By Deej Sullivan
Whilst the rest of the world pushes forward with reform; UK drug fascists are plumbing new depths of idiocy.
In what has been hailed as a ‘landmark prosecution’, two men from Leeds have been prosecuted for selling bongs. Hassan Abbas, boss of Fantasia in Leeds city centre, and his shop assistant Owen Allerton, were found guilty of supplying articles used to administer or prepare controlled drugs, and fined a combined total of £1,515.
Let’s get one thing absolutely clear – selling bongs is not, and has never been, illegal. The only landmark here is that the ignorance and stupidity of the British justice system has reached a new low. Which is saying something considering that just last week we had, Richard Hone QC, an Old Bailey judge claiming that cannabis is as harmful as heroin and crack cocaine.
According to prosecutor Robert Campbell, the defendants must have known that the items they were selling were being used for illegal drug taking. This may be the case, but is that really a valid justification for spending thousands of pounds on raiding their shop, arresting them, dragging them through the court system and eventually prosecuting? And does this mean that shops selling plastic drinks bottles and Bic Biros could be prosecuted too? It’s laughable.
Besides, there are literally thousands of shops selling smoking paraphernalia throughout the British Isles, and not one of them has ever been prosecuted before. So what is the real agenda here? Well, Fantasia also sold legal highs; so perhaps that had something to do with it. Indeed it has been reported that the original warrant for the raid was related to these products, not bongs.
The amount of news stories demonising so-called research chemicals has steadily risen over the past year or so, and West Yorkshire Police have announced a crackdown on legal highs in recent weeks. It seems fairly clear to me that this case has nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the public, and everything to do with government busy-bodies and police trying to shut down an emerging and lucrative business sector, rather than go to the effort of regulating it.
Regardless of whether you believe that legal highs are the Devil incarnate or just harmless fun, it seems fairly obvious that clamping down in this way is only going to cause more problems. Indeed, the way legal highs have been dealt with in this country can be seen as a microcosm of wider prohibition. Substances were created, tested, and found to be relatively safe (with some even showing potential medicinal uses), but were then banned when political and media outrage dictated that they be so. Since then endless streams of more highly complex and untested chemicals have been unleashed onto the market, inevitably causing more harm. The problem, as usual, is one that has only been exacerbated by prohibition.
But anyway, I digress. The real issue here is that a VAT registered and totally above board business has been prosecuted and fined for selling perfectly legal products. It is absolutely outrageous that a magistrate can bring charges on an individual because he ‘believes’ that they were aware the products they were selling were used for illegal purposes. This man was categorically not breaking any law, yet he has still been hit with a fine and a criminal record.
It is not Hassan Abbas’ responsibility to check up on everyone he sells a bong to in order to make sure they aren’t smoking cannabis. In fact, it would be irresponsible of him to do so, given that they are generally sold for use with the far more dangerous and addictive tobacco plant. Another startling hypocrisy in this case is that the shop in question also sold swords and knives, and yet strangely enough the magistrate did not seem interested in charging Mr Abbas with supplying articles used to administer murder.
The optimist in me would like to say that these are the last, desperate attempts by prohibitionists to stem the flow of progress. It is only natural that those who are resistant to change will come up with more and more ridiculous and absurd methods of stopping that change from happening. But this does not mean that we can be complacent – these people can still do a lot of damage to individuals like Mr Abbas by taking away his livelihood and the jobs of those who work for him. It is only by keeping up the pressure and showing that we will not stand for this blatantly unjust ruling that we will see any real change; resting on our laurels now will only give legitimacy to the actions of those who are the least deserving of it. And you can be sure they won’t be giving up without a fight.