An old article from the now defunct “South East Essex News” website:


Summer 2015, most major newspapers reported that the County Durham police will no longer prosecute crimes relating to low-level possession or sale of cannabis. The county’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, instituted this new policy and effectively decriminalised cannabis.

A year and a half later, how’s that working out?

No-one seems to know or care.

SOUTH EAST ESSEX NEWS approached the County Durham constabulary and asked: has the relaxation of cannabis laws been good or bad for County Durham?

How much money was previously spent enforcing Prohibition, and has refusing to enforce it freed up police resources, in this age of Austerity, in specific, quantifiable ways? Have any consequences been noted in areas such as public health, mental health, the use of harder drugs, police morale, community relations? Has there been any rise or decline in other recorded crimes?

Speaking to SOUTH EAST ESSEX NEWS by phone, the Head of Policy & Communications at County Durham Police seemed happy with this experiment in decriminalisation, and optimistic that it will continue. He admitted however that he could not answer any of our questions: he did not have the relevant statistics.

This was confirmed in a subsequent email from PCC Hogg, who told us: “Much of the information that you request is not available.”

The Police & Crime Commissioner’s words were echoed by County Durham Council. Regarding their county’s year-and-a-half-long policy, a spokesperson told us: “We have received no analysis, and have not completed an analysis ourselves.”

Nor could any individual councillor offer much. Of one hundred and twenty-five county councillors, a number replied to our enquiries but none had any facts or figures.

Two councillors expressed opposition to the policy. One said he “feels” that cannabis was a factor in the suicide of a relative, although he admitted there were no indications that the suicide-rate has risen in County Durham over the last year. Another claimed that “druggies” progress from cannabis to harder substances, and that cannabis use is a “trigger” for other offences. He was also unable to demonstrate any way in which these problems have worsened in County Durham following the shift in the police’s priorities.

Similarly, the relevant agencies were unable to say whether incidences and severity of mental illnesses are rising or falling or stable across County Durham.

PCC Ron Hogg can at least brag that no-one seems able to point to any failings of his policy. But the next time the County Durham Constabulary initiate a radical and very useful experiment, perhaps someone could take notes.




Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in Glasgow but have been living in London for the last two years. I’m probably a bit unusual among the poetry community in that I didn’t fancy myself as much of a creative type until I was around 20 – I was never the type to be writing angsty lyrics in the back of my school jotters. As a result there is almost no written record of my angsty teenage years, which suits me quite well.

I grew up listening to hip-hop and got into writing and performing with my friends Johnny and Paul around 4 years ago. We called ourselves Futurology and managed to progress from pretty terrible to pretty decent within a fairly short time. We’re still active – through the wonders of technology I’m still able to work on new material with them despite living several hundred miles away. This seems like a good point to plug our Facebook page

I developed an interest in spoken word poetry shortly after moving to London. It appealed to me because of the obvious similarities with hip-hop, as well as the fact that it’s much easier to write and that there’s a very active community here, offering plenty of opportunities to perform. I started organising my own event, Extra Second London, back in August 2016 and it’s been running every month since.

Tell us about your poetry-night “Extra Second London.”

As mentioned above, I started attending poetry events on a pretty regular basis after moving to London. One issue I had with these events though was that there was little to no room for discussion – I would often see a poet perform a really thought-provoking piece that might have changed my perspective on something, but there was no real opportunity to discuss this as they would be followed on stage by another poet who may be talking about something completely different. I found that a lot of people agreed with this view, which led me to believe there would be interest in an event that allowed discussion alongside the poetry.

Around the same time, my bandmates Johnny and Paul had started running a poetry night in Glasgow called Extra Second that had really taken off. This was held once a month, with each month’s event based around a different theme that poets were invited to explore. I decided to combine this format with my idea for introducing a discussion element and thus Extra Second London was born.

