £21 million staff budget, raised money in the city and been to INSEAD (the Business School for the World). I have a broad, and I think rare, perspective that I thought may be useful to you.

I have been a part of a generation that inherited an interest in drugs from the 1960’s culture before and then I have seen new generations embrace different drugs—on a wider scale and to a greater degree. Indeed working in music retail you could see the changes in Customers as first e, then crack and other phases of drug drive new types of music.

Society’s relationships with mind and mood altering drugs is as old as History itself: it’s in our DNA to engage in behaviours that create mood shift. From “sacred psychotropic herbs” in early societies, to Opium, Alcohol and Laudanum in the Victorian era, to Coke in the 1920’s drugs are a part of our human existence.

The economic imperative to supply (and create) demand for drugs has created (and will always do so), over the last 50 years, various Criminal/Theocratic governed countries, as well as some countries with war like violent death rates. The “no rules or morals” capitalism that drug gang culture employs is a modern cancer of low income Urban areas. Despite the huge social cost and the lost children in these areas drug culture has spread right across society. It’s not just a middle class rebellion or doors of perception issue, it’s widespread in society: from the Media and TV, the City—with many hard working professionals using “dial-a-gram”—to the poorest and least educated members of society.

We allow smart, expensive adverts to sell spirits to teenagers… and now “Voddi” bottles are to be found in many young women’s purses and yet social more harmonious drugs are illegal. Getting “Out of it”, “Fucked Up”, “shitfaced” et al has become the thing to do for far too many people. These adverts, with their “don’t miss out” message to fragile young egos will make Distilleries money but the cost will be an epidemic of young people (too many women) dying of liver failure: These companies are like the Tobacco companies of the 1950’s… they know but they obfuscate to keep the money rolling in.

I believe the time is right to deal with all sellers of habit forming and addictive drugs from one basic set of beliefs:

1.The forming Brain needs protection from all drugs until the chemistry is set(ting) at 18. This is a basic Human right.

2.For those over 18 who choose to take any given drug, full and simple advice must be given about potential risks.

3.All those selling habit forming and addictive drugs must carry a heavy burden of care. Advertising must be very carefully controlled and be very honest and clear: “This drug is (highly) addictive, both chemically and physiologically. All highs achieved are for entertainment value only and are not real.”

Or “Users of this drug typically have their children taken into care and often steal from their families”

4.Revenues from all drug sales go into Health Service and Teaching.

5.Any company selling drugs cannot target increasing consumer base but can provide information to the potential consumer. Advertising (and all related spending) must be capped at .5 of 1% of Turnover. The marketing of Spirits to under age drinkers is no different to drug dealers giving away samples… one is just more sophisticated and disingenuous than the other.

6.All drugs sellers will have a financial responsibility toward addicted customers.

7.Certain drugs would need a registration system whereby user’s usage could be monitored. Strength of drug must be recognised on one scale and Spirits should be put on a par with say, Cocaine.

Existing supply chains of illegal drugs must be recognised and offered the chance to feed into a legal and highly controlled and managed supply chain. It’s this supply chain that has seen the West’s consumption of illegal drugs, over the past 50 years, turn states such as Mexico, Afghanistan, Bolivia and Columbia into countries dominated by violent people with radical creeds. Likewise parts of the Caribbean have become over whelmed by drug violence (especially in Jamaica and Trinidad). Some of these states have become home to International terrorism: This seems an exceptionally high price to pay for individual hedonism in the “developed” world. Once again the West is making and mess and doesn’t want to face the truth.

I find it self-evident that treating some drugs as illegal has been highly counter productive whilst failing entirely at controlling increasing (and varied) illegal drug use.

The State needs a radical restructuring of the process of managing habit forming and addictive drugs. Society’s mood is also ripe for change: Be bold! Create a new framework for “developed” society’s relationship with all drugs.

The War on drugs (was that Ronny boy?) was never going to be won. Let’s build a workable peace.

February 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012