BY SAM WHITE
Islington Council’s widely criticised decision to shut down Fabric nightclub last year marked a low point in jobsworth state interference. The incident was reminiscent of the cat and mouse battles of the 1990s when the Pay Party Unit and the Territorial Support Group, validated by decades of shit stirring from the likes of Mary Whitehouse, attempted to forcibly straitjacket society by disrupting raves and warehouse parties.
Returning to 2016, Fabric—backed by enormous public support—struck a deal with Islington Council allowing it to reopen under strict new licensing conditions.
The initial decision to revoke the nightclub’s license was made after two drug related deaths, pointing to one of the issues at the core of the story: the dysfunctional nature of current drug legislation, and the need for reform.
In terms of health, making narcotics illegal can have negative outcomes. In Portugal, where since 2001 drug use has been decriminalised, rates of use and drug related deaths have gone down, not up.
By going further than decriminalisation and making drugs entirely legal, a clean supply can be guaranteed, and purity levels will cease to be a risky unknown. Overdoses will fall, and the risk of accidentally consuming something toxic and horrible will disappear. And while we’re at it, why not use the tax raised from legal supplies to help fund health services? (Put that on a bus if you like.) That way, if anyone does need medical assistance it will have been paid for in advance.
Regarding law enforcement, police forces across Britain are stretched and underfunded. Officers are already indifferent toward possession for personal use, so why persist in calling it a crime? As for the more serious business of dealing with those pesky organized distribution gangs, industrial scale producers, and cross border smugglers—in a world with a fully legalised drug trade they don’t exist anymore. The business of production would be above board and rehabilitated, regulated and taxed.
And morally? Well, this is perhaps the most important consideration. As long as no-one else is being harmed by our actions, then your morals are none of my business, and mine are none of yours. The ethical issues around drug legislation are one of the great deceptions that enable the authorities to maintain the looking glass status quo.
The dominant narrative has been that a functional society doesn’t get high, and so legalisation can never be considered for fear that it sends out the wrong message. But this fuzzy misdirection must be called out: society is already getting high and it always has been. The fundamental reason to legalise drugs is precisely because people want to take them. And they’re already doing so enthusiastically, in a society which is evidently not falling apart at the seams as a result.
If drugs were as revolting and destructive as the authorities would have us believe, we wouldn’t need to prohibit them—most people are sane enough not to consume revolting, destructive substances. But the reality is that for the majority of users drugs are gratifying and manageable, and the greatest dangers stem from prohibition itself.
There’s no moral quandary around legalising drug use because drug use is not a moral issue. Nobody wrings their hands and chokes up when offered a glass of wine and a fag, but these are no less druggy than the currently illegal substances. The only issue to consider is your own personal tolerance—not how much you can ingest, but how prepared you are to live and let live.
Urges to become intoxicated and step outside the mundane are not something the state has any business interfering with. Of course, not everyone wants to do these things, but reasonable people don’t impose their own preferences on others. As it stands, a small number of puritanical micro-managers in appointments of power are restricting everyone else’s personal freedoms.
It’s the moralisers who are immoral, as they seek to inhibit and intrude, treating their equals like infants, unaware of the extent to which they resemble peculiar children themselves. Failed drug laws are responsible for death and misery around the world. They’re also linked to the near loss of an iconic British nightclub. The Fabric affair should have created a moment of shared clarity: that the bankrupt drug policies foisted on us by generations of hypocrites are irrational, destructive, and right for disposal.