back to article Report: Legalising drugs would save UK plc huge packet

New research has confirmed a reality which is obvious to many, but which can seldom be acknowledged in British mainstream politics: that it is primarily the fact of drugs being illegal which makes them so damaging to society. Furthermore, if drugs were legalised - even assuming a huge increase in their use - the public purse …


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  1. John Smith Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    £13.9 crime ->£3.7bn drugs purchased

    Drugs are not necessarily bad. The huge number of annoying, possibly violent crimes commited by desperate addicts are.

    Something to think about when your DVD/Big screen TV/PC goes walkies out your back door. Or your car goes missing. Again.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Skunk-fearing Guardian liberals?

    As I write this there is an entirely reasonable article and three pages of largely well-intentioned and mostly well-informed reader comments and discussion, none as yet that I can see from "skunk-fearing liberals".

    Sorry Lewis, that was uncalled for and unnecessary.

    Now if you'd said "skunk-fearing BBC producers" that could have been entirely appropriate. There's no mention of the Transform report on the BBC news website, in the same way as Mr Peston's Organ forgot to mention the recent "Barclays makes £1bn/year from taxdodging" exposed via Vince Cable, which was reported everywhere from the Daily Mail to the FT. The BBC's silence on the subject was entirely unrelated to the Barclays chairman who is a senior BBC board member, obviously.

  3. abigsmurf
    Thumb Down

    Questionable conclusions

    ok, many drug users turn to crime to feed their expensive habbits... How will this change if you legalise the drugs then heavily tax them making them just as or almost as expensive?

    If you legalise cannabis, would the dealers really decide that they no longer want to make money from crime and give up rather than moving on to dealing harder drugs (or taking up an alternative type of crime) to continue making money?

  4. Cameron Colley

    I don't know why they bothered writing the report.

    Everyone with an ounce of common sense has known this for decades.

    It's just a shame that the frightened children that make up the majority of this country's voting public will never see that.

    After all, Terrorists and Pedo's are responsible for drugs -- Everyone knows that!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Paul

    What about the taxes ?

    Whilst the cost of legalised drugs may start off cheaper than today once the Govt have started to see it as a cash cow where will the price end up ?

    "Those guys think they're tough businessmen, but they wouldn't stand a chance against the likes of Glaxo and British American Tobacco."

    Do the Glaxo and BAT reps carry uzis then ?

  6. General A. Annoying

    Seems like common sense...

    therefore will be ignored entirely by this, and any subsequent government for the foreseeable future.

  7. Christoph Silver badge

    Follow the money

    The drug barons will be prepared to spend many millions to make sure that drugs are not legalised, as that would destroy their trade.

    But naturally our wonderfully upright and honest politicians would have nothing to do with that sort of thing.

  8. BatCat
    Thumb Up

    And I thought it was just me...

    I've though this way for years. I'd go further and actually supply drugs for free on the NHS for those unfortunate enough to become addicted - often substitutes such as methadone just don't work well enough. There would be no need for addicts to then commit crime to finance a habit.

    This should be coupled with adequate, open and truthful education programmes so people grow up fully aware of the risks. Also, a total ban on recreational drug advertising including alcohol - imagine how much harder it makes things for an alcoholic when they're bombarded with alcohol advertising everywhere...

    It'll never happen though :o(

  9. Robert Grant

    Rather than being a selectively quoting opposite extreme, how about...

  10. jason

    And how would Wall Street make money then?

    The U.S. invaded a whole country in order to re-gain access to opium, and you think the U.K. will legalise drugs?

    U.K. is not as smart as the Netherlands to do that. They just want to make money out of drugs, not solve the problem.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the other catch...

    ... as soon as someone died or got addicted to heroin or cocaine they (or their family) would try and sue the government for letting them have the stuff. If the government legalises drugs then they're effectively saying it's OK to use them. This may be the case for some of them (ecstasy, marijuana or whatever) but for some (heroin, cocaine) it isn't. Yes, alcohol isn't too safe either but (fortunately) it's been a part of our civilisation for so long now (even Jesus drank wine) it's kind of exempt...

