This paper was developed as part of a wider training programme in drug prevention for St. John Ambulance. Although it was published in 1999 the points made are still very relevant today.

This paper was developed as part of a wider training programme in drug prevention for St. John Ambulance. Although it was published in 1999 the points made are still very relevant today.

By Peter Stoker, Director, National Drug Prevention Alliance

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.
Edmund Burke 1729-97

‘We have seen
Good men made evil, struggling with evil
Straight minds grow crooked, fighting crooked minds
Our peacefulness betrayed us; We betrayed our peace
Look at it well.
This was the good town once’.
From The Good Town by Edwin Muir 1887-1959

Historical background

Although the primary purpose of prevention programmes is to address avoid contact with drugs, it is necessary that we also look at attempts to relax the laws that relate to drugs. Why essential? Because the status of the law is fundamental to the structure of prevention. There is no point on concentrating on building a “a beautiful tower of prevention” whilst ignoring somebody else undercutting the foundations. We often don’t give as much time as we should to considering fundamental questions, but they can teach us a lot, and two current questions we should perhaps ask ourselves are:

What is so good about prevention?
What is so bad about legalisation?

I’ll offer you my answer. Prevention delivers on the promise of enriched lives in wholly healthy people positively inter linked with one another across whole communities and society as a whole. Legalisation gives encouragement to negative, self-centred and health compromising behaviours in the individual and across society. The law defines how we feel about behaviour in general and as such the law is one corner stone of prevention; remove it and you risk total collapse of your prevention structure.

Whilst the drug culture covers many countries of the world it can usefully be studied by paying particular attention to our own country and to America. These two countries have been said to have long had a “Special Relationship”, but in these days of a drug promoting culture this phrase has taken on a more sinister meaning.

Britain and America have long been associated on the drug scene. You could say an early ‘War on Drugs’ came when the Americans threw all our tea into Boston Harbour! But more serious developments started in the 1960’s and 70’s as marijuana in the USA merged with hippie culture, anti-Vietnam protests, and big-time rock/pop music. In Britain we had our anti-nuclear protest groups, we had (they tell me) the Swinging Sixties, and we had the Beatles. Legend has it that it was Bob Dylan who turned the Beatles on to dope, thence to travel through the gateway into Strawberry Fields watched over by Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (or LSD for short).

By the late 60’s an ambitious young American lawyer, Keith Stroup had conceived the idea of NORML, the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, ‘Playboy’ Hugh Hefner bankrolled it for 10 years, and the battle for legal pot was under way. Britain wasn’t really turning on yet; pot use was viewed stereotypically as the preserve of musicians (see Harry Shapiro’s book ‘Waiting for the man’ pub. Mandarin 1990), immigrant West Indians, and degenerate intellectuals. But we would catch up fast.

NORML and its bizarre fellow travellers like the Yippies (a bizarre group of loony activists) tended to go up to the front door and flamboyantly say what they wanted out loud. This had the effect of generating lots of opposition which usually beat them. The lesson they learnt was twofold: (a) if you’re going to the front door wear suits and don’t shout and (b) better still, go round the back, sneak in and take what you want. The Drug Policy Foundation was the eventual manifestation of the first lesson, together with the unrestrained manufacture of ‘reasons’ why the general public should feel good about pot. Use the hemp (it is the same plant) to make clothes; plant the bushes to “save” the atmosphere, and – above all – use it as a “medicine”; all these and more devices have been deployed. The ‘medical use’ gambit came in while Stroup was still building NORML; in the 70s NORML are on public record as bragging ‘We will use the medical marijuana argument as a red herring to give pot a good name’. And still it goes on. Meanwhile, under item (b) a steady infiltration of key offices was sustained, and is still very much a factor today.

As we worked our way through the 80’s there was still no sign of America buckling under drug culture pressure. Levels of use had peaked and were in decline as PRIDE and other parent-youth prevention groups got into their stride.

