Reefer Madness

“Up and down like a whore’s knickers” could be the phrase used to describe the British government’s pathetic attempts to regulate cannabis use, or ‘abuse’, as some prefer to call it.

Originally a “Class B” drug, in 2004 the government of Tony Blair downgraded it to “Class C”, at the behest of most experts and senior police officers, meaning less severe penalties for possession.

Now, prime minister Gordon Brown has decided to up it again to “Class B”, presumably as the only means open to him of proving he can think for himself and not just mirror Tony Blair’s old policies.

There are numerous ways he may have achieved that goal – pulling all British troops out of Iraq, is the most obvious to come to mind – but this is undoubtedly one of the most stupid. Flip-flopping over the question of illegal recreational drugs merely proves the government doesn’t know its own mind and succumbs to the whim of whichever pressure group shouts the loudest.

The excuse for this back-tracking hangs around the potency of “skunk”, a hybrid marijuana plant bred for its superior quality. Critics say it’s much stronger than “ordinary” pot, intensifying the possible ill-effects that are rumored to occur from consistently smoking twenty or more joints a day.

Investigation of the spin surrounding cannabis use reveals a hotch-potch of pressure groups from the Christian Mother’s Union to DrugScope, the UK’s leading independent center of expertise on drugs, whose chief executive Martin Barnes said recently:

“There is no evidence that reclassifying cannabis to Class B will reduce levels of use, levels of harm or the availability of the drug.”

Which begs the question, why then are they doing it?

The sudden political panic over skunk marijuana merely focuses on the ineptitude of the politicians expressing alarm about it. Skunk has been around for years and is widely used throughout Europe (and probably the US). It’s been available in Amsterdam coffee shops for nigh on twenty years, to my knowledge.

Britain’s home secretary, Jacqui Smith – a woman I find particularly unappealing in every way, not least because she bears the same maiden name as my second wife – says she’s not prepared to risk the future health of young people because of “uncertainty” over its impact on mental health.[1]

Or, to put it another way: as there’s no evidence of any impact on mental health, except possibly to those already sufficiently gullible and retarded as to consider smoking twenty or more cannabis joints every day perfectly acceptable, we, the government, are prepared to imprison normal adult people for five years for daring to partake of a substance certainly no more dangerous than nicotine, a freely available drug from which we, the government, make millions of pounds in taxation every year.

Recently, Gordon Brown commissioned an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ review to assess this very issue. The review advised keeping marijuana classified “C”, stating that there was a “probable, but weak, causal link between psychotic illness, including schizophrenia, and cannabis use”, but in the population as a whole it played only a “modest role” in the development of these conditions.

One reason it’s so difficult to ascertain any ill-effects from cannabis use is because no-one admits to using it. It took years before scientists firmly established the ill-effects of nicotine, a freely available substance. How can they possibly determine the consequences of using an illegal substance that no-one dare admit to? The only studies are on already psychologically disturbed individuals usually hauled before the courts for petty crime and found to be users. Just how scientific is that? Yet, it’s apparently perfectly acceptable to our political leaders, looking for an excuse to bolster their flagging popularity.

How sensible it would be to decriminalize all drugs, fund research into the true benefits and drawbacks, then apply sensible logic to dealing with any problems encountered.

In this instance, “sensible logic” does not include incarcerating people for exercising the right to do what they wish in the privacy of their own home.

Of course, no government anywhere has ever been held in esteem for its ability to display sensible logic.

Truly, nothing’s really changed since 1936:

[1] “Cannabis laws to be strengthened”, BBC, May 7th 2008

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6 Replies to “Reefer Madness”

  1. If we took just a small portion of the money we have wasted on the war – we like that word – on drugs and applied it to a real problem (like feeding the hungry) we would probably eliminate hunger in this country.

    What is wrong with us? The world has umpteen million problems and we focus on the trivial.

  2. I don’t agree with you, but i understand your point of view.

    It would be nice to believe that all adults were sane, just, and philanthropic. That we are all flawed beings despite our best efforts, however, is a constant of our species.

    I have found from the people i knew who used any drug for something other than a purely medical purpose (and yes, that includes alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine) that usually the reason for doing so was as a means of escape from stress. It could be as tiny a relief as taking a coffeebreak or stepping outside to have a smoke at work, to lapsing into a dreamy or image-laden ride away from reality, at the other end of the spectrum.

    The common denominator was that a substance was used to gain mental relief from stress.

    As someone who does not use non-medical drugs, it seems obvious to me that the best relief from stress is to solve one’s problems. You know, starting from childhood, when we keep getting faced with problems and finding ways to resolve them… we develop strategies around how to solve the gnarlies and eventually, we assume an individual outlook, really an essential part of our personalities, on to how to deal with trouble when it shows up.

    And this is what i noticed about people who opt to use a drug when trouble appears. They don’t develop methods of solving problems. They don’t develop strategies or a personal outlook of what to do when things go belly-up… except to go take the drug. And i’ve found that the mental age of these addicts usually stops at about whatever age they started using drugs for this reason.

