AH, LUCY in the Sky with Diamonds…Suddenly Cassandra is transported back to those gloriously psychedelic days of the ‘60s thanks to the discovery by British researchers that psilocybin—the mind-altering ingredient in “magic mushrooms”—helps combat depression. Actually, it surely does far more than that, as Aldous Huxley wrote half a century ago in “The Doors of Perception” (a title that was warmly embraced by Jim Morrison, hence his group “The Doors”).
The implication of the research into the mysteries of the human brain is that psychedelic drugs such as LSD could have a therapeutic value—but the obvious snag is that they are illegal. In which case, perhaps drugs should be legalised? Why not treat narcotics as an issue of public health—rather like smoking—than a matter of criminality? This has long been the policy of The Economist, and I am pleased to see that Sir Richard Branson is taking up the cause, both in a newspaper column and today before MPs in Britain’s House of Commons. As “the bearded one” points out:
Just as prohibition of alcohol failed in the United States in the 1920s, the war on drugs has failed globally. Over the past 50 years, more than $1 trillion has been spent fighting this battle, and all we have to show for it is increased drug use, overflowing jails, billions of pounds and dollars of taxpayers’ money wasted, and thriving crime syndicates. It is time for a new approach.