Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" documentary

By Synesthesiac · Jul 11, 2009 · ·
  1. Synesthesiac
    Can I Get High Legally?


    If you had to guess which channel would air a documentary (in inverted commas) with such a title, you’d have to be very, very under-informed to name any other than BBC Three, the home of simple show-titles for simple people. It’s all there. A titillating drug reference to hook the thrill-seekers. A first person perspective to make it appear human and about a journey. Most importantly, it’s framed as a question. It’s intended to be such an attractive query that the potential viewer is quickly whipped into a channel-changing frenzy, forced to swiftly travel to Beeb Three to check out the answer to this one basic enquiry.
    The problem is, it’s a stupendously easy question to answer. The answer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is:


    Goon, goon, goon!

    Ask anyone who’s picked up a paper, been to a festival or walked down the high street of a provincial town and they’ll tell you! Legal highs have been readily available for centuries, you gigantic tool! Often they come in the form of ‘alcohol’ - varying forms of liquid that’ll make you more sociable and then, as you slug back more of it, increasingly more of a yabbering bore with a big head and a high self-opinion. You become Lamb-esque, if you will.

    You can also get these things called fags - which only really offer a sickening headrush at the first point of inhalation, followed by a lifetime of thoroughly enjoyable and ridiculously expensive enslavement.
    Didn’t you do your research?

    Too busy getting your barnet highlighted, were you?

    For God’s sake, George, even my 90 year old Nan’s aware that certain ornament and costume shops vend strange little packets of uncertainly-branded pills, leaves and liquids of dodgy origin! You can read about it in any newspaper you care to pick up - even ones with more words than pictures. So surely to front a show with such a mind-numbingly, offensively shit title is an exercise in utter idiocy? The answer is manifest before you’ve even opened that flapping mockney jaw! We’ve all heard about salvia. We’re all aware of poppers. We’re not idiots!

    Still, George finds himself tasked with answering the posited pile of ignorance and we join him as he wanders aimlessly around Camden looking like a lost Afghan hound. Annoyingly, his grey-tone clothing always matches his drizzle-grey highlights and it combines to make him resemble John Major’s Spitting Image puppet, minus distinctive glasses, in a frightful wig. His voiceover semi-boasts in that been there, done that way you tend to find barely experienced braggarts implement when trying to ingratiate themselves with a new social group that he’s had his fair share of illegal stimulants during his time as a manager in the music industry. But he’s so keen to stress it that you immediately disbelieve him and seriously doubt he snorted back properly, perhaps secreting grains of coke in a kind of intricate beak-sack secreted up his hooter out of fear.

    But it’s phoney. And this artificial fear of drugs pervades the whole show. Lamb is a young man who, having worked in TV and music, is clearly going to have been around drugs, even if he hasn’t partaken on a massive scale. Yet he immediately demonises the subject matter by differentiating between illegal drugs and legal ones by calling the former camp ‘illegals’ and the latter ‘legals’. And it’s intensely annoying. It’s a horrible fusion of his wideboy patter and the kind of Daily Mail copy used to make asylum seekers seem like undesirables. Essentially, it makes him look like a total twerp with his finger so far off the pulse he’s got it plugged well and truly up his own bunghole.

    He meets a 19 year old clubber called Tom and buys some ‘legals’ from a handful of shops in Camden. He then, sitting in a trendy Camden bar with Tom, expresses amazement that they were so easy to purchase. ‘It’s as simple as buying a bag of sweets’ he gasps, despite the fact that they’re called ‘legal highs’.

    The clue, Mr Lamb, is in the fucking title.

    But nobody in the shops wants to talk to the camera. Possibly because they hadn’t been asked in advance. Undeterred and hell-bent on fulfilling his contract lest he doesn’t get paid, Lamb logs on and checks a number of websites that sell the Legals. Quelle surprise! They’re proper websites! Lamb seems amazed that there are functioning areas of the internet selling this stuff - despite the fact that they’re FUCKING LEGAL!

    By this point - and we’re about 15 minutes in to this hellish bout of nonsense TV - we haven’t addressed a single issue of any interest. Toxicity hasn’t been mentioned. The social effect on users? Not even lunged at. To even address any complicated legal jargon would probably blow Lamb’s mind, so we saunter off to meet some ‘crazy party guys’ - three students who, like many of their peers might be, are happy to consume some Legals and take a video camera out with them to document their experience. We watch it back and, as you might expect, it’s wholly unremarkable footage of kids grinning in a club. No conclusion is drawn, because it’s so quickly edited and all dialogue is minimised to the point of absurdity, so any attempt to summon an idea of how their speech, movement or conversation has been affected is lost in the editing suite. Obviously, with only three samples and no idea of how much they’d taken, save for a few shots of lines being snorted, it’d be an incredibly rough idea of how it all works anyway - but it might’ve been nice to have a crack of light fall on the subject we’ve tuned in to see discussed. Mightn’t it?