Like the event in Glasgow, Extra Second London explores a different theme every month. As well as showcasing three different featured poets every month, we also have an open mic, during which anyone who turns up on the night can perform. The performances are followed by around 30 minutes of open audience discussion, where anyone and everyone are welcome to have their say.

We’ve held four events so far, discussing The Future of British Politics, Education, The Role of the Artist in Society and Gender Roles. The next event will be held on the 24th January on the topic of Social Class. In future months we’re looking at holding discussions on topics such as Drugs and Social Media, among others.

More information can be found on our Facebook page:

You can also find footage from previous events on our Youtube channel:

What are some of the best things that have happened at Extra Second London?

Our first event (on The Future of British Politics) was opened by Jason Pilley, who gave an incredible 15 minute monologue that left the audience speechless. He made a case for working within the political system to effect change. I could keep going with this description but it’s probably best that you just watch it.

Our second event, which was on the topic of Education, was my personal favourite. It brought out great discussion – it’s a topic that literally everyone has had experience with and as a result, there were some really interesting perspectives shared. Our featured poets were all teachers, which meant they all brought a great amount of enthusiasm and passion to their performances. An honourable mention also goes to Burt Williamson for his piece on University applications but in my opinion, Poetcurious stole the show with his performance on the night:

You’re apparently looking into expanding your operations and establishing an “Extra Second Essex” night. Tell us a bit about what you’ve got planned!

It’s still early days but that is something I’m definitely interested in developing. There are plenty of great poets in Essex but they generally end up having to travel in to London to attend poetry events as there is a real lack of events in their own local areas. So there is definitely a potential audience for an Extra Second night. I’ve had preliminary discussions with a few venues and potential local performers already, so watch this space!

You’re part of a hip-hop group called Futurology so tell us the future, Anees: for you, for Extra Second Poetry, for the world, what happens next?

Personally, I’m trying to get myself more involved in music again after a bit of an unintentional hiatus – although I love writing poetry that doesn’t rhyme and attending spoken word events, hip-hop is still my real passion. I’m looking to work with other musicians and hopefully start playing some solo gigs in 2017.

Extra Second in Glasgow is going from strength to strength. As well as their monthly poetry events, they’ve organised two discussion nights on the theme of Universal Basic Income this year, with speakers from across the political spectrum including former Deputy Head of the SNP, Jim Sillars. These have been fascinating events which have opened up a lot of dialogue and there is a third instalment coming up in December. They will also be holding similar discussions events on the topic of Climate Change next year.

Extra Second is also expanding to Aberdeen! Molly McLachlan, a regular attendee of the Glasgow event, has recently moved there and is hosting the first Extra Second Aberdeen this month. To be honest I know absolutely nothing about the poetry scene up there but am sure it’ll be a fantastic event that will really take off in the months to come.

The London event will be ticking along as is for the foreseeable future. I do have an interest in putting on discussion nights similar to the Universal Basic Income ones that were held in Glasgow so you may hear something on that within the next year or so…

As for the world? Well, given that every political prediction I’ve made in the last few years has proven to be spectacularly wrong, I think I’ll hold back on making any more of those for now.



A talk at Extra Second London 21/2/17:


“There are 100,000 marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music – Jazz and Swing – results from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” It’s 1937 and the speaker is Harry Anslinger, formerly a commissioner in America’s Bureau of Prohibition then from 1930 he was promoted to chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Everything you need to know about the War On Drugs is there in his words: obviously the racism, that root hatred of the Other; the fear, the disgust of sensuality and enjoyment in those sneers about “entertainers” and in the weird misogynistic need for government-officials to concern themselves with whom white women are “seeking sexual relations.” But besides all that there’s this key word “Satanic,” their “Satanic” Jazz and Swing and marijuana usage, the War On Drugs goes way back and it’s a Holy War, a crusade against Sacraments which aren’t Christian and are therefore of the Devil, Sacraments which are very different to the Eucharist where the Body of the Lord is a little white wafer, and the Blood of the Lord is a grape that has rotted; marijuana on the other hand manifested with music, with Jazz, with Swing, not music to sit and listen to but music that makes you move, sounds to take you out of your stillness, ex stasis, and so, in response, we see a continuation of thousands of years of Authoritarian war against the senses, against the body, against the brain, we see Harry Anslinger alongside fellow 1930s cryptofascist William Hearst who was the Rupert Murdoch of his day, and this lot kick up a bit of a campaign: Reefer Madness. Soon men with letters after their names, PhD, MD, are warning the world that marijuana “not infrequently leads to violence,” marijuana “makes the smoker vicious, with a desire to fight and kill,” and on and on and on. One interesting thing about the anti-drugs crusaders is just how quick and eager they are to lie.

