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Tribute to Mike Goodman – former Release director

All of us at Release were very sad to hear of the premature death of Mike Goodman – a major figure in the history of the organisation and the UK drugs field.

release drugs law human rightsMike, a qualified barrister, joined Release in 1991 and as director he led the organisation for over ten years.  Before coming to Release, Mike was in local government where he was Labour leader of the council in Hammersmith and Fulham. Mike was tireless in his efforts to keep the organisation relevant with the ‘Drugs in Schools’, ‘Dance Safe’, ‘Social Inclusion’ and ‘Heroin Helpline’ projects. He was the public face of Release through the 1990’s appearing on numerous TV programmes promoting harm reduction policies and a sensible and responsible attitude to drugs, drug laws and drug use.

Gary Sutton, Head of Drugs Services at Release fondly recalls, ‘At the one of the Release Drugs University conferences, short of a record deck to play Marianne Faithfull’s version of ‘The ballad of Lucy Jordan’ – Mike dashed off and picked up a couple of buskers at Kings Cross station and hired them to play for the delegates’.

Mike was refreshingly progressive at a time when new ideas were badly needed. He was fiercely opposed to drug testing and his prediction on how it would impact on civil liberties can now be clearly seen.  Mike was innovative and proactive in getting Release involved in the club and rave scene, a move no other drug charities would consider.

All at Release send their sympathy to Mike’s family at this sad time.


Release’s Mission & Vision


Release is the national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law – providing free and confidential specialist advice to the public and professionals. Release also campaigns for changes to UK drug policy to bring about a fairer and more compassionate legal framework to manage drug use in our society.


Release believes that the present regime for the regulation of drugs will be regarded by future generations as one of the great policy disasters of the modern period. These arrangements result in far too many abuses of human rights, fail to protect individual and public health, erode respect for the law, undermine democracy and generate corruption. The War on Drugs is in fact a recipe for a society at war with itself, and this is what we find when we examine the state of global drug control.

The present system of drug control is the result of a complex and contingent set of historical factors and policy decisions. At the 2008 meeting of the UN drug control apparatus in Vienna, Antonio Costa—the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and normally a staunch defender of the status quo—publicly admitted that the system was not ‘fit for purpose’.

Release’s vision is for a society in which the age-old human practice of using drugs is viewed as a part of the human condition. Rather than committing ourselves to the fantasy of a drug-free world—something that never has existed and never will—we should accept drugs as part of life, and educate and regulate to restrict their negative effects. Whether this happens through a reinterpretation and reconfiguration of the present structure, or requires a more radical overhauling of institutional and juridical arrangements, remains to be seen.