    Eventually Lamb gets an interview with a merchant of Legals, and he travels to his warehouse in Devon where the vendor looks like any average small business owner might when confronted by a camera and an idiot. He looks bemused but approachable. And at this point Lamb becomes worryingly puritanical about the topic, mocking the man from Dr Hemp and going for the easy target - the silly names the products get branded with. Which is a bit like writing the word ‘dope’ on a blackboard and occasionally chuckling at it because it happens to mean both ‘drugs’ and ‘idiot’. As it happens, there’d be more value to watching Lamb do just that, because it might throw up interesting ideas about man’s ability to understand his own nature.

    Sadly, that opportunity was missed and Lamb went to see a Doctor. All boxes were being ticked. The obligatory sight of the mock-investigative journalist scanning the web, the door-to-door enquiries and now a visit to an expert. We’d be served later by the compulsory vox pops and the first person consumption - but hold on, because by now the Doctor’s actually bringing some sense to proceedings. He brings up the idea that illegal drugs may actually be less dangerous because they’ve been around for so long and are now so refined that we, in essence, know the enemy. Lamb appeared to twig the concept, but whilst scrabbling for the phrase ‘better the devil you know’ or ‘lesser of two evils’, he lost his way and just nodded enthusiastically as the capacity for intelligent conversation creeped out of his ears and quietly closed the door behind it.

    Looking on Youtube and Facebook - again, essential elements for any BBC Three show - Lamb decided he needed to go to Guernsey where the drug laws from their independent parliament are now so strict that the market for illegal highs is thriving, and the substances themselves are a serious market force, with 24-hour delivery of Legals now an option for the wayward teenager in that particular tax haven. Interesting notions arise in the mind of the attentive viewer regarding the rise of the black-market as a result of heavy-handed legislation and, indeed, the problem posed by a black market that is unassailable legally because of its ability to change its product instantly whilst laws take an age to pass. But George skips all that and sits in a car with some kids who smoke legals because they can’t get hold of proper skunk. And they all seem a little bit left-of-centre, and perhaps a little lost, but perfectly normal with it.

    Then , in perhaps the show’s most annoyingly brainless act, George decides to test how easy it is to access the 24 hour Legal-line and calls up to order some from a hotel at 10am. And, heavens above, they arrive very swiftly. Because, and I think you’re with me on this by now, they’re legal highs. ‘It’s as simple as ordering a pizza’ says an amazed Lamb, and he’s right - because it’s as LEGAL as ordering a fucking pizza.

    Back in London, he Skypes Matt Bolan - the man who invented BZPs as an alternative to the crystal meth that was killing his hometown. Matt is very quick to put his argument forward and explains that he considers people taking BZP a better alternative to meth because it’s legal and therefore less harmful. A flawed argument with more holes than an acid-casualty’s brain, but one Lamb is too dense to follow up, finishing up the interview without gleaning a single nugget of interesting dialogue. At one point he even says ‘if I were to take an ecstacy’, which is almost an unconscious tip of the hat to Chris Morris’s absurd take on the war on drugs. Or it would be, if Lamb hadn’t said it in all seriousness. He might just as well have asked about ’smoking ecstacy pipes out of his drug end’, his attempts at discussion being so skewed by of his lack of understanding of the subject matter that they reduced him to a gormless, incommunicable self-parody.
    Finally we arrived at the scene we’d tuned in for. Lamb decided he had to take some of these here Legals to fully gain an understanding. So, despite his holier-than-thou posturing earlier on and his mockery of the vendors of this kind of stuff, he then turns into a gigantic hypocrite and decides to ram some in his brain. ‘But’, you may say, ‘this is strictly in the name of research! Lamb’s doing us a ruddy favour!’ But George Lamb is no Huxley, and while it’s fun to watch him inhale a low dose of salvia and suddenly go giggly, dopey and vaguely likable, the effect quickly fizzles out. Much like the two-minute dose of minor-grade salvia the man breathes in through a luxury ice-bong. And his rhetoric is more from the school of ‘oh wow, man’ than anything old Aldous ever wrote. It’s the unilluminating sight of a media-imbecile getting slightly off his trolley - a familiar sight to anyone who’s ever had a night out in a major city.

    Bonus points go to the doctor who gave Lamb his physical before the ingestion, for making him answer questions like ‘what’s the date today’ and ‘what does this simple sentence say’, as it was a lark watching George strain his mind trying to remember what month it was. The Doc also attended the drug-taking ceremony and managed to out-style Lamb, wearing the kind of shirt and tie combo you’d see in the currently very trendy 80s movies of your youth. They should have got him to front the whole programme.

    In the closing moments Lamb told us how easy it is to modify an illegal substance and create a fresh, new and legal one, even fashioning a diagram on a flip pad to demonstrate. But by now it was far, far too late to make any actual impact. We’d wasted fifty minutes watching him scrabbling around, making a few judgemental assessments and shedding no flicker of light on the topic whatsoever, so we were too knackered to care less. The chance had gone, been squandered and was now the furthest thing from the mind.

    When he delivered his conclusion - inevitably that it’s best to stay away from Legals - it felt like you actually knew less about the market for this stuff than you did when you started viewing. And that, when you think about it, is quite an achievement. If you could bottle and sell that ability to make people feel dazed, frazzled and energetically wound up, then you could probably get away with flogging it to enthusiastic drug-users - marketing it as perfectly above board, completely legal, and neglecting to mention that it may actually be a little bit harmful.