Britain was by now moving too. In 1981 the government-funded Standing Conference on Drug Abuse (SCODA) passed a resolution understood to be still in force today calling for decriminalisation of cannabis. One member of SCODA around that time was LCC, the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, thus demonstrating another lesson legalisers learnt i.e. if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, then persuade ’em from within.

Thus far the link between legalisers across the Atlantic divide were tenuous and occasional. One reason for this might well have been a xenophobia amongst British workers in the field; a distaste for foreigners which was out of all proportion to the rest of Britain’s population (who these days seem to be in love with things American). Whatever the reason, not much happened for some time but then in the mid 80’s changes started. A bridge was constructed with one end in Washington DC and the other end in Liverpool, England. Why Liverpool? Because it was a fountainhead of British drugfolk wisdom, and was saying things the American legalisers wanted to hear. Liverpool has long had a severe drug problem. It has also had a vigorous dislike of London and its lawmakers, dislike based in the class struggle and regional inequalities in funding. Drug workers nation-wide tended to affinity with Liverpool and the views expressed in its magazine, the Mersey Drugs Journal; it seemed to talk more like the clients they dealt with, they identified with and (in my opinion) too often over-identified with. Their near-neighbour Manchester formed an enthusiastic axis with them which to this day constitutes a powerful influence on UK drug wisdom.

Sometime around 1986 British drug workers from Liverpool-Manchester axis were invited to speak at a NORML conference in Maryland. They were feted and hosted by pro-drug, academic, ‘celebrities’ such as Norman Zinberg. They visited NIDA and other agencies, meeting officials who (allegedly) “confessed privately” that the War on Drugs was failing. The Brits returned to report that (a) they had nothing to learn from the Americans and (b) the 12-step method – the basis of the worldwide AA movement – was (quote) “cr*p”. (When asked what the 12 steps were, they said they didn’t know (but they did know they were “cr*p”). The Mersey Drug Journal’s front page at the time summed up their view: ‘Drug War – The Americans Go Over the Top’. This dismissal of the American Official Approach (including, of course, prevention) was manna from heaven to the xenophobic Brits who disproportionately populate the Health Professional Scene and paved the way for recommending the Unofficial Approach i.e. legalise the stuff.

One important aspect, however, distinguished the British legalisation strategy, and was given a fortuitous boost by a tragic new development in the health scene. AIDS was now a reality in Britain as well as America, and amongst many in Britain the view expressed was that AIDS represented “a greater risk to society than drugs”. The incidence of AIDS gave the British Harm Reduction movement a great shove forward, and coincided with the emergence of America’s Drug Policy Foundation as a major player in drug legalisation.

Current Situation

The main section of this paper will now address the following headings:

(a) What does ‘the professional subculture’ mean?

(b) What drives this sub culture?

(c) Who is involved?

(d) How do groups like this obtain and retain power?

(e) What are some of the typical tactics?

(f) What are we on the prevention side doing wrong and what might we do better?

What does professional subculture mean?

This title refers to people who work in various professional settings but who have, for a variety of reasons, elected to act in ‘subcultural’ ways; they will seek to disrupt the status quo and replace it with something which they find more amenable. In the case of drugs this is generally turned out to be a more libertarian or acquiescent approach to the use of drugs and to the legislation around them. Some , but not all of the groups which these professionals belong to include Politicians, Judges, Policemen, Educators, Health workers, Social workers, Probation officers, Prison workers, Economists and of course, never to be over looked, the Media. These activists are always a minority of each of these professional groups, but they do make a lot of noise, and there is a lot of truth in the proverb that ‘the squeaky wheel gets the most grease’; certainly the dissident or activist professional get the most coverage in the media. This is only partly due to the fact that the media themselves are part of the problem, in that a number of them are – more or less – of a libertarian inclination; the rest of the explanation can be attributed to the fact that dissent and activism sells more copy than does the actions of those who seek to preserve the status quo, or even to enhance it- such as we prevention workers.