  12. Ben Smith
    Thumb Up

    Lots of common sense here

    Especially the bit:

    "the fact that a certain proportion of people would rather lie about off their faces all day than get on with their lives - and will do that more or less regardless of the cost to themselves and those around them even if there's nothing better than cider or glue on offer. A certain proportion of these people will also go mad - become schizophrenic - though this has no measurable connection with cannabis use."

    However, it doesn't matter how much sense it makes. Internationally, I can't see this happening, and unilaterally, no major country is going to dare to do it.

    In the meantime, demand doesn't go away, education doesn't, dealers deal, gangsters make millions. We fail to face up to the fact that people will do as they want to, given their propensity to want to f*ck themselves up.

    This argument will run and run and run and go...nowhere.

    I expect to see the same conclusions, in a different report, every year or so until I die.

    Mine's the one with a torn Rizla in the pocket

  13. Steve

    Gang violence

    There's also the eradication of the violence associated with the supply chain.

    The drug trade is almost entirely run on credit and the violence arises because there's no legal way to enforce debts.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Good point...

    ...well made.

  15. paul

    Daily Mail Comment

    If they legalise drugs - there will be a nice industry for some home grown jobs for all our white working class people.

    Then because of the bloody EU - the gypsies , polish , insert race here will come and take them all away.

  16. Dennis

    I would post something clever......................

    but I need to finish this bag of crisps and then the big bar of chocolate. Before I start on the next bag of flaming hot Munster Munch......

    Sorry what was I saying.

    I would like it happen but in a country where you can't take a photograph on the street, all your details are stored on a government database and all your personal details are sold to the highest bidder, I don't think so.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    RTFM. Nowhere was it said drugs would be heavily taxed; the opposite was explicitly stated.

    As for maintaining the status quo because criminals need to be "employed" here and not somewhere else is simply ludicrous - it's not even an argument (tho very topical for justifying political troughing). It's where some Grauniadistas are indistinguishable from some Daily Failures.

  18. b

    false choices...

    "many drug users turn to crime to feed their expensive habbits... How will this change if you legalise the drugs then heavily tax"

    You're assuming that this is what would happen. Why not instead give addicts a prescription, so that's essentially free? The market for heroin collapses, dealers are put out of business and the rate of acquisitive crime drops like a stone.

    You could pay for this by a (small) tax on softer drugs....

  19. Richard


    Did you RTFA?

    The point was that you DON'T need to tax the drugs you knob. You're still in profit even without tax revenue.

    The other point was that the article legalised ALL drugs not just cannabis you dick.

    You don't see a lot of dealing in homegrown tobacco or moonshine whisky do you? These things happen as a result of prohibition.

    The path is simple legalise all drugs, get big Pharma onside to produce products (they'd have a whale of a time a lot of imaginative scientists with a whole bunch of new toys to play with) you get a cleaner cheaper product, you could even start with a tax rate it'd be cheaper and better than the dealers current product.

    Huge numbers of jobs would be produced as a result of effectively a new industry, jobs which would be available for a lot of the little dealers running around previously.

    I'm not particularly interested in taking the drugs myself, maybe to try, but I know I get quite easily addicted to things.

  20. Danny Silver badge

    Great article

    The street price of drugs is almost entirely due to the fact they are illegal. If you were allowed to grow the herb cannabis in your garden the price would effectively be zero. Legalisation would slash alcohol consumption in the UK instantly. There is still time to watch the excellent Horizon programme on cannabis that points out ordinary cannabis contains an anti-psychotic element.

  21. Jim Kirby

    Shut up

    @abigsmurf: are you dumb or just ignorant? read TFA. Even if legal drugs are taxed at 200% they'll still be 90% cheaper than they are under prohibition. Ok I paraphrase, but reality is closer to my hyperbole than yours.

    Besides, legalize cannaibs and I'll grow my own. No cost to you or me or society. And Dow Chemical and f-off.

    Mine's the one multicolored Nehru jacket with the giant spliff in the pocket.

  22. Rob

    Sounds like lies, damn lies and statistics to me

    "dangerous alcohol and tobacco are regulated but permitted, and comparatively innocuous substances such as ecstasy and cannabis forbidden" - where do they come up with these things? Sure tobacco is dangerous but then they reckon cannabis even smoked pure has the same carcenogenic effects. And as for ecstacy well considering the increased heart rate, blood pressure and effects on the brain I fail to see how that has no dangers either.

