Why We Absolutely Need to Talk About Drugs

by Jason Reed


Are you interested in drugs? It’s a bizarre question isn’t it? Most of us, to some degree or another, are indeed interested in the subject of drugs, but it’s still very much a taboo.

Drugs evoke a near visceral reaction within us. It’s NSFW – a hushed word, usually mouthed with some elderly theatrics in polite society. The issue is fraught with tension, mixed messages, and a great deal of intrigue.

How do we go about marketing for a change in attitude – preparing the ground so that reasoned and evidence based policies are formed? As the world looks to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) it’s never been more important to discuss the issue with friends, family, and those who just do not care.

We can often preach to the converted in reform circles.

We could argue that the debate has been won and drug law reform is the eminent conclusion to our problems. There’s really not much (if any) evidence to support the continuation of prohibition and the criminalisation of drug consumers, and yet we are anchored to an approach that is leaving millions of lives in ruins – not because of the drugs themselves, but simply through the wrong policy. So how do we go about this? How do we bring about that final battle for change?

I was recently left humbled by the reaction that I personally received after appearing on spoken-word artist and rapper Scroobius Pip’s podcast. Pip has had A-list stars on his Distraction Pieces podcast and has attracted over a million downloads in 2016 alone. Pip realised that there are many societal issues that could benefit from such vast exposure. On his podcast, hosted by Acast, Pip has taken on issues such as Housing for Women, British Red Cross, and of course drugs. After I appeared on his show, I received a great many messages of support for the issue, and most heartening of all, many, many new voices to the issue. We also did a LEAP UK special.

IMG_1487 Scroobius

Such was the reaction that Pip and I have now forged a new podcast dedicated to drug policy.

Having worked on many projects, from organisations, writing outlets, films, I’ve seen just how inspired members of the public can be when faced with the cold realities of ‘the drug war’. As soon as the realism of the issue is addressed – over the conceptual political soundbites – we begin the process of communal conversation. And this is what it’s all about: we have to talk our way into reform.

Hosting the first live show at Tottenham Court Road Waterstones on the 26th of April, the new drug policy podcast under Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces network, we aim to have the conversations that all of us in drug policy have behind closed doors. Honesty is always the best policy, and this is what we aim to do. We want a no BS policy, an off the record chat which will firmly go on the record! This is a peak behind the curtain.


Stop and Search is the name of this new podcast (in association with LEAP UK).

Our first show will see broadcaster and comedian Robin Ince, The Guardian science blogger Dr Suzi Gage, and Simon Oxenham (better known as the science journalist Nuerobonkers) all sitting and having a chat on science and its interaction within drug policy.

We’re looking to address all the dark corners of drug policy over the coming months, allowing organisations, journalists, politicians and public figures to have a collective chinwag.

Scroobius Pip told me that:

Podcasts work. It’s all about the global conversation, unfiltered, and on the real issues that we’re all engaged with – whether we know it or not. The new ‘Stop and Search’ podcast from the LEAP UK team is an example of this. Drug policy is one of those issues that we all need to talk about if we’re serious about our collective and societal wellbeing

So please do join us and get involved.

We’re reaching a point where all hands are needed on deck to lift this weighty anchor of prohibition, and to set sails of the seas of reform… stretched metaphors and analogies are optional!

Free Stop and Search tickets are available on Eventbrite for the 26th April at Waterstones (Tottenham Court Road).

Jason Reed is the Director of LEAP UK and a regular VolteFace contributor.

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