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YOU ARE HERE: Homepage > Entheogens > Nobel Laurate & LSD Advocate Kary Mullis on Drug Policy
 

Geneticist Kary Mullis has attributed his Nobel Prize winning discovery of the PCR chain-reaction to his experiences visualizing his molecular concepts with the aid of LSD. Here are notes from Kary's lecture on drug policy in Europe.

THE BECKLEY FOUNDATION AT THE ROYAL SOCIETY
The speakers include Dr. Kary Mullis (Nobel Laureate for Chemistry), Professor Leslie Iversen (Professor of Pharmacology at King's College London and at the University of Oxford), Professor Ciaran Regan (Department of Pharmacology, University College Dublin), Simon Jenkins (Former Editor of The Times), and Professor Gustav Born (William Harvey Research Institute, London). The discussion was chaired by Professor Colin Blakemore (Waynflete Professor of Physiology, University of Oxford).

The Role of Drugs in Society
By Kary Mullis,
Nobel Prize winning geneticist.
Inventor of the Polymerase chain-reaction (PCR) used in all modern DNA testing.

• Kary Mullis has taken LSD for recreational and intellectual purposes
and his interest lies in the effect of psychoactive drugs on the mind.

• Psychoactive drugs can be used as tools,
their transient effects on the brain enabling occasional users to acquire
a greater understanding of the capabilities of their minds.

• Experimentation can increase awareness of the larger picture,
thereby making users feel more humble about their role,
in turn encouraging a more liberal and tolerant attitude.

• As long as psychoactive drugs are taken in a controlled environment,
e.g. users not operating machinery or having access to weapons, there is little danger and
no reason why these drugs should not be freely available.

• Drugs tend to be much more expensive to buy than to produce (especially cocaine and heroin)
ensuring that criminal organisations that control the supply of these substances make massive profits.

• Sales of illegal drugs fund dangerous militant groups, which are able to arm themselves
using the money raised from the trade, which is estimated globally to be in excess of $500 billion a year.

• The high sales prices in consumer countries determined by an illegal supply,
lead to increased crime levels because people are forced to steal to support habits formed by using addictive drugs.

• Government prohibition does not prevent sales of recreational drugs but the laws have massive effects
both internally in the consumer countries and on the poorer manufacturing countries of the world.

• The social problems caused by prohibition necessitate changes in legislation.
• Kary Mullis recommends that all drug laws be abolished; accepting that due to years of prohibition
there will be an initial period of chaos, which will ultimately be superseded by a significant improvement over the present situation.

• If drugs were legalised, the number of users and total intake is unlikely to change drastically,
still only a small percentage of the population choosing to use them.

• Historically, society tolerated drugs with few problems arising, e.g. opium was very popular in the 19th century and many great works of literature were inspired by its effects. When it became illegal, making it expensive to buy and promoting cheaper and quicker methods of delivery, (e.g. intravenous use of
heroin), the problems that we associate now with drug use and addiction emerged.

Questions & Answers

What is wrong with present legislation?

The present Misuse of Drugs Act, created because of the alarm caused to society by the use of recreational drugs and the associated illegal trade, has not resulted in people not using drugs. An unwanted side effect of the ban is the creation of a massive crime wave. Large numbers of people are imprisoned for drug-related crimes creating massively overcrowded prisons. On release back into society, these same people receive no support, increasing the likelihood that they will re-offend. Ideally, we would be in a position where members of society do not feel the need to use drugs.

In a society where people do feel this need, should they be allowed to use drugs simply because they have a desired effect?

The large numbers of regular ecstasy users every weekend in Britain indicates the laws restricting their use are ineffective and there is a whole culture that are not deterred by their illegal status.

Is society ready for the unleash of drugs?

Although many of the things we desire are bad for our health, their use is not restricted. There is no drug more dangerous than alcohol, which holds legal status. All drugs, hard or soft, legal or illegal, cause social problems to some degree. A common misperception is that heroin causes very large numbers of fatalities but the figure is minute compared to alcohol. In fact, heroin addicts often have very high tolerance levels and what tends to kill them is the summation of multiple different drugs resulting in death by overdose. The drugs themselves tend not to be the problem but the way that they are dispensed and sold. Cannabis use causes very few social problems and many successful and productive people use cocaine regularly, however the illegal status of these drugs pushes the sales market into the hands of violent criminals.

Are the present social problems relating to the sale of recreational drugs a result of the current Government ban?
Would they still exist even if sales were legalised?

The clients will still be approximately the same, but practice and trade will change through legalisation. Legalisation would mean that people could buy drugs but only through legal sources, removing a major criminal resource and significantly reducing crime levels. In Holland where the sale of marijuana has been legalised, illegal sales still go on, mainly as a result of cannabis production still being illegal. Those making money now are unlikely to give up their markets easily, so black market trade will continue but the profit margins will be significantly reduced. Criminals will move to other illegal sales, e.g. from drugs to tobacco. Drug barons are likely to find alternative means of laundering money, such as the sale of stolen diamonds.

Is it correct to assume that a controlled legal market is easier to maintain than an uncontrolled black market?

When prohibition of alcohol was abolished in the US, gangs initially tried to take over the sale of alcohol and the associated profits but eventually it returned into the hands of the lawmakers. Initially, it would be necessary to provide drugs at a lower market price than illegal dealers by taxing drugs less than nicotine and alcohol are presently. When this has wiped out competition from illegal sources, taxes could start to be increased. It is important to avoid a situation in which the white market coexists with the black market, which could happen if the taxes levied were disproportionate. This presently occurs within the tobacco market with criminal organisations illegally importing massive quantities of cigarettes.

In terms of legislation, is decriminalisation or legalisation preferable?

Legalisation is preferable but drugs should be given moral approbation rather than be endorsed. If certain activities start to cause social problems, the state will have to intervene but many drugs are thought to cause problems simply because they are illegal. If the money presently spent on law enforcement could be ploughed into treatment and education, the health and social problems associated with drug use would be dramatically reduced.



 
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