  23. Anonymous Coward


    @"If you legalise cannabis, would the dealers really decide that they no longer want to make money from crime and give up rather than moving on to dealing harder drugs (or taking up an alternative type of crime) to continue making money?"

    no, people could legally grow their own. in their back gardens/under HPS lights. dealers would become obsolete as it would just be people growing their own and giving away (yes, we would give it away as if you can legally grow why not grow plenty), who would buy of some dodgy geezer when your mate can help you out until your next crop comes in.

    you people still dont see that heroine = burglary. alcohol = murder, rape, violence. the vast majority of VOILENT crime is performed by people on alcohol.

    to me the gov is hypocritical as it happily taxes booze and alcohol to death (i.e. its happy to make money from the No.1 source of violent crime and No.1 source of cancer/serious illness) yet seems to think 'skunk' is such a danger we need locking up to protect ourselves. do they know what prison is like?

    also, i would love to see the word 'skunk' dropped. its bollocks. and even the most hardened smokers have probably never smoked it. nobody grows skunk, its all blueberry, Northern lights, Caly orange etc.

    personally i prefer my weed much milder. there are plenty of mellow strains out there that are similar strength to resin of old (i cite Voodoo and Flo as great examples - very coherant mellow smoke)

    the whole drugs thing makes me very mad. after being sentenced to 18 months for having some pills i was meeting people who were doing <= 18 months for:

    :: rape! (amazing i know!)

    :: molesting babies (and getting a smaller sentence than me!)

    :: violent assault on old ladies

    then we read the lancet and they bascially say that E is so minorly dangerous you are far more likely to hurt yourself riding a horse!

    and yes, some people who are mentally deficient get mental problems, that they attribute to cannabis. how the hell do they KNOW that is the cause? if 25% of the population has some form of mental breakdown at some point in their lives (medical fact) that means that many people who will never smoke will have an episode. personally i think its all down to high pressure living, long working hours and the breakdown of society.

    one last word: Bees kill more people that E in this country - yet we are supposed to be increasing the population.....

  24. Jonathan

    Its all well and good

    But it will never happen. Not here, especially not in America.

    Which is somewhat ironic for the States - I mean, given that they like to preach freedom, in that you are free to own guns, free to run a business, free to run for president, you would think they would allow you to decide what substances you put into your own body.

    Not that I have ever or will ever use drugs of any kind, but it gets kind of ridiculous. So many gangs, and gang related violence, would disappear overnight. It would be great!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I won't make claims about what might happen to crime.

    What have the studies shown, if anything, about what happens when the "heavy tax" is used for a) education, b) treatment, c) guaranteeing the drugs in question are not just baking powder, rat poison, or worse?

    Getting the criminal element out of the drug supply chain has to be good for something. I suspect they're there because it's easy, and maybe the alternative types of crime are harder. Enough harder that it's not worth it? I've heard that some of the meth lab operators were brilliant chemists. Who knows what they could accomplish in a real job if there was no lure of easy money running a meth lab.

  26. Evil Graham


    That's a good point - the crime rate might not go down as much as the article proposes, as a lot of criminal activity is a result of the search for "easy money". So I agree, if drugs were legal then at least some criminal gangs would look for new criminal opportunities.

    However, I don't agree with your point about the tax on legal drugs making them as expensive as illegal ones. Tobacco and alcohol are heavily taxed, yet still relatively affordable compared to (say) a heroin habit, where you regularly hear of people doing £300 a day. If it comes down to it, I'd happily fund heroin on the NHS if it meant junkies weren't breaking into my house or mugging me on the street.

    History ought to tell us that laws eventually become unenforcable when they aren't supported by enough of the population - American prohibition of alcohol being a prime example. Whatever the Dail Mail or Guardian might say, there are plenty people in this country doing a spliff, or a line, or whatever - and creating a massive demand for the product. As they show no signs of stopping, then the government's "war" on drugs is doomed to failure in the long term.

    Sadly, this government has demonstrated repeatedly that it has no intention of even listening to its own researchers and it seems to me they are actually moving in the opposite direction to what is really required.

