Photo: James Boardman
I don’t know much about the pollution that has engulfed the South-East of England recently, & I’d kind of like to proceed whilst habouring that ignorance. I know that it was on page 2 of the Saturday’s Guardian, & I’m thinking that it must be fairly serious, but what I’ve picked up on is the nonchalance & indifference that most of us seem to have towards it. I imagine the editorial team at the Guardian doing a bit of head scratching over what kind of exposure it warrants, and perhaps the esteemed role as a slightly more environmental newspaper pushed the story to the dizzy heights of page 2, taking an obvious backseat to election build-up news.
Having spent much of the weekend pondering if a mysterious and invisible smog was upon us, I felt the full force of the pollution on Monday evening, leaving the sunny, tranquil and slightly elevated meadows of Sussex campus on my bike down to the cold, fog deluged Brighton seafront. It had a different feel to it than ordinary sea mist (or ‘mizzle’), which, coming from Cornwall, I’m very familiar with. It was thicker but in a peculiarly less visible way – not imminently sight impairing but more like anything 30 metres away just wasn’t there, and it wasn’t moist but definitely chilling.
It’s high time to re-evaluate laws and attitudes to psychedelic drug research.
There is a gigantic, hulking elephant in the UK policy room. Attempts to curb and reduce recreational drug use through strict criminalisation laws have failed. Vulnerable people are sent to jail, take substances of unknown quality and origin and support an often hyper-violent, caustic and predatory global underground drug trade. More than this, the ranking of severity of punishments for drug related crimes defies logic and evidence, pandering to fear and misinformation. These arguments are familiar tropes in the popular media, yet decriminalisation remains a taboo topic. And although there are a few encouraging voices beginning to make themselves heard, UK policy continues to be frustratingly stubborn to reform.
There is another, perhaps less obvious consequence of the UK’s attitude to drugs: it is incredibly difficult to conduct research to investigate precisely how psychedelic drugs affects the body and brain. Researchers hoping to study these effects will invariably meet twin barriers of excessively cautious funding bodies and prohibitively restrictive licensing and procurement regulations. Although there is massive potential for these drugs to be used medicinally, the fear of damaged reputation by both scientists and research councils is significant.