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Thursday, December 12, 2013 

Don't break out the plant food just yet.

You have to suspect that today's Graun piece suggesting the coalition is considering introducing a regulatory regime for new legal highs rather than banning those linked to deaths after the fact is little more than a piece of enthusiastic briefing by Norman Baker. All it amounts to is including a toned down version of the New Zealand approach as an option in a consultation paper. As both Theresa May and David Cameron have repeatedly stated they are against liberalisation, with the Labour leadership also toeing the criminalisation line, the chances of there being even the slightest movement seem remote.

The plan also doesn't make sense. Why regulate drugs we know relatively little about when we could instead do the same for those we are far more familiar with? Apart from the minority who will always try something new, the only reason the legal high scene exists as it now does is precisely because of prohibition. The decline in the quality of ecstasy due to ever further restrictions being placed on its ingredients can be linked directly with the rise in alternatives. Indeed, it was only a few years ago that psilocybin mushrooms were perfectly legal to sell so long as they hadn't been prepared for use, a clearly scandalous state of affairs that New Labour saw fit to put a end to. If we wanted, we could within a matter of months have a situation where the sale of say, cannabis, LSD, ecstasy and shrooms was regulated and controlled, at a stroke decimating both the criminals who currently control the trade and the legal high merchants.

We almost certainly never will, of course, not least due to how the Sun and Daily Mail would respond. As I've previously remarked, it's fascinating how the Sun in particular reacted to the sudden rise of mephedrone in an almost textbook moral panic fashion, yet has barely commented since on the new substances that have replaced it. We've also got hell of a long way to go when it still seems khat will be banned, despite the Home Affairs committee calling on Theresa May to abandon her criminalisation of the plant. As yet there has also been no government response to the Advisory Council's recommendation that ketamine be raised to Class B from C. The last three recommendations from the ACMD have all been disregarded, as they either proposed keeping the status quo or the downgrading of the drug they reviewed. Call me cynical, but I get the feeling this time the government might just follow the ACMD's lead.

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