  27. FlatSpot


    "In the year 1970, the UK had fewer than 2000 dependent heroin and cocaine users; by the turn of the century there were 100,000 in government treatment programmes and as many as 200,000 more in the population."

    Let me think.. err would this be supply availability and nothing to do with legality at all! Fewer people moving between countries and therefore fewer drug mules = higher cost to buy.

    To imply that making it legal would reduce this is complete rubbish.

    All dealers and users shouldnt go to prison but be sent off to some remote island 40 miles off shore away from the rest of us. Job done...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cost of policy

    As mentioned in the article, drug policy does not work.

    It is the only state policy that costs more year on year, yet is never questioned.

    If any other policy demonstrated this economic behaviour, we (or parliment) would at least talk about it. (e.g. the NHS costs more and more each year so it is discussed at great length).

    There is too much mis-information spread about drugs, particularly to group them all together as 'Drugs'... which makes (at least) my mum think that smoking canabis is like being a heroin addict but happily continues with a "harmless" tipple of gin every now and again.

  29. Nomen Publicus

    The prohibition experiment has been done already

    When the US introduced prohibition, the obvious happened. People still wanted a drink and criminals fed that need making fortunes by doing so.

    Why should anybody expect something different to happen with "drugs"?

    It's widely assumed that criminals are at least part funding the anti-legalisation lobbies specifically so they can continue to control the market place.

  30. Mr Riddle

    People don't steal to buy cannabis

    People don't steal to buy cannabis so that is non-issue.

    The report recommends the prescription of cocaine and heroin, which could be priced at a cost equivalent to that spent by an alcoholic.

    It would also mean we wouldn't have to have troops fighting in Afghanistan to stop drug growing as the opium could be purchased and prescribed to users in the UK.

  31. Michael Fremlins

    Re-legalise drugs now!

    Naturally there is not a snowball's chance in hell of this happening. The "powers that be" won't listen to either reason or scientific evidence. They have made up their minds and will not change them.

    Take the recent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommendation that ecstasy be downgraded to class B. Cue the ham acting of government ministers: gnashing of teeth, hands being flung into the air, shock and horror on the look on their faces. "The government firmly believes ecstasy should remain a class A drug," a Home Office spokesman said.

    What is this "belief" based on? What other things does this spokesman "believe" in? Which religion has it written down in some holy book that ecstasy should be classified as a class A drug?

    It's time to remove the shackles and give us back our liberty.

  32. Joe K
    Dead Vulture


    I hate the Daily Mail and all its readers myself, but i certainly don't want to live in a country where its legal to be a smackhead.

    Heroin is instantly addictive, and once it gets a grip you are fucked. The public can't be trusted with this type of thing, no matter what the monetary benefits.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Legalise it!!

    Then a charge £20 for a henry, prices these days are just too high. £25 where I live!! I spend most of my days now entertaining sailors as I need to raise that extra fiver everytime I wanna smoke :(

  34. Lewis Benzie
    Thumb Up

    Tax away

    Must admit I wholeheartedly agree with Anonymous Coward the BBC is shambolic in the integrity of its news reporting.

    Abigsmurf - Alcohol and cigarettes are heavily taxed, you dont see Mr Kensitas standing on a street corner peddling bags of baccy though do you ? Mass manufacture and transit for what is essentially raw crops (for the organics) and tank production (as opposed to bath tub) of chemicals (LSD, Ectasy etc) would eliminate overheads.

    Roughly very roughly, Wheat was £18 a bushel (60lbs) given the different growing conditions and requirements (shoulda used tomatoes as an example :D) we shall double the price for commericially grown marijuana and add a little to make that £40 for 60lbs. Current street price is £10 for a 1/8th of an ounce, 16 ounces in a pound times 60, comes to £76,800.

    Thats a hell of a markup the dealers and distributors are making. Im pretty sure that could be undercut whilst the regions that these plants grow naturally in tend to be third world countries and would be happy for the income.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Its the Journalists, not the readers!