Although… Consider tobacco: it’s really fallen out of favour with governments recently, there’s been the various smoking-bans and restrictions on advertising and packaging, there’ve been efforts to ensure that everyone knows and sees images of the risks of smoking, and all this, I think you’d have to say, is a war on tobacco; not a war on the people who use tobacco. But compare that with psilocybin, “magic-mushrooms”: you can spend up to seven years in a cage plus have to pay an “unlimited fine” for eating a mushroom. If it’s such a fucked-up awful dangerous mushroom why not just tell everyone how fucked-up awful it is? There are mushrooms that can kill you or seriously damage you, there are poisonous berries and leaves: we cope. The thing is, psilocybin isn’t dangerous, it isn’t toxic, you can’t overdose on it, nor is it addictive; in fact a recent study suggests that people who use magic-mushrooms are less likely than average to be addicted to any substance. There haven’t been many clinical studies involving psychedelics but the Holy Inquisition has allowed a few, there was this one on addiction while another claimed to demonstrate a link between psilocybin usage and “new psychological understandings and personal insights,” you can find that online if you want to see how they quantify “new psychological understandings and personal insights”; also, psilocybin was used in the early 60s in prisons to aid the rehabilitation of prisoners, and more recently it’s been trialled with promising results as a treatment for problems ranging from OCD to cluster-headaches; there’s no indication of any long-term side-effects and we’ve had plenty of time to find that out, the use of magic-mushrooms has been traced back to prehistoric times in Europe and North Africa while in Central and South America we know it’s been used for centuries at least, because we know that when the conquistadores swarmed over from Europe and spread across the continent destroying everything and enslaving everyone, they encountered religious-ceremonies involving magic-mushrooms, they banned the ceremonies, they banned the mushrooms. The War On Drugs goes way back…

There’s an early 20th Century writer, H. L. Mencken, an American journalist-essayist who was generally pretty cool, he went to war with redneck fucks wherever he found them, but he could be a bit of a redneck fuck himself: he’s one of those people, you’re reading him and suddenly he’s going on about the inferior races… Okayyyy; you’re a product of your time I guess… One thing he said was something like, Even if those inferior races turned out to be not so inferior after all, even if the grand theory of racism turned out to be wrong, even then it would make no sense for whites to treat non-whites as equals because whites have got fifty uninterrupted generations of Culture behind them, whites have got Shakespeare, whites have got Beethoven, whites have got “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like horse and carriage.” How could Negroes and Hispanics and Filipinos hope to aspire to these cultural heights? One obvious point Mencken missed was that in those same “fifty uninterrupted generations” these non-white races would themselves have been learning a thing or two, they’d have their own religions and arts to attempt to preserve and pass on despite Slavery, despite colonialism; and come the 20th Century there’s a level of freedom whereby these suppressed cultures can emerge, we see that happening in all sorts of ways but perhaps most noticeably, most profoundly, in music: suddenly there’s Jazz and Swing, there’s Blues, Gospel, new music which swallows the shit out of the bland, insipid culture of the time. New music accompanied everywhere by old drugs: so in America you’ve got reactionary old Harry Anslinger ranting about Satanic music fuelled by marijuana usage… I’m talking about America because America really leads the way with all of this, but the War On Drugs is by no means just an American thing or a White Western thing or a Christian thing, psychedelic paganism is illegal everywhere. Here in Britain, Jazz and cannabis led to the exact same moral panics, these manufactured scares that decent people, generally decent white women, were being corrupted by the heathens’ hashish and were dancing new dances in underground mixed-race dens while out in the colonies, in India and in Egypt, traders and diplomats and the sons and daughters of traders and diplomats were sampling the goods, getting the giggles under the strange eyes of strange gods: something older and weirder and more pelvic than Christ shakes free gets loose goes on a rampage and soon, by way of Rock & Roll and Beat poetry, nothing’s the same, the culture is utterly transformed, there’s a whole lotta going on going on and this is just the start, this is just hash and grass and saxophones, the munchies, the Fear, the Pleasure Principle, right-brain games… Laws that were specifically introduced to allow non-whites to be thrown into jails where the conditions of Slavery could be recreated were increasingly being used on whites too, the cops were chucking their own children into prison but as Elvis struts and thrusts strange-eyed strange gods make their next move.