What drives such people, or groups?

It is a fundamental mistake to imagine that everybody on the pro-drugs side of the fence is there for the same reason. The reasons are many and very varied. Perhaps four main categories can be defined as Power, Money, Attraction and Ideology. Fringe activities like pushing for legalisation or decriminalisation of drugs most often comes from the people who are on the fringe of power but would like to be in the centre. This quest for power can sometimes produce strange alliances, for example in Norway the pro drug alliance combines the right wing Fascist group with the extreme left wing Anarchist group. Some see the use of drugs as a way to create revolution. Stalin was one of these, and a quote from his writings is:

‘By making readily available drugs of various kinds; by giving a teenageralcohol; by praising his wildness; by strangling him with sex literature and advertising to him or her . . . the psycho-political/preparation can create the necessary attitude of chaos, idleness and worthlessness into which can then be cast a solution that will give the teenager complete freedom every where. If we can effectively kill the national pride and patriotism of just one generation ,we will have won that country. Therefore there must be continued propaganda to undermine the loyalties of citizens in general and teenagers in particular.’

At the other end of the spectrum of activism, but still on the pro drugs side of the fence, are the fatalists and the compromisers. These are people who would rather that drugs weren’t used but who believe that it is inevitable that they will be used by the majority, that drug use will be the norm, and that the best one can do is to sue for a peaceful surrender with the drugs trade. The problem with climbing over to that side of the fence is that you are likely to be warmly embraced and dragged off to more extreme positions; this can be seen to have happened recently with Bolton MP Brian Iddon, in whose consistency five year old Dillan Hull was shot in what is reliably perceived as a drug-related incident. Iddon was elected in May 1997 and started off with fairly moderate statements about wanting to review drug laws; on BBC’s ‘You Decide’ programme he was heard at the end of the debate to say that he was now “confused”. His confusion has scarcely been lessened by some of the people with whom he has associated, and in November 97 he shared a bizarre press conference at the House of Commons seated along side Irvine Welsh, the author of ‘Trainspotting’ and Howard Marks, the former major smuggler of cannabis who served 7 years in an American prison, and who is now attempting to get into politics somewhere (he has tried Lincoln, where he lost his deposit, and is currently trying to become the mayor of his town of residence in Malta). Marks claims he is pursuing this political work to ‘give back something to all those pot users who have given him lots of money in the past’ (this is a paraphrase but is close to what Marks said). In truth, this ‘selfless’ campaign has already netted Marks large sums of money – he has sold around a quarter million copies of his autobiography ‘Mr Nice’ and he appeared to capacity houses in a various theatres, reading from this book and musing on his life. In reality Marks is still working the punters; the only difference now is that instead of selling them a poisonous substance he is selling them a poisonous philosophy. And with no danger of arrest.

The above has given at least some examples of what is meant by the quest for power and the quest for money. Another example of the quest for money concerns organised crime. Some people theorise that organised crime would be against law relaxation, because this would take the business out of their hands and put it into the hands of responsible people (like tobacco companies!). The evidence suggests otherwise. It is acknowledged, even by pro-drug campaigners like ex-Scotland Yard Drugs Squad supremo Eddie Ellison that nowadays the coffee shops in Amsterdam, which were to have grown their own in a ‘nice cottage industry’ approach, are actually receiving their supplies from the Mafia. The Dutch Minister of Justice has described Amsterdam reluctantly as ‘the crime capital of Europe’ and there are reports that the Mafia is considering moving its centre of operations from Italy to Holland because of the more conducive atmosphere there. It is also worth noting that the lawyers (and almost all of them were lawyers) who founded the Drug Policy Foundation – the most powerful pro-drug lobby in the world – can be found on public record as having often appeared as defence attorneys for the Drug Cartels . . . far from being automatically against law relaxation, organised crime has for years been moving its operations into legitimate businesses (to save costs of money-laundering, and to avoid the inconvenience of criminal prosecution). Were drugs to be legitimised then this revised legal status would scarcely represent an obstacle for them. Moreover, most of the proponents of law relaxation, quell public disquiet, suggest they would still expect to keep the laws in place for under 18 year-olds. In this hypothetical situation there would still be an enormous black market for organised crime to tap into, and if anything the pressure on the under 18’s would tend to increase, since supplies to over 18 year olds would be – presumably – coming from other sources other than organised crime.

