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Tulisa’s Coke Trial Shows the Stupidity of Britain's Drug Laws

In the eyes of the law, a pill in your pocket is as bad as racially aggravated assault.

(Illustration by Sam Taylor)

Poor old Tulisa. First she gets caught with a cock in her mouth – where it remains, forever, to the eternal delight of the internet – and now she's found herself in the midst of a pretty serious criminal trial.

All this week she's been walking the same steps as disgraced institution of British TV, Rolf Harris, past the paparazzi and through the doors of Southwark Crown Court. She's there to face charges of supplying drugs, which – to be honest – doesn't inspire much outrage when pitted against Harris, whose crimes ruined countless lives and left behind a trail of hurt. In fact, Tulisa’s alleged crime and subsequent trial just seems like a complete waste of time and public money.


The silly girl said she could get some "white sweets" for the Sun on Sunday’s “fake Sheik”. Allegedly. She reckons she was set up. That's for the court to decide. What we know for certain, though, is that on Tuesday she wore a white jacket and looked great, then had a nosebleed and didn't look so great. Let’s be honest – epistaxis is never a good look on the first day of a cocaine trial.

I feel bad for her. I really do. We’re the same age. Same social class. Same breed of party girl. But besides knowing I really wasn't into N-Dubz, I actually didn’t have much of an opinion on her until I saw her in yesterday's paper. I knew she’d done that BBC Three documentary about her mum’s depression, which was warm and honest and educational. Props for that, Tulisa. Then she did X-Factor. That didn’t last long. Because really, how did she ever dare to believe that she could be the nation’s next sweetheart? Or star in a film with Leonardo Di Caprio, as the fake Sheikh had promised her? As if. There's the demonisation of the working classes to be getting on with, and Tulisa had to be exposed in all her knob-sucking, nose-bleeding, alleged coke-dealing chaviness, didn’t she? Her dream of becoming the next Cheryl Cole – who, it has to be said, is common enough herself – has been extinguished. She now faces a life sentence.

She won’t actually get a life sentence, of course – UK drug laws are so ridiculous that even the British courts don't really take them that seriously. Tulisa may have been stupid, but our approach to drugs is stupider; whether you get in trouble or not all seems to come down to potluck.


Take Nigella. If supplying cocaine is really such a big deal, why didn’t the police force her to reveal who supplied her with the white stuff? Just a few months ago she stood up in a court of law and admitted to taking cocaine seven times. Where are her suppliers? Why didn’t the police go after them? Why aren’t they in jail? Can you imagine if Nigella had admitted, in court, that someone had supplied her with seven illegal firearms? Or seven sensitive MI5 files? Or seven indecent images of children? If it had been any of those things, do you really think the police would have just let it go and turned a blind eye?

Of course they wouldn’t. And rightly so. They’d have investigated thoroughly and refused to stop until they had caught whoever had supplied her. The reason they didn’t go after Nigella’s coke dealers is because no one’s that bothered about the supply of cocaine. Not even the police. Except occasionally. Like when our legal system absolutely has to be seen to be doing something, lest it reveal how fucking stupid the current drug laws are. That, Tulisa, is why you are on trial.

Tulisa arriving in court this week

There are people who deserve to be locked up for supplying drugs. The ones who ruin lives by pushing hard drugs such as heroin, for example – although, the majority of harm caused by the illegal drug trade is precisely because that trade is illegal. Murder. Theft. Extortion. These are the crimes that thrive under an unregulated and booming drug trade, which is run, necessarily, by criminal gangs. We don’t see this with tobacco and alcohol, because anyone old enough can walk into their nearest corner shop and buy those particular drugs. I’ve never heard of corner shops murdering their commercial rivals. But perhaps I'm wrong; perhaps they do. Perhaps they keep them in those big bins out the back, crammed in next to all the stale bread and rotten eggs.


British drug laws are all over the place. If you’ve ever taken ecstasy, acid or a line of coke, you’ve committed a crime that could technically land you in prison for seven years. That’s the maximum sentence for possession in the UK. It’s also the maximum sentence for a racially aggravated assault, carrying a loaded firearm in a public place or incest by an adult with a girl under the age of 13. And we’re not even talking about supply here. In the eyes of the law, simply having a bag of your favourite class A in your pocket is the same as screaming the N-word at someone while repeatedly smacking them in the face.

Granted, British drug laws are more lenient than in some countries. In China you can be executed for a number of drug crimes; ditto Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Iran. In Vietnam, if you're arrested with more than 1.3 pounds of heroin you'll be automatically executed. Of course, places like those tend to punish crime more harshly in general, but you get the point. Tulisa would have been better off allegedly setting up a coke deal in the Netherlands, which boasts some of the laxest drug prohibitions in the world. It’s also one of the happiest countries in the world. Just saying.

Likewise, since weed was decriminalised in Colorado, even the Daily Mail has had to concede that "six months after Colorado voted to legalise marijuana, the sky hasn't fallen in". Nor has society gone to the dogs in Portugal, which boasts some of the most liberal drug laws in Europe.

It’s time for the UK to sober up and admit it has a problem. The war on drugs isn’t working. On paper, vast swathes of the nation are criminals on a par with paedophiles; in reality, millions of Brits continue to enjoy drugs recreationally without any real threat of punishment. Compared to some of the horrors recently heard during celebrity trials at Southwark Crown Court, dragging Tulisa through the coals seems like a petty attempt to justify our hypocritical approach to drug enforcement. Britain’s drug laws are just as whack as crack.


Previously: What Are We Going to Do About Britain's Lost Boys?