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UK Drug Bill To Ban Church Incense?

Bill Weinberg



The British tabloids are having a field day with this one.

According to the Daily Mail, the United Kingdom’s pending Psychoactive Substances Bill—aimed at closing the loopholes that permit “legal highs”—could outlaw incense and criminalize priests. Under the proposed law, it would become a criminal offense to sell “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect,” with a seven-year prison term.

Two church groups, the Association of English Cathedrals and the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service, are urging lawmakers to make a “specific exemption” for incense. In testimony to a parliamentary inquiry, the association warned: “Cathedrals regularly make use of incense during worship services, especially celebrations of the Eucharist. Incense has been used for worship purposes for millennia, and by the Christian church since its foundation.”

A breakdown provided by the BBC says that among the targeted substances are “poppers” and nitrous oxide (AKA laughing gas)—but also lesser-known stuff.

The problem seems to be that peddlers of these “legal highs” are keeping one step ahead of the laws. More than 500 new drugs have been banned by the British government since 2010, but suppliers produce new versions almost immediately. The new law would end the mandate for individually assessing each new drug and impose a blanket ban. The fears of the clergy are evidence of the problems with this type of legislation.

But the creepy, fly-by-night capitalists who are marketing these new drugs have brought down this government overreach on the rest of us. When their crap is outlawed, they just tweak a molecule or two. They’ve been playing this game both sides of the Atlantic—with these types of drugs known in the U.S. known as as Spice or K2, often referred to by the media as “synthetic marijuana.”

Of course, there is no such thing as “synthetic marijuana”—cannabis is a plant, and if it isn’t a plant, it isn’t cannabis. This stuff is just any old herbaceous substance (oregano, catnip, whatever) treated with a synthetic chemical concoction designed to mimic (however crudely) the effects of THC. Also in this unsavory category are the coyly marketed “bath salts” that the media refer to with the nonsensical redundancy of “synthetic LSD.” All LSD is synthetic—this crap is just a bad imitation of LSD.

We hate to belabor the obvious, but if the government would legalize cannabis and psychedelics, there wouldn’t be any incentive for sleazy entrepreneurs to be producing bad imitations of the real thing.