An open letter to the makers of the UK drug laws in light of the tragedies at the Warehouse Project


Dear whoever makes up the drug laws in the UK,


The Drugs (laws) Don’t Work or the law is an ass…

Manchester’s Warehouse Project is arguably the biggest dance club in the UK. A well run tight ship of a club run by people who are steeped in club culture, it has been having problems with drugs in the past few weeks with a bad batch of ecstasy killing clubber and putting other people into a coma. It’s a situation that underlines the naivety of the way we deal with drugs in this country- a combination of gung ho hedonism and brushing them under the carpet and making them against the law than anything the club can do.


With regular 5000 sellouts and a brilliant atmosphere the Warehouse Party has got a reputation for being one of the best club nights in the UK and also a very strict door policy (I got searched when I went there for ten minutes with the whole queue laughing because I’m famously teetotal these days…!)

It also has an accidental downside with the last few weeks seeing drug deaths and incidents and this week a person in a coma.

It seems like a batch of dodgy drugs is to blame that puts the whole drug culture and the way we deal with it in our society under the spotlight yet again.

Is it time that we looked at the whole drug policy in the UK -after all this banning of the naughty stuff is hardly stopping anyone taking drugs and adds a veneer of outlaw pirate cred to the culture whilst the lack of education and information about drugs in society at general is leaving young clubbers vulnerable to all sorts of problems, problems that we seem to expect the clubs to deal with- which is like expecting footballers to stop the hooliganism before and after matches.

There can be very few people in the UK under 40/50 who have not taken drugs now and experienced the highs and lows that come with them. Everyone has either had a bad experience or known someone else who had a bad time on drugs but on the other side of the coin many people have had their lives changed for the better by drugs or just had a great time on them- this is not a hard sell this is just the way things are- drugs can make you feel great or sometimes they will kill you.


If you count cigarettes and alcohol and even caffeine into the equation, and you should, then drugs are far more prevalent in our culture than the mainstream would like to admit and it’s still booze n fags that kill far people than any other drugs but somehow they are not only legal but pushed upon people as ‘social lubricants’. It’s these conflicting messages that are to blame for the deaths far more than the poor clubs who are trying to deal with the frontline situation.

It’s time we just grew up and admitted that people take drugs and we should make sure that they take them in the right environment and they know what they are taking and make sure that the chances of taking bad drugs or dodgy cut drugs is almost imposable. The Warehouse Project is at the frontline of this new way of thinking next weekend when they pilot a new scheme with Home Office scientists where any drugs seized will be tested on site. The results will then come back within seconds and posted on the club’s Twitter account to warn revellers about the contents of drugs that may be circulating inside.

This can only be applauded. It’s a start of an official admittance that drugs are part of our culture now and we had better start looking after people instead of criminalising them.

Like many drugs counselling people and top cops we believe that legalising drugs and making sure they are safe is the way forward. We should keep a tab on people who are vulnerable to drugs and look after people who fall through the cracks and not leave it to the clubs and promoters to attempt an enormous job on their own.

We should also educate people about what they are taking and what to be beware of and not leave drug taking in the hands of myths and internet rumours. We should also attempt to create a culture where naive young people don’t feel that they have to take drugs to have a good time and they are not necessarily missing out if they have not taken anything. With drugs being so prevalent in modern culture there are many people who don’t know their limitations and this has to change and people seem to have forgotten how to have a good time without being totally cained.

The people who run the Warehouse project seem to be doing their best in a tricky situation. The Manchester Evening News reported that before this weekend’s gigs, the club splashed out on a new air-conditioning system costing £8,500 a week for all its three rooms. It has more security, with 13 additional staff bringing the total to 75.


The club has also installed a ‘welfare unit’, where four medics are on hand to help people who don’t feel well. The club already has a ‘mini A&E’ with stretchers, beds, defibrillators and other medical equipment.


Flyers warning about the dangers of drugs were handed to every clubber before being admitted.


The co-founder of the Warehouse Project, Sacha Lord, is doing his best to make his club safe and told local media, “Which other venues in the country have private police on the door, drug sniffer dogs on the door, paramedics, ambulances, searches on the way in?

“There are not many other venues that do that. It was just such a tragedy. We questioned, seriously, the future of the Warehouse.

“We came to the conclusion that all the measures we put in place, we create a safe environment for people to come.”

He added: “We just need to get the message out there that at the moment there are some awful drugs.

“You’re not buying what you think you’re buying.”

It’s a perennial and difficult battle and one that in the past resulted in clubs like Hacienda being shut down. It’s great to see in modern times that, instead of blaming the clubs or closing them down, the authorities and the cops and the club owners are working together to try and solve the situation.


We believe that being realistic and honest about drugs is the way forward. When some of our senior policy makers are known to have enjoyed drugs then the rest of the nation should not be both guilty of being criminals or left ina confusing scenario with their drug intake.


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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. I think the Warehouse Project are doing a grand job in these difficult times. The government seriously need to re think the drug laws because the definitely do not work. Great report John. :)

  2. Totally agree John! I don’t take drugs, in fact I hate drugs – but prohibition, and creating a global ‘billion dollar’ and violent black market is not the way forward. Legalise drugs.

  3. I would argue that anyone who takes drugs (including alcohol, caffeine and tobacco) in this day and age knows the risks and accepts them. I totally agree though that it should not be up to the venue to police this beyond trying to prevent dealing taking place on their premises.


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