Let UK authorities become monopoly suppliers of recreational drugs, urges MP

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Crispin Blunt, who has previously admitted using the party drug known as poppers, said the state and its agents should be permitted to produce and sell substances like cocaine and ecstasy

The UK government should allow the state or licensed agents to become “benign”, tightly regulated suppliers of recreational drugs in order to smash criminal dealers’ business models, an MP has said.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, who has previously admitted using the party drug known as poppers, made his remarks during a parliamentary debate on the government’s strategy for tackling illegal highs.

Among other things, the Home Office strategy contained confirmation that a programme of psychoactivity testing of substances aimed at bolstering prosecutions was being taken forward by the department – a development revealed exclusively by E&T last month.

During yesterday’s debate Blunt told MPs: “We have left the manufacture and supply [of recreational drugs] in the hands of organised criminals and treated their victims – many of whom are vulnerable members of our society and many of whom have mental illnesses – as criminals, and they are unable or unwilling to seek medical help due to the illegality, exclusion and stigma.”

He added that “the uncomfortable truth is that respect for our laws is diminished when large swathes of the population can see no difference between their recreational drugs of choice and their recreational use of alcohol and tobacco”, going on to urge legalisation, and stating: “Proceeds from sales or taxation of sales would pay for treatment and public health education. We would protect people because they would know what they were buying.”

Another advocate of legalisation, Labour’s Paul Flynn, called on medicinal cannabis users to spark up spliffs inside Parliament and challenge police to arrest them for it.

Flynn stated: “I would call on people, and I know we’re not supposed to do this as members, to break the law – to come here and use cannabis here and see what happens and challenge the government, the authorities, to arrest them and take them in.”

Sarah Newton, a Home Office minister, insisted the government was right to ban substances which it had evidence to show were harmful to people, adding there was “no safe way you can take these products”.

She went on to add: “I think it would be terrible to say to young people, to confuse them in some way, that you can somehow safely take something that is a legal high.”

Recent issues of E&T have highlighted how technology is changing the way the war on drugs is fought.

Tools like the TICTAC database of pills and powders were created in a bid to chronicle the bewildering array of freshly synthesised substances – among them the cannabinoid Spice and the extremely potent opioid Fentanyl, which has been blamed for large numbers of deaths in North America.

Increasingly compact handheld raman and infrared spectroscopy devices, which give the ‘chemical fingerprint’ of substances, allow border guards to take measurements through packaging and enable forensics teams to quickly scan for white powders at crime scenes. 

Prior to the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act last year, banned substances were defined with reference to their specific chemical composition – meaning the authorities faced an uphill struggle faced with criminals who could subtly tweak the chemical formula to get around the law.

The new catch-all legislation, which effectively banned all psychoactive substances except a small number of socially accepted ones, was largely successful at removing ‘headshops’ from UK High Streets, but legal experts have raised the issue of how prosecutors might prove the psychoactivity of particular substances once cases start coming to trial.

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