Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by David John Robertson (DP024)

Personal Profile

Although I am now retired and a pensioner, I do hold a Diploma in Social Work with my special area of practice being “people with a learning disability”.

I am at present beginning a degree course in Environmental Science with the Open University.

I am in a long-term relationship and the father of four children and three grandchildren with a fourth on the way.

My submission is based on:

1. Many years experience of personal substance use—both pre- and post-prohibition.

2. Extensive contact with and participation in the substance use sub-culture throughout the years from 1962 to the present day.

3. Conflict with the law regarding substance use, including an eight year prison sentence for “conspiracy” to import and supply cannabis and “conspiracy” to supply LSD 25.

4. As a young man, although I experimented with various substances including the opiates and central nervous stimulants, my primary interest and experience has been with the non addictive psychoactive and “psychedelic” substances and “transformative journeying” ie transformation of consciousness through ingestion of relevant substances in a well informed and supportive atmosphere, much akin to a “spiritual/religious” experience.

Summary

1. Unlike all official reports and reviews that I am aware of, including the most recent Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, June 2011, where the emphasis is on control, harm reduction and treatment, in the following submission I will try and make something of the case for supporting the positive use of substances as a right of passage and as part of what I term transformative journeying.

2. If transformative journeying was accepted, along with the decriminalisation of all substance use, together with accurate and well informed advice and information, then the illegal and chaotic experimentation that can lead to so much harm, criminality and societal costs would be greatly reduced, if not entirely eliminated and the whole area of substance use would be removed from the “underground” with all it’s potential dangers.

3. Plant substances have apparently been used in a transformative way throughout our evolution and right up to the present day, as evidenced by the shamanic practices still very much alive in South America, Africa and elsewhere. Indeed it may even be the case that we owe some of the evolution of the human mind and it’s apparently unique quality of self-awareness, to the ingestion of plant substances as we experimented with plant foods and adapted to the new environments we found ourselves in through migration due to climate change and other factors.

4. Therefore, based on my direct experiences and that of many others, I believe that all substances and their use should be “decriminalised” entirely and that their supply, strength and purity, together with accurate information and support on their use, benefits, side effects and possible dangers, should be made available via well informed individuals and organisations with appropriate and relevant experience, operating in a non-profit and charitable context and as a valued element of any healthy society.

The War on Drugs

1. The “war on drugs” has demonstrably failed to curb their use and at huge cost in finances and human lives, as is evidenced by the worldwide increase in their use and supply—even in countries which carry the death penalty for their use or supply.

2. The continued illegality of the use and supply of these substances merely funds increasingly violent criminal gangs and other illegal organisations across the world and creates a larger and larger drain on all of society’s resources fighting the so called “war”. It diverts law enforcement resources from such activities as people trafficking and the prostitution and abuse of children and adults, fraud, theft, violent behaviour, discrimination and all the other activities that make society unsafe and threatening to the mass of productive and law abiding citizens, as well as draining health service resources dealing with other consequences of prohibition.

3. One of the most dangerous things about substance use though, is the fact that it is illegal, as evidenced by the many lives blighted by a criminal record after experimentation and families broken up through imprisonment—with all the associated costs to society which that inevitably incurs. Their illegality has been and still is, a major factor in the lack of purity and the subsequent casualties, the ill informed use of inappropriate substances and the mental health issues arising, together with the growing plague of violent criminal organisations and individuals.

4. Again, the main issues with the addictive substances such as the opiates and central nervous stimulants, as I understand it—as opposed to the non-addictive psychoactive substances—appear to be their illegality. With subsequently high costs on the black market, addicted users are required to choose between spending any income they have on their addiction, or on a healthy diet. If the income is low, then health suffers and criminal activity to support the addiction either comes into play or increases. Conversely, if income is adequate to support a healthy diet and an otherwise healthy lifestyle as well as their addiction—certainly as far as opiates are concerned to the best of my knowledge—then health appears not suffer and of course there is no criminal activity required to generate funds.

5. The widespread use of MDMA in the form of “Ecstasy” which ideally promotes a feeling of well being and loving connectedness to others, the increasing interest in transformative journeying with a traditional shaman who is practiced in the use of Ayahuasca and other plant substances, the continued production across the world of LSD 25 and its continued and widespread use, the availability on the internet of all manner of psychoactive substances, all perhaps indicate a basic human desire to step outside of everyday reality and experience a deeper connection with “life, the universe and everything”. Although the use of these substances may not be the only way of achieving this end, it is one way and a legitimate one in my experience and one that has definitely been with us for far longer than our present day prohibition on substance use.

6. To sum up again, my contention is that in a world where all substances were decriminalised, where high quality research was again possible using transformative substances—helping people facing their impending death due to terminal illness for instance, as was done in the early 60s—where accurate information was freely available to all, where substances of known and measurable strength and purity were available through registered suppliers and where transformative journeying was accepted again as a legitimate part of society, then I contend that the “war” would be well and truly over. As people experience the pure joy of living and the precious quality of life and nature through warmly supported inner journeying, then experimentation with the more destructive and addictive substances would inevitably diminish naturally in my estimation.

January 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012