Jamal Edwards was, in many ways, quite an inspirational man. He founded SBTV in 2006 and launched the careers of the likes of Ed Sheeran, Stormzy and Emeli Sandé whilst doing much for the underground at the same time. Edwards was also an entrepreneur involved in numerous ventures – certainly not bad going for a man barely in his thirties.
So when he unexpectedly passed away on 20th February at the age of 31, the shock was palpable. Speaking to Sky News afterwards, his mother Brenda said “It was sudden and it was unexpected, and he went into a cardiac arrest and then he passed with me holding his hand. So… I get a little bit of comfort from knowing I was with him… [but] at the same time it’s a vision that I’m never gonna forget”.
Yesterday, an inquest began into his death. This has not concluded and is unlikely to for some time – but it now appears that Jamal Edwards had taken “recreational drugs” earlier that evening, and that what subsequently happened was a bad reaction which ended in the most tragic way. His mother has now posted this statement – possibly one of the hardest she will ever have had to write…
Her words about the harm drugs can do are important, emphasising there needs to be “more conversation about the unpredictability of recreational drugs and the impact that they can have – how it takes just one bad reaction to destroy lives”. But will this debate happen in the Britain of today?
The odds aren’t encouraging. Debate in the UK on drugs is largely led by the right-wing press, who crucify any politician who dare suggest the current laws aren’t working. On the other side, you have more liberal outlets – the dance music press are overwhelmingly in this corner – who over-compensate for the right-wing press and often lose touch with reality in the process.
Ears To The House entirely agrees with Brenda Edwards when she says “These types of substances are extremely unpredictable”. Part of this is because they’re illegal. When a clubber buys cocaine, MDMA or whatever their drug of choice, the harsh truth is they’ve often got absolutely no idea what’s actually inside that pill or powder.
Which is why we think drugs testing services are a good idea. A parliamentary committee last year heard evidence which says the amount of drugs being taken would actually fall if such services were introduced – something which should have raised the anti-drugs brigade’s attention in a logical world.
And the reason they’d fall? Because people would either find out something utterly horrible was inside the drugs they’d purchased, or simply because they’d had time to reflect and had a change of heart. We’re not pro-drugs at Ears To The House – far from it. But this seems a sensible solution to something that isn’t going away and clearly cannot be criminalised out of existence – as the past decades have shown clearly.
Would Jamal Edwards still be here today if he’d had access to such a service? This is something we’ll sadly never know. But an honest debate about drugs involves discussing ideas like this – and right now, it’s hard to know who’s less ready to do so…