    Having spent the last 10 years lobbying for a policy of "prescribe heroin first", ( Note not legalise drugs) I, together with others in key roles, including Home office civil servants, senior police chiefs and politicians have concluded that the ONLY reason there has not been a policy change is because three journalists, Phillips, Heffer and Littlejohn savage anyone senior for daring to propose anything other than total vilification of heroin. These journalists claim the "Zeitgeist" of the public even though survey after survey indicates that the general public are every bit as frustrated by the continued pursuit of failed policies.

    Some also use the red herring of international treaties that stop "legalisation of drugs". However, prescription heroin does not get caught by this.

    One has to wonder if the drug lords exert some influence on these journalists, as without them their business would practically disappear over night!

    Prescription heroin is a tried and tested treatment for managing addiction. Ironically, it is called the "English Treatment" ! Until the 1960.

    Portugal and Switzerland are already a long way down this strategy with dramatic results in both management of addicts and the reduction in crime.

    So, How do you neutralise three rogue journalists?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Ipswich Murders

    Government by reasoned logic!

    the thing that swung it for me was the Ipswich Murders, the insight into how those girls lived - at constant risk from everything, gangs, AIDS, pimps, the police, overdose, contamination, everything - no wonder they sought solace from it all, god knows what prompted them to get into Heroin, but who can say that they would have turned it down, having gone through whatever they went through?

    Anyway, what is it that society so fears about allowing these people to take strong drugs that we condemn them to this sort of a life??? As a society we are terribly conscious to reduce suffering, even tying the language in knots so as not to even mildly offend sensitive citizens, yet we hang this lot out to dry. In cases of physical self-harm we are compassionate as can be, but with heroin we adopt the compassion of a barnados workhouse.

    A good article - and i applaud the lambasting of caring Grauniad readers, they should think harder.

  37. Alexander

    Guardian's reponse?

    I agree with AC - the Guardian's response to this report seems neutral and balanced, and isn't trying to hide it.

    abigsmirf: The idea is to legalise the lot, including the hard stuff. It's quite possible that the dealers would move to other crimes, but they're small in number compared to the number of drug-driven thieves and muggers.

    Good article. I'm trying to work out where I stand on this issue and so appreciate the taboo information.

  38. Eddie Edwards

    Policy choice?

    Hardly. We're signatories to endless international agreements about these substances. Unilaterally breaking all of those would be a political nightmare, even if someone in the HoC had the will, which they don't.

  39. Kevin Bailey

    I know money is said to be the root evil

    but the current prohibition is causing so much pain and chaos.

    You have South America producing drugs - the USA consuming vast quantities - and South America and the USA are basket cases. Look at how many people are locked up in the USA due to the illegality of drugs.

    Whole areas of the USA are no-go due to drugs. Actually, whole parts of the world are no-go areas due to drugs. Drugs are the relatively easy way for criminals to fund themselves.

    And where does all the billions/trillions of dollars of drug money go to - hospitals, transport, renewable energy, exploring space? Nope, it's used by cartels to pay for weapons, technology, ships, guns etc which they use to fight the trillions of dollars worth of kit which us taxpayers pay for so our armed forces can fight the 'War on Drugs'.

    Maybe the human race will stop being so stupid - I bet no-one will care about the legality of drugs when the water has risen 100ft and we're trying to live in boats.

  40. Ben

    Well it's worth a try...

    Nobody's working anyway.

  41. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Retarded comment is retarded

    >> If you legalise cannabis, would the dealers really decide that they no longer want to make money from crime and give up rather than moving on to dealing harder drugs (or taking up an alternative type of crime) to continue making money?

    Because "dealers" are nefarious never-do-wells that, once the economic basis on which they primarily subsist has been removed, are bound to re-skill to more dangerous illegal activities, like dealing harder and harder drugs, dealing in weapons, women and illegal immigrants or maybe going into politics (which begs the question of whether there are re-employment programs for dealers put out of business by changes in government policies)

  42. Lewis Benzie
    Thumb Up


    As BatCat states open and truthful education policies would actually put people off drug useage.

    And yes Glaxo do carry Uzis. Mercenary companies frequently work for and with drug companies due to the nature of their business in unstable regions.

  43. Tim Hughes
    Thumb Up


    Re prices: There's a thing referred to as the "risk premium".

    If cocaine were marked up and taxed the same as coffee (another columbian export) the street price could be expected to drop by around 97%.