As to the third main incentive i.e. the intellectual Attraction of being involved, this can be seen as one driving force amongst some of those arguing for law relaxation. It is not always easy to quit the centre stage and be put out to grass; some people like to leave their long-term employment by making one last mark. Policemen who have done this include the afore mentioned Eddie Ellison from Scotland Yard and Ron Clarke from Greater Manchester police. Those formerly on the bench, including Judge Pickles seem to find the attraction of radical statements sometimes to hard to resist. This should not be confused with the quotes made in 1997 by the Master of the Rolls who was misrepresented in the Sunday Independent as ‘calling for a review of the laws’. From a person who was present at the press conference that the Master of the Rolls was giving the subject was not even on his agenda. It came up towards the end of the conference, in the form of a question from the floor along the lines of ‘do you think the legalisation should be debated?’ The Master of the Rolls shifted in his seat uncomfortably and said something along the lines of ‘I am not minded to support such legalisation but I am minded to support the due exploration of the proposition’.

Ideology, the fourth reason, is a potent force – and in contrast to the other three reasons is less capable of change, in that you buy into it more emotionally than you would with power, money, or intellectual attraction. The Education profession is, by its very nature, more prone to this tendency, (see pages 7, 8 for more). The manifesto entitled ‘Down with prevention, up with free choice and harm reduction’ has spanned more than 15 years now (during which time use has soared), and despite the National Strategy espousing prevention there is so far little sign of change in organisations like SCODA, ISDD, and the like. The word ‘prevention’ may appear now in documents or utterances, but this is the perfunctory genuflection of the non-believer. Until we get this one right we are always going to collect a bloody nose in the educational arena.

Who is involved?

The line up of professions in an earlier section (What does ‘the professional subculture’ mean?) gives some indication. Politicians may follow this course perhaps because they genuinely (and we would say mistakenly) believe law relaxation will improve the situation. Some educators and, within that profession some youth workers, would support the ‘choice’ for young people to use drugs as part of what they would see as a ‘freedom of expression’. Health workers tend to be ‘Sickness Workers’ in that they are almost interminably involved with the demands of treating people who have been in some way become unhealthy; it is therefore an inclination on their part to support expedients that reduce harm, and some of them would extend this non-logic to the relaxation of laws. They have been suckered by the proposition that it is ‘the laws which are turning otherwise law abiding people into criminals’. The truth is that it is the users who are turning themselves in to criminals and doing so knowingly – no one can claim to be unaware of the illegality which surrounds illegal drugs. This tendency to go along with the needs of the perpetrator and do little or nothing for the needs of the victims of the perpetrator (i.e. people around the user and – ultimately – the whole of society) is not only typical of the health service; it can also be seen reflected in social services, probation service, prison service, youth services, and others of the so called ‘caring professions’. Somewhere along the way they have lost the track and they are now seeking to relax the constraints on such drug users, in the mistaken belief that this will facilitate the workers having a greater sense of identity, a better relationship with their youthful charges. A form of selling-out which deserves no respect – and gets none from the users themselves.