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  1. sgurrman
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Yes, a review that is as hilarious and brilliant as the programme was drab and stupid.
  2. Inpurple
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    oh and since when are people who take RC's called "cygonaughts" ?
  3. Joe Duffy
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

  4. Inpurple
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    oh. Fail. Still, i have met a lot of people who take a lot of research chemicals. None of which have referred to themselves, or been referred to as Psychonauts...
  5. Routemaster Flash
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    It's a fairly ridiculous word, but it is used quite commonly in this context.
  6. bubbly nubs
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Why does he even mention the word psychonauts? Isn't the meaning of that work someone who likes to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs such as tryptamines? I watched this documentary twice now, he mentions no drugs of the such other than salvia.
  7. Routemaster Flash
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    I think can be used for anyone who uses drugs for 'consciousness expansion' as opposed to just 'getting high'. Salvia is definitely a "psychonaut's drug".

    Edit: not that there's anything wrong with 'getting high', of course!
  8. Seaquake
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    that fella sam that he met at the station does mention a few. though the ones he had with him at the time weren't hallucinogens.
  9. novaclay
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    I tried to watch it, I really did but I couldn't get more then 5 minutes into it. What a tool. People are ridiculously naive. Good review :thumbsup:
  10. rockthebox
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Excellent review..

    I sat through the program hoping it would improve and there would be some interesting content, unfortunately not.

    I also have to agree that Lamb is a complete tool!!

    It annoyed me that the program appeared to be nothing more than blatent propaganda designed to further the establishment line on the subject. Lamb was either too stupid to realise this (most probably), or clever enough to engineer the "documentary" so it didn't actually do any real journalism but spread fear and misinformation whist pretending to help.

    BTW, does anyone know the details behind the video of the people in America shown to the "psychanaught" - the hard hitting video designed to scare people away from "legals". No attempt from Lamb to say what this "homemade cocktail of chemicals" was. Had those people taken RC's or something else?
  11. Seaquake
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    I saw somewhere that it was probably MPTP, when they were trying to make MPPP. Or at least the symptoms described on wikipedia seem to match.
  12. rockthebox
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Thanks for the info.. That's pretty scary!

    It would have been nice to see this issue explored more fully in the program.

    Rather than "Can I get high legally?". Better maybe: "How safe is it to get high legally?" or "Should the current drug laws be changed to protect people from the potential dangers of getting high legally?" (relax cannabis laws to reduce demand for synthetic substitute)

    I'm no chemist and am interested to find out more about other potential chemistry blunders (similar to the MPPP->MPTP one) that can happen in the manufacture of RC's. For example given the increasing popularity of spice and it's clones, with their use of the JWH synthetic cannaboids, is it possible that a botched JWH (018/073/etc) synthesis could produce a neurotoxin? (although this is a tad off topic, so I will probably post in the drug chemistry part of the forum).

  13. sgurrman
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Oh no, it's being shown AGAIN tonight! BBC3, 9 pm. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse....... People like me pay annual television licence fees so the BBC can dish up pap like this. Aaaaaargh.....
  14. Synesthesiac
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Maybe we could submit a complaint to the BBC and just copy and paste this article!
  15. rockthebox
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Not a bad idea :)
  16. Synchronium
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    I'd post my own review of the program, but it mentions the odd source so probably wouldn't conform to DF rules...
  17. salviablue
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Ha just noticed this has already been done, I just started a thread on this, they just showed it (again) on BBC3. I'lll delete mine (or ask for it to be deleted), besides this ones much better.
    Any way this is what I wrote and thought (only saw it from half way through)

  18. Synesthesiac
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    It was a user from bluelight. The BBC started a thread at bluelight to ask for volunteers to give their opinion on lagal highs. Some for just phone calls, some for face to face interviews. Dont know who did it in the end, but it was someone from bluelight forum for sure.

    The really annoying thing is that loads of pharmacologists and professional people phoned them up with genuine, complex, scientific information about the reserach chemicals in question. They ignored these calls and the science. They just interview some really shady young looking character that did not explain his research chemicals very well at all. And did not know the difference between people taking bad synth of MPPP and how to point out this is nearly unheard of with the majority of RC's, and completely unheard of with most reserached recreational drugs.

    REP comment: Link removed but quote staying. Happy?
  19. Synesthesiac
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Use a torrent client and use this torrent file and it'll be done in an hour or so in good quality:

    I've got it but I might enter a narrative over the top when they get all their scientific facts wrong, just for comedly effects and to show how utterly useless it is.
  20. salviablue
    Re: Can I Get High Legally? - Humerous review of BBC3's recent "legal highs" document

    Thanks for the heads up. Although, to be fair, I think that guy interviewed from that forum was probably set up.

    Its annoying how they get away with this kind of thing and how people just suck it up with out even questioning the lack of any actual intelligent/intelligently presented evidence/research.

    It really boils my blood, sometimes to the point where it flenses me!

    That`d be class!
    Although I wouldn't be able to dl it until either at a place of land line broadband or ours is fixed.
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