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Magazine to fund drug addicts’ habit launched in Shoreditch

12:13 21 November 2014

"Come work for Illegal"

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Police have raised concerns about a new magazine being sold in Shoreditch which allows drug users to fund their habit.

Ricky, a seller, with Michael (right)Ricky, a seller, with Michael (right)

Police have raised concerns about a new magazine which allows drug users to fund their habit.

The Big Issue-style quarterly cultural magazine, Illegal, launched at Jaguar Shoes bar in Shoreditch last Thursday following a successful roll out in Copenhagen last September.

Danish drug reform campaigner and editor-in-chief, Michael Lodberg Olsen, came up with the idea in a bid to give drug users an income “beyond theft and prostitution”.

Anyone buying the magazine for £3.50 is advised the seller is “more than likely” to spend the money on drugs.

The eight sellers taking part in the Shoreditch pilot will be given the magazine for free to sell, but if it is successful they will be charged £1.50 a copy.

By the time the Gazette went to press, one seller had sold 80 copies within four days.

Acting Ch Insp Ian Simpkins from Hackney Police said he was not a “big fan” of the idea.

He said: “We would always wish to reduce crime and the generators for crime, which funding a drug habit often is of course.

“But this initiative seeks to legitimise and formalise fundraising for illegal drug use which I’m not sure is the answer.

“There is always the risk here of funding and consequently increasing a person’s drug use to the point where the selling of the magazine no longer covers the cost or the initiative fails, so you’re back to square one, or worse because you’re now consuming more drugs with all the health and crime risks that poses.”

But Mr Lodberg Olsen said Danish politicians had argued the same point when it launched there.

“In the many years since we have had this war on drugs we have never had more people on drugs,” he said.

“Drugs have never been cheaper, instead of continuing something which isn’t working, we want to explore other ways.

“We are dealing with the biggest taboo in our time. The way Illegal has been a success is that we are talking about it to try and break the taboo, and the people who read the magazine are pleased to talk more openly about it” .

Topics discussed in the magazine include the slaughter of 70,000 people in Mexico over the past eight years in the war on drugs, music developed through drug culture, and a man who overcame his addiction to cannabis.

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