Another group with a minority supporting legalisation are Economists. A commentator once said that ‘if you want to know the answer to 2 + 2, a mathematician will tell you 4, a politician will say “somewhere between 3 and 5”, but an economist will ask “what would you like it to be?”. The partial and simplistic models which some economists use to support legalisation arguments are very questionable, and do nothing to enhance the reputation of their profession. Last, but certainly not least, we have the media. There are some media commentators who are now starting to speak out against a pro drug stance; people like Melanie Philips of the Observer, Peter Hitchens on the Express, Mary Kenny on the Sunday Express and Lucy Johnson, formally with the Big Issue, now with the Observer. But the pieces that they get published are small in terms of ‘column inches’ compared to those that their more libertarian colleagues manage to get into their pages. In America where there is such a thing as a Freedom of Information Act a large sample of newspaper proprietors found a majority of them were paid up members of the ACLU; American Civil Liberties Union, or other similar libertarian groups. It would be interesting to see a similar survey conducted here in Britain! The Sunday Independent push for decriminalisation of cannabis (covered at the end of this paper) was an example of just how far this libertarian juggernaut can be trundled if you have enough resources at the back of it. Mention of resources brings to mind another vital libertarian resource and that is people in Finance. The most notable of these is George Soros; he is the man who made hundreds of millions in the infamous Black Wednesday crash of the British stock market a few years ago. He is also the top man in a trust which has assets in excess of seven billion dollars. Soros has expressed an interest in stirring up a whole variety of different causes but one of them most noted is his funding of the pro-drug effort. He has given, it is estimated, (and there may be much more that is not known) in excess of 90 million dollars to pro-drug campaigners such as the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington DC. He has also funded the Lindesmith Institute and he was also the major funder in a successful push to get cannabis ‘legalised’ for medical purposes in the States of Arizona and California in 1996. But he had a predecessor in funding the Drugs Policy Foundation and other similar groups and that is a man called Richard F. Dennis. Dennis and Soros have something else in common besides their penchant for funding pro-drug groups, and that is that both of them are Futures Speculators. What this means is that if a particular commodity which they have bought into suddenly becomes more attractive on the market place they stand to make vast amounts of money. This may or may not be what is driving Messrs Dennis and Soros, but it should not be overlooked in any analysis of these gentlemen. It is also worth noting that Soros has bought into two banks, one in Columbia and one in the Netherlands, and he has also large tracts of cultivatable land in Colombia and Venezuela, purpose unknown . . .

How do these individuals and groups obtain and retain power?

The short answer is ‘gradually’. (Look back at descriptions of how NORML and the YIPPIES use to behave and now how they do behave – quoted in the introduction to this paper.) It was the Fabian Society, a think tank started many years ago for socialist intellectuals, which came up with the phrase ‘the inevitability of gradualness’. By this they meant that any movement whose approach is gradual but sustained has a much greater chance of success than any ‘crash, bang, wallop’ approach. One also needs to tap into any other movements that are happening in your arena and, as it were, swim or row along with them. One classic piece of research in this context comes from a noted sociologist called Kelly; he produced something called Kelly’s Repertory Grid. What the Grid does is to demonstrate that if a person buys into i.e. swallows a particular idea then they are also much more likely to also buy into ideas which seem to be in the same philosophical family. Therefore, for example, if I am helping young people to turn their lives around, I maybe against punitive justice sentences, I may also be against racism, bullying, violence and other things that get in the way of advancement of these young people, I will probably have some clients where AIDS and HIV has become issue and therefore I will be for the AIDS resources movement and out of all these factors I will probably be for the relaxation of drug laws. (It could be quite a useful SJA study group subject to try and write down other similar groupings that satisfy Kelly’s Repertory Grid criteria and perhaps one way forward in that would actually be to get the relevant research paper by Kelly out of your local library).

What the pro drug movement will do and indeed have been doing very successfully for certainly fifteen years (to this writer’s knowledge) and perhaps longer, is to infiltrate and penetrate the relevant organisations in the drug arena. These include central government, both at representative and civil servant level; local government both elected and appointed officers; and also other professions and voluntary sector workers in Education, Health, Social, Justice, Police, Youth Service, and other related fields. Most importantly, it will also get close to the media: National, regional, local of all forms TV and radio, printed page, magazines, are important targets. Information is power . . .