    Heroin: Almost the same - 98%.

    Cannabis: >70%.

    Re criminals: We might all want to be Formula 1 drivers, or pilots, but the size of the market dictates how many can make a living doing so. If the market disappears, you have to do something else. To get the kind of money you were getting from importing drugs, you have to start knocking over banks, or operating large frauds, neither of which is particularly easy.

  44. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Supply

    >All dealers and users shouldnt go to prison but be sent off to some remote island 40 miles off shore away from the rest of us. Job done...

    Thank you FlatSpot for that thoughtful and constructive comment.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    they ARE saving the economy

    what about the Defense Industry?

    No more spending on Radars, arms, communications for the police, Policemen payroll, helicopters, prisons, law courts, Lawyers!..

    Don´t forget money laundering, tax inspectors, banks...

    And the Press? How many pages per month on or about Drugs? == sq foot for advertisement.

  46. ElFatbob

    certainly good to have a debate...

    My biggest concern and one that doesn't seem to have been adequately considered is the law of unintended consequences...

    If you take away the lucrative drugs money away from organised crime, what do they target next?

    No doubt that the current situation is shit, but the alternative may be shitter...

  47. Liam


    @"And as for ecstacy well considering the increased heart rate, blood pressure and effects on the brain I fail to see how that has no dangers either."

    - so, lets ban all sports and sex too then?

    @"All dealers and users shouldnt go to prison but be sent off to some remote island 40 miles off shore away from the rest of us. Job done..."

    - erm, no. i smoke weed, and plenty of it. yet i can hold down a decent job and pay bucket loads of tax. why dont you fuck off to your little island and leave us normal people behind. and dont forget to take the daily heil with with you.... we are all sick of you telling us what to do!

  48. Robin

    Chosen Life?

    Trainspotting wouldn't have been as good without prohibition.

    Renton : I'm just going to Boots for some skag.

    Spud : Nice one, can you get me some too please?

    Begbie : Can you get me four cans of Special Brew from the offie please, I don't do drugs. I'll still fight somebody later though because I have a violent personality.


    Keith Allen : That'll be £14.99 please. Do you have an Advantage card?

    Renton : No. Here you go, £15. Put the change in the charity collection tin. Bye.


  49. Hate2Register

    On pharma-psychology

    The gulf between traditional prohibitionists (who fear a massive societal problems from a wave of legalised drug use) and social scientists, who may believe that there are better ways of managing people's desire to get 'off their heads', than creating a permanent crime culture through incarceration. The essential problem is that the current zero-tolerance drug policy, like other Westminster initiatives, is not subject to an cost-effect auditing process.

    The need for a cost-effect auditing process is demonstrated by the oft-quoted experiment establishing mandatory drug-testing in the prison system. In this test, inmates were given monthly cannabis drug-tests, with harsh penalties for positive results. Cannabis use dropped off, and the test was hailed a success. However, a few months later, heroin use was seen to have shot up, (it wasn't being tested for), and a bigger problem was created.

    This conflict is routed in our political system, which values quick-fix solutions, because they are seen as producing the most immediate results for the incumbent policy-maker. The historic response of policy-makers is to include more and more substances in the controlled-substance regime, but of course this merely drives the creation of new substances.

    Cost-effect auditors might suggest a change of regime to a licensing/taxation model, where drugs can be bought safely through legal channels, (whether that be Boots, or a licensed night-club supplier). The benefits for health are obvious, but also, the cost-burden of providing services to drug users would be transferred to the drug users themselves. Also, the treasury would benefit from a new tax-income stream.

    But the real problem is the absence of cost-effect auditing in social policy. Until we get it, we must trust politicians to know best in how to deal with complex societal problems. And since politicians are not required to take exams, it's doubtful that they do. Thus our best solution is to push for auditing for social policy. That at least will provide a framework where policies that work are promoted, and policies that don't, or have hidden costs, can be dropped.

    hatetoregister - Oxford

  50. Michael Fremlins

    @Joe K

    Wrong, utterly wrong about heroin. You've been listening to too many ill-informed and lies-spreading panic-monkeys. One snort/shot/puff does not a heroin addict make.


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