    I’ve met 40-year-old fully adult males who could not function past the reasoning age of a 12-year-old when troubled, because that’s when they started using marijuana to avoid stress. They were totally unable to assume a logical method of working their way through difficulty. They made terrible workers, friends, and companions. That’s just on an individual level.

    Educationally, seeking relief from stress instead of buckling down and studying means that people never develop good work habits and they tend to fail a lot. I hold up the example of my high school, voted the worst in the province for drug use, for perusal. The washrooms had to be locked during school hours, due to the large number of o.d.s that occurred regularly, and we also had the highest rate of drop-outs. Tax dollars, in the form of welfare, had to pick up the tab.

    Socially, families who have to deal with an addict who is neither willing or able to choose a healthier way of life have a plethora of problems to face, not the least of which is the whole subculture of drug users and dealers.

    Without going into a wealth of details, i can only mention one of my uncles, who went up in gasoline-induced flames at the hands of irate drug dealers. The damage he did has gone forth into at least one more generation, the which has also turned to violent crime and drug use to make their living. That has already cost us, the family, and us, the taxpayers, more than I can count on all my fingers and toes, times a thousand, in paying for all the manifestations of the penal system.

    And in case you think that legalization would make things easier, I myself have sat in the ‘American cafes’ in Amsterdam and watched French teenagers o.d. on their freedom. There is no legislation against human stupidity, RJ. Drugs, even legal ones, are big business, and our own flaws feed that business endlessly.

    Throw legislation open so that all drugs are legal?

    The day that happens, i’ll be on a rocket ship to the Planet of Sane People, my friend. I’ve seen too much of the deleterious use of ‘recreational’ drugs to think otherwise.

    Isn’t it possible, instead, to use reason to render better ways of dealing with life? I think that doing so would be harder, but in the end more useful overall.

  3. Al – whatever the cost, a better way than the failed “war on drugs” has to be found eventually.

    Anan – I echo your first sentence. I, too, understand your viewpoint, but the plain truth is that the war on drugs has failed everyone except the illegal pushers. It’s not drugs alone that created the problems you wrote about in your comment; it’s drugs in combination with poverty, poor schooling, a sense of hopelessness from people with nowhere to go in life. These are they who turn to drugs to escape, to avoid the stresses of life.

    It can be argued that all substances, including the legal varieties, are stress avoiders, but personally I have nothing against any of them – alcohol, caffeine, even nicotine, in moderation, though I believe drugs that are highly addictive are best left alone. Nicotine took me twenty-five years to beat.

    Marijuana is not in the same league as nicotine when it comes to addiction, and I don’t accept the argument that it’s a ‘gateway’ to harder drugs. To suggest that youngsters wouldn’t use heroin, cocaine, or ecstasy if marijuana was never around is plain idiotic, though it’s a typical response of the moralistic, political ‘do-gooder’.

    I’ve always been a ‘don’t accept what I’m told is right until I’ve proved it’ person, and so I’ve tried many of these so-called ‘devil’s brews’ – usually only once – before forming opinions, sometimes for, often against the standard political doctrine.

    Like you, I’ve sat outside Amsterdam’s cafes and watched the cosmopolitan world go by. I’ve enjoyed a marijuana joint, but unlike the French teenagers, never to excess. The trouble with teenagers of any nationality is they tend to do everything to excess. If it wasn’t marijuana it would be alcohol. Personally, I prefer the former; it tends to allay pugilistic tendencies rather than inflame them.

    While your argument that much drug use constitutes stress avoidance is valid, there is another purpose never expressed by those furthering the drug war. In moderation, it is just plain enjoyable. I see nothing wrong with chilling out occasionally. In our stress-filled world, where even entertainment usually comes laced with a good helping of stress-inducing violence, the opportunity to relax with good company, or quality music, or just watching the world go by in Amsterdam, is not in my opinion verging on the desecration of the human race.

    Using reason to render better ways of dealing with life is a great idea. It’ll never happen while we have hysterical politicians desperately trying to make these substances disappear, as though they never existed.

    Perhaps we should use our reason to view the problems caused by the illegal ‘drug scene’ in their proper context, then attempt serious and caring steps to help those effected, rather than locking them in jail and throwing away the key.

    Finally, it’s rare I get to Amsterdam anymore, so nowadays I just enjoy the occasional, legal, glass of red wine. 😉

  4. Another voice is heard: Mike Ruppert made the case years ago about the economy collapsing if street drugs were legalized. I’ve always been inclined to that logic, the poppy fields of Afghanistan are feeding Wall Street. Of course there is no war, it is all smoke and mirrors.

    And most everything is addictive, I’ve had friends completely ruined by over consumption of so-called recreational marijuana.

    It’s all about moderation and responsibility, isn’t it. But tell that to an addict.

    But overall, I’m with you, RJA, on this one. Nice that we agree….;^)

  5. Great to hear from Sister Anan. I agree that excess is a problem in anything. My uncle talked politics constantly and