Whilst this infiltration maybe subject to setback when elections happen, generally it is the case that only the elected representatives disappear. Thus points of view, attitudes and philosophy can be perpetuated in Whitehall despite changes in Westminster. Leading journalist Melanie Philips has referred to this in her landmark book ‘All must have prizes’. Although this book focuses in particular on the struggles around basic education (reading & writing) it is uncannily close to the struggles around drug education/policy. Quoting from Melanie’s book:

One of the puzzles about education in Britain is that the seductive ideologies that so tenaciously grip it reached their high point during the eighties. Yet that was the very decade when Britain was governed by Mrs. Thatcher, as she then was, the most ideological Prime Minister in modern memory, and a leader, who was ostentatiously committed to root out precisely such attitudes, in education and elsewhere . . . It didn’t happen like that. The education establishment fought back with every weapon at its command. The Thatcher government found itself embroiled in a tenaciously sustained and debilitating guerrilla war in which it was outgunned and out-manoeuvered at every turn. Civil servants elsewhere may have been cowed or convinced by the Thatcherite ethos, but the Education Department was a ministry apart. Whitehall civil servants forged an astonishing alliance with educationalists to frustrate or dilute ministers aims and to substitute their own agenda wherever possible. Political will squared up to an entrenched culture and lost. The result was that, despite bringing about some improvements, the national curriculum actually made matters worse in some important ways, by institutionalising some of the worst attitudes, then giving them the force of law.

And later, when she talks about tackling academia in the context of English teaching;

But opposition to the English proposal was not confined to the formulation of Dons safely coralled within their ivory towers. It constituted instead a well developed network which had become so well integrated with the political institutions that reform had become impossible. The English teachers boasted they would subvert the reform from within, and they were correct.

In her column in the Observer on 21st September 1997 the title of the piece was ‘The Tories education policies were savaged by civil servants and academics. The same people can now scupper Blunkett’.

This article describes how the forces at play that Melanie had noticed in the Thatcher government are still in play and quite often seen to be involving the same civil servants and supporters. She says;

‘What price now David Blunkett’s determination to root out rotten practice in the class room? That central control will be used to mask the fact that there is no control. There won’t be, unless Tony Blair realises that many of the people upon whom he relies to produce education reform are the problem, not the solution, and replaces them, quickly’.

This all has a strong resonance for professionals working to counter the drug problem, and the main lever in the drugs context is so-called Harm Reduction. The practice of engaging with known users to reduce the harm they do to themselves, pending their cessation of use, is as old as drug services themselves. What is new is the extension of harm reduction ‘advice’ to all and sundry whether they are users or not, under the limp assertion that they might all need it in due course. Coupling this with a perfunctory prevention agenda – or in most cases no prevention at all – has the not-unexpected result of increasing use. This is then advanced as proof of the failure of ‘prevention’ and the need for even more ‘harm reduction’. A more honest description for this process would be ‘A Trojan Horse with legalisers hidden inside it’.

What tactics are employed by the pro drug lobby?

From Sumo to Judo – a good metaphor for what has happened to the tactics of the pro drugs lobbies. In the past they tried to make themselves big and push their opponents out of the ring, as a Sumo wrestler might. What they have now learnt is there is more to be gained by less effort if one works to use the energy of the opponent to trip them or otherwise flip them out of your path, as a judo fighter might. Thus, in Britain we currently have many people who are known to be sympathisers of pro-drug attitude insisting vociferously that ‘what we need is lots more drug education’. What they actually mean is ‘we need lots more of our kind of education about drugs and we are the people to deliver it’. Because the appropriate government and voluntary sector departments have been infiltrated there is an in-built system of control; this is of course supplemented by the degree of infiltration that is in the media. Taken together this is a potent combination of position and influence. If such sectional interests are allowed to advise and thus influence who will get money in the future then this also means that money, which is the ‘third leg’ to power, is in the hands of the same people. In December 1997 some of our European colleagues put together a bid for funding to do valuable prevention work across Europe; some of this work is proposed for Britain and for the Republic of Ireland. When the list of people reviewing the bid on behalf of European community (the funders) came to our notice it was immediately apparent that the names on it could have not been worse. People unsympathetic to prevention were in command of the key positions, able to decide who would be allowed to pass and who would be turned back.

