When Professor Nutt put Drugs on Trial…

by Alex Montague

Over the last two years, Mutiny has been blessed with wide-ranging trials. Violence, Love, Education, Democracy, Work, Fashion, Money, and the Media have all previously been in dock, and on Monday 10 of October 2011, a remarkable collection of Mutineers gathered in Bethnal Green’s Resistance Gallery to divert its attention towards another subject that, much like Education, Fashion, Love, and the Media, really reflects society’s relationship with people and the mind.

‘Drugs on Trial’ laid bare the questions that, it soon appeared, urgently required debate: why are addicts criminalized, and does this work in the prevention of narcotic abuse? Is substance usage pathological? Why are some drugs prescribed, other prohibited? And who is really winning the ‘War on Drugs’? All these were addressed in three sections: Consumption, Production and Prescription.

Such a varied discussion was met with a broad range of contributions. Comical yet provocative anecdotes were followed by strikingly honest yet important recollections from previous drug users, and then by stunning reminders of drugs’ damage upon the most marginalised and vulnerable people, communities and nations.

Appreciating the larger arena for debate, former government drugs advisor Professor David Nutt attended the trial and entered a constructive dialogue with attendees. Nutt’s previous claim that cannabis use was less harmful than alcohol consumption had been too much for then Home Secretary Alan Johnson, and Nutt’s employment in the British government was terminated over his objections to the government’s drugs classifications, imprisonment of users, and dismissing of scientific evidence and advice. His presence alone was enough to inform the crowd, and us all, that a review of Drugs is desired amongst a broad section of society and expertise.

The cultural impact of drugs amongst alternative culture has been revaluated over the last few recession-ridden years, and this was reflected at the event. Their appeared neither knee jerk loyalties nor principled prejudices on the subject.

What was apparent soon after the opening ‘speed debates’ was how well overdue the matter was in meeting a broad and balanced discussion.  Aside from the aforementioned anecdotes, there also appeared possible antidotes. Naturally, the discussion on drugs in our current society soon progressed into the egalitarian crowd questioning how, or if, mankind’s tendency to escape via mind-altering substances would remain in a different- a better– world.

Mutiny has always prided, and differentiated, itself from the average group socio-political discussion via its employment of live artistic performance, and ‘Drugs on Trial’ did not disappoint. Engaging poetry performances stole the hearts and attention of all Mutineers, and the intelligent and witty lyricism of musical duo Coffee Maggots/Commie Faggots closed the night perfectly.

So with the theme of drugs, and the night’s entertainment rocking and rolling, the next step would for Mutiny could only be sex, and on December 8th 2011 Mutiny will next place this very subject on trial.


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