Those magic-mushrooms: in Mexico in the Cold War 1950s a holywoman named Maria Sabina made contact with an American banker named Robert Wasson and his Russian paediatrician wife Valentina, Maria Sabina gave the gift of tryptamine molecules embodied in psilocybin mushrooms to the representatives of these two nations that had just figured out how to destroy all life on Earth and were looking like they’d maybe give it a try. Meanwhile in North America, in Canada, a psychiatrist named Humphry Osmond, who will later coin the magic word “psychedelic” in correspondence with Aldous Huxley, encountered the ritual use of peyote among the local indigenous tribes, Osmond went on to use this cactus-juice in various research projects, including giving it to alcoholics with very positive results, also to fellow psychiatrists and to philosophers. And again right around the same time, in South America a biologist named Richard Schultes similarly encountered the use of ayahuasca among the tribes that had escaped extermination. Ayahuasca is also known as yagé although the first name given to it by Western researchers was telepathine because of the amount of weird psychic phenomena that seems to accompany the drinking of this brew; it’s something you come across a lot in the literature of psychedelia, I’ve never experienced it myself but there are many reports of two people or several people being on the same drug at the same time and with their eyes closed they’re inhabiting the same abstract visionary landscape and it’s the same landscape, they can describe exactly what each other is seeing, and if something happens they all see it happening. Now that could just be deranged druggy bullshit… But you hear it a lot, and it would presumably be quite easy to design experiments to test that and if it’s true then right there we’ve got a new scientific paradigm because that doesn’t fit with anything we currently know about the mind or about chemistry.

And again, in this same 1940s-50s period, another psychedelic channel opened up, this one was in Europe and here the process was completely different, the invention of LSD was basically Alchemy. Briefly, a Swiss chemist named Albert Hofmann synthesised LSD in his lab, tested it and it seemed to be completely inert, no effect whatsoever. Quite some time later Hofmann had what he later described as a “strange presentiment” that he should have another look at LSD, so he did and doing that he spilled a tiny tiny tiny bit on his fingers… Shortly afterwards, Albert Hofmann got on his bike and started cycling home. Turned out LSD wasn’t completely inert after all and it’s active at tiny tiny tiny doses…