When the National Children’s Bureau launched a new Drugs Education Forum the launch in 1996, which lasted two days, was opened by Lord Henley, one of the Education Ministers of that time. Lord Henley opened the conference by saying that he was delighted to see so many people committed to the government’s aims of discouraging drug use and of returning current users to a drug free status as soon as possible. After a few other supportive remarks he left, to return to the House. Scarcely had the doors finished swinging behind him than the next speaker stood up and said ‘Well, what ever you may think about the government strategy . . .’ a snigger rippled its way around the room and off we went on a dissection of the government’s approach and how it should be replaced with a harm reduction based approach. It was evident at this conference that all of the ‘old crowd’ who are known to be supporters of a harm reductionist approach were present, and it was also – sadly – noticeable that some of the more recent people entering the scene were being absorbed into this jolly little coterie. Department for Education health education coordinator John Ford startled some, including this writer, at the conference by delivering an apology for the Leah Betts video ‘Sorted’. He ‘explained’ that it had been put together in a hurry and that the Education Department hadn’t really had much input to it etc. etc. the broad impression was gained that it was not something with which they wished to be associated. (The video has been reviewed by this writer and is found to be generally not sensationalised; it certainly is emotional and emotive but then it is a true reflection of the feelings of the Betts family at that time). The Drug Education Forum has gone on to collect other supporters of the Harm Reduction orthodoxy; a token presence of Prevention workers is heavily outnumbered. In autumn of this year DEF’s steering Committee introduced a small but very significant change to the Mission Statement. Formerly it has expressed the aim of skilling young people “to make informed choices to resist drug misuse”. After the change the aim now is only “to make informed choices”. Resisting drug misuse is apparently not what is wanted!

The effect of all this intellectual conflict can be seen in the local government scene, not just the ‘Three W’s’ (Westminster, Whitehall and Wapping). Drug Advisory Teams (DATs) each control a number of Drug Reference Groups (DRGs) in areas roughly corresponding to Health Authority areas. There are variations in attitude about and commitment to the national strategy at all levels; the range of variance could be said to span from strong support to lip service, with outright antagonism to some aspects of the strategy. Another generalisation with some credence is that the further you get from central government the less the support for the government strategy.

Senior government officials and MPs seem strangely reluctant to contemplate that this may be happening – the word ‘conspiracy’ is an anathema (and probably pays the opposition too much credit anyway), but there has been some acceptance of the idea that a ‘confluence of thinking on several matters by otherwise disparate entities’ is having an effect. This is Kelly’s Repertory Grid in action. (See above ‘How do these individuals and group obtain and retain power?’).

What are we doing wrong?

A short answer is difficult, but will be attempted; shortcomings exist in the following areas: – not looking at the overall picture. Inadequate awareness of what is going on elsewhere in UK, in Europe, and across the world.

– dismissing the opposition as insignificant.

– inadequate evaluation of prevention (though the funders must take blame here).

– inadequate co-operation; needless competition.

– sanguine outlook; what someone once described as another AIDS – the Apathy, Ignorance and Denial Syndrome.

– the assumption that ‘someone else’ will deal with this distasteful matter.

The emergence of the NDPA some five years ago was a breakthrough in addressing these shortcomings, but its tiny funding base (until October 1996, when National Lotteries awarded NDPA its first substantial funding) severely limited its effectiveness.

None of the above shortcomings is beyond correction; that they still exist suggest that Britain’s famed ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ may yet be required, to pull us through. Unfortunately Dunkirk (in the drug scene) may have to happen before people wake up!

