Why are drugs easier to find than a good cake shop?

'If custard tarts were banned, there would be pushers on street corners whispering "Tart, mate?"'
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The Independent Online

I have been on my holidays to France, staying in a small resort in Normandy called Étretat which, unlike English resorts, had many small independent shops, though some of them were a bit sort of frou-frou, with that strange kind of taste the French have.

I have been on my holidays to France, staying in a small resort in Normandy called Étretat which, unlike English resorts, had many small independent shops, though some of them were a bit sort of frou-frou, with that strange kind of taste the French have.

It was certainly an excellent place to buy a three-quarter-sized metal negro. Possibly dressed as a jockey or a jazz musician. But, like any town in France, the food shops were fantastic, especially the cake shops: you could purchase any number of regional, indigenous cakes. The French are always highly supportive of their local cake industry. Compare this with the situation cake-lovers face in Britain.

Whenever I am feeling ill, I seem to develop a yearning for an old-fashioned, English-style individual custard tart, you know the type, a sort of yellow goop in a round pastry hat, like you used to be able to get at any local cake shop. Unfortunately, the kind of shop that sold these (along with lardy cakes, Battenberg slices and iced fancies) doesn't seem to exist any more.

The nearest place I know where I can get one now is at a Greggs cake shop on Tower Bridge Road, about five miles away in south-east London. On the other hand, living as I do near the vice area of King's Cross, I can step out of my door and buy cocaine, crack or heroin (sales and consumption of which, I am told, are illegal) within about a five-minute walk.

The lesson of this very strange situation seems to be that if the Government was to make custard tarts illegal and to ban their consumption on pain of a jail sentence, then there would be custard tart pushers hanging about on every street corner, sidling up to me whispering: "Tart, mate? Nice creamy yellow custard, lovely flaky pastry, mate." Perhaps then custard tarts would gain a certain sexy, illicit cachet. Trendy media types would bond together in the toilets of London clubs and do deals, commission comedy shows and such while stuffing custard tarts up their noses.

The question this brings me to ask is why, actually, are drugs illegal, please Sir? Nobody has ever explained that to me.

For centuries civilisations existed unthreatened by, say, marijuana use. Then Texas led the way in 1919 by making marijuana illegal. The reason often cited why this drug suddenly became perceived as a public menace was that many users of marijuana were Mexican-Americans, and marijuana laws began being passed in the south-western states as part of a harassment campaign designed to drive these immigrants out of the United States and "back" to Mexico.

This harassment campaign intensified during the 1930s, fired up by a campaign against "reefer madness" in the Hearst newspapers, which claimed at first that dope made users violent and then, when the Second World War started, said it would turn them into pacifists.

As is usually the case, all the industrial nations followed the US without thinking why they were doing it, with cannabis being made illegal in Britain in 1928.

Heroin? Well, up until the Sixties, the UK had a very enlightened policy towards heroin: if you were a registered heroin addict, then you could get it prescribed by a doctor and there was therefore no incentive for anybody to push the stuff because they would always be undercut by the state.

Then, in an incredible piece of puritan stupidity, the heroin was replaced by methadone, a lethal heroin "lite" with no hit and wallop. Seven seconds later Britain had a big heroin problem. Another brilliant piece of drugs legislation.

Now that drugs are illegal there are certainly several groups of people who are very happy to keep it that way. The so-called "war on drugs", which I would say the drugs have pretty much won (after all if the Germans had reached the heart of the capital, as drugs have, you'd say they'd won the Second World War), benefits on the one hand criminals and on the other some pretty repressive government agencies.

The reasons given for Jack Straw's new law - which allows the police to look at all our e-mails, tap all our phone calls, seize our trousers if they like the look of them and force us to do a little dance for them any time they want - are all to do with combating the supposed menace of shadowy drug dealers.

The fact that the Government has come up with nothing more original than to follow the "war on drugs" model (which has consistently proved a costly failure and is completely pointless and unwinnable) is a sign of the utter unimaginativeness and cowardice of its policy. Either that, or, if ministers know this war is unwinnable, the only conclusion I can draw is that they are repressive-minded proto-dictators who want to crush our civil liberties and steal our custards.

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