So this all happens right around the same time, and through to the early 60s it’s striking things how respectable the use of psychedelics is: before the law gets involved, before the media tells people what to think, it seems like pretty much every bright mind is interested, from scientists to Pentagon war-planners, from baseball legends to movie-stars, there’s the founder of “Time” magazine and the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, bankers and paediatricians, biologists, novelists, CIA operatives, in England members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, pranksters and poets, and psychologists, including Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard: it was Leary and his team who gave psilocybin to inmates in jail. Leary first sampled Maria Sabina’s mushrooms in Mexico in 1960 and had, on that trip, encountered the three and a half billion years of DNA’s evolution not as a fact but as an experience, he’d seen what Psychology is made of, had seen that this was Religion, right here: Leary and his colleagues began expounding a scientific mysticism, an empirical transcendence, and after a period of intense… colourful… experimentation, they announced their findings, their strategy: “Start Your Own Religion,” they put out a mass-produced pamphlet called that, “Start Your Own Religion,” this was something new and incendiary there and then, they said take what you want from the past and from other people’s systems and traditions but the route to Divinity is the route you make for yourself so write your own Gospels, be your own High Priest, turn your house, your flat, into a temple, why not turn it all into a temple; Leary and his “League for Spiritual Discovery” preached a theological anarchism and people were listening, people were rejecting empty hierarchies and proclaiming their own spiritual authority, everyone could their own Visionary. There was an explosion of psychedelic art and sounds and fashions and beliefs, and festivals: these days festivals are banal, any yuppie who wants to let off steam can have a weekend here and there getting fucked up in a field, but don’t underestimate how bewilderingly pagan those first festivals seemed, there wasn’t really any precedent for them. And this wasn’t a few philosophers and psychiatrists with names like Aldous and Humphry, this was millions of working-class and middle-class men and women who were living a bright new faith.

Fortunately the world had a Hero to protect us from Heresy: Richard Nixon. At the height of the Vietnam War Leary was tagged “the most dangerous man in America” and busted; peace and love were criminalised and crushed. Nixon introduced the phrase “The War On Drugs” and from the start it was more than a metaphor: Dan Baum in his book “Smoke & Mirrors” starts in 1968, the year Nixon became President, and goes through to the Clinton 90s when the book was written, listing for each year what civil-liberties were suspended in the need to persecute stoners and trippers; what military forces were redeployed to wage war on those of their own citizens who might be using drugs; what Orwellian laws were introduced, including something called forfeiture. Again this is only in America at the moment but we’ll see how that goes: in America tight now the police are allowed to seize the property of anyone suspected of being involved in drugs, and even if those people are subsequently found Not Guilty or if the case never goes to trial the police can just keep everything; literally all a cop has to do is say “I smelt marijuana-smoke” and they can help themselves to whatever they want. A journalist named Sarah Stillman, in a 2013 article in “New Yorker” magazine entitled “Taken,” documents loads of cases of cops just pulling over people’s cars – mostly, as it happens, non-white people’s cars – and just taking that car, keeping it, keeping whatever cash and jewellery they’ve got; the homes of suspected druggies and the homes of their parents and even their grandparents have been seized by the police and sold by the police to raise funds for the police and, again, as one defence-lawyer has noted, “with real-estate forfeitures it’s overwhelmingly African-Americans and Hispanics.” This practice, this law, has been criticised, has been challenged, and the justification that has repeatedly been given for it is explicitly financial: these are tough times, the financial crisis, Austerity; how else can a poor struggling police-department hope to get by if not with the funds raised from forfeiture? but Sarah Stillman in her article gives examples of those funds then being donated by the police to anti-immigration groups, and to churches, and to Christian Evangelist programs, including one called “The Missionettes,” which aims to “teach girls to obey everything Jesus commanded.”



  • “PIHKAL,” A & A Shulgin.
  • “Cosmic Serpent,” Jeremy Narby.
  • “Intoxication,” Ronald Siegel.
  • “Cosmic Trigger,” Robert Anton Wilson.
  • “Smoke And Mirrors,” Dan Baum.
  • “Changing My Mind, Among Others,” Timothy Leary.
  • “The House I Live In,” Eugene Jarecki.
  • “Shadow Dancing In The USA,” Michael Ventura.


A look at County Durham’s de facto decriminalisation of cannabis:


I spent summer burying people’s poems in various sites around my hometown Southend. FULL STORY AND PICS:



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