The particular case of the Sunday Independent

In the Autumn of 97 the Sunday Independent launched a campaign for the decriminalisation of cannabis. It did this in response to a flat rejection of this proposition both by the government in the person of Jack Straw and by the new Anti-Drugs Co-ordinator (Drugs Tsar) Keith Hellawell. It is also known that Jack Straw’s junior minister with the drugs portfolio, George Howarth has repeatedly rejected this proposition under an unequivocal three-part statement:

(a) No legalisation of cannabis

(b) No decriminalisation of cannabis, and

(c) No debate.

The last statement i.e. ‘no debate’ does not mean people’s democratic rights should be denied; in fact there has been a very voluminous exploration of law relaxation over the past 10-15 years world wide, and in Britain there has been a very heavy focus on the proposition especially over the past 5 and more years. George Howarth’s statement of ‘No debate’ simply means ‘No more government debate; we’ve heard it all before and we have reached a rational conclusion, and we don’t propose to waste any more Government time and money on a dead duck’. To say this is anything other than eminently sensible is a travesty, but then nobody could ever accuse the Sunday Independent or other pot campaigners of being sensible. Editor (at that time) Rosie Boycott announced in her opening feature on this subject that she was ‘a recovered alcoholic’ and a lapsed user of cannabis; in the normal parlance of the field Ms. Boycott would never be described as a recovered but only ‘recovering’ and her claim of ‘recovery’ would be viewed sceptically since she is still using another psychoactive drug. Whether Ms. Boycott’s drive in producing this campaign is altruistically based in her own drug experiences and her wishes for others to share them, or whether it has to do with producing a sensational initiative which may boost the flagging sales figures of the Sunday Independent must be left for the reader to judge. Currently the Sunday Independent is at the bottom of the circulation league for Sunday newspapers, and its circulation dropped some 20% between the most recent yearbook figure and the previous year. It sells around three hundred thousand copies.

On the 11th December (‘97) Sunday Independent held a one-day event in Westminster-‘a stoned throw from Parliament’. Originally put forward (to this writer and others) as a ‘balanced debate, with an equal number of speakers on both sides’ it ended up with 6 for decriminalisation, 3 against, and one who presented a commercial for more science in reviews (he was a scientist).

In the ‘pro’ side were Gianfranco dell Alba from Lista Panella, an Italian Radical Party. To roars from the crowd he described how in Italy they had pressed for a referendum on drugs, got one, lost it, and so resorted to planned civil disobedience. From Lindesmith Institute (which George Soros funds) Ms Lynn Zimmer was presented as an ‘impartial’ speaker – incredible, in that she has been recently listed as a Board Member of NORML (the National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws) and more incredible in that Lindesmith’s literary output is consistently and heavily biased towards decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis. When Zimmer took the stand all pretence of impartiality fell away.

Despite heavy promotion the hall was around one-fifth empty. Few anti-decriminalisation people bothered to attend, and no papers other than the Sunday Independent and Independent covered this sham affair. Years ago there might have been an argument for refusing to debate with legalisers, but that bridge has long since been crossed. The best than can be done is to debate factually and with dignity, and also make sure that the decision makers are aware of what is really going on.


Recommended reading on this subject of ‘professional sub culture’ is a paper by Professor Norman Dennis (1997) entitled Social Irresponsibility: How the Social Affairs Intelligentsia have Undermined Morality. Available from Christian Insitute, Eslington House, Eslington Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4RF (Tel: 0191 281 5664). Professor Dennis is not himself a practising Christian; he was invited to present this paper at a CI conference.

With so much of the information/communication system influenced by or in the hands of libertarians and their fellow travellers, all this might seem a hopeless cause. Far from it. This path has been trodden before, and success for a prevention approach has been achieved (see this writer’s comparison paper for The Royal Holloway training, on the subject of ‘Prevention”). The opposing forces may seem awesome, like Goliath – with you as David. But remember, Goliath lost, and the reason he lost is very simple.

He got stoned.

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