The country’s “delirious” drug laws are criminalising young people and depriving others of life-broadening experiences, according to a Cambridge criminologist.
Roderick Read, a former Wolfson College postgraduate known as the “psychedelic grandad”, is calling for scientific research into safe doses and purities for drugs such as LSD and Ecstasy, alongside a reasoned debate on the law.
The 70-year-old, who has a background in criminology and psychological counselling, has released a book on his own experiences in which he argues the case for psychedelic drugs as a way of unlocking more of the human mind.
But he said it is time for the “hysteria” against recreational drugs to be replaced with informed conversation on the role of the law.
Mr Read said: “It’s a totally delirious way of dealing with this. The law is actually criminalising healthy, intelligent and enquiring young people, giving them criminal records and barring them from working in certain fields because of relatively unserious offences.
“The prohibition causes it to be an underground business and the money goes to criminals who can then use it for any activity they want, whether it’s human trafficking or corrupting entire governments.”
He said the risk to health of drugs is attributable to a large extent because of their legal status, meaning users do not know what they are taking.
“There is no way of knowing strength, quality and purity. It really is a risk,” he said. “That’s why I’d never go out and say buy some street chemical and then have a mind-expanding experience, because you probably won’t get that.”
The “psychedlic grandad” believes recreational drugs can boost brain power and “consciousness”, although he accepted LSD is “staggeringly powerful” and that drug use can be “destabilising”.
Mr Read, who spent much of his youth tripping in Cambridge haunts such as The Criterion and The Bun Shop, but adds that many of the harmful effects of drugs can be countered through scientific research.
Former Cambridgeshire police chief constable Tom Lloyd is probably the area’s most prominent pro-legalisation campaigner, who is calling for the end of prohibition and the start of control and regulation to cut drug dealing criminals out of the loop.
The cause was given unexpected backing this month (April 2014) by Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who said the war on drugs was lost “many, many years ago” and they should be legalised, which he admitted would be unpopular with many of his party’s members.
Nick Clarke, chairman of Cambridge Conservatives, said it is important that governments “set the tone for what is right and what is wrong”.
He said: “Clearly just going down the legal route for drugs is incomplete, there needs to be assistance, treatment and medical support, but you cannot allow things to deteriorate just because it is hard to police.
“I have never taken illegal drugs because the consequences are so dire. I do drink, but not very much. I think if you were to invent alcohol today there would be a strong case for it to be illegal.”
When asked about the freedom of people to treat their own body as they see fit he said: “The reason society objects to drug use is because it does not just affect the individual. It involves the medical and emergency services, the police in dealing with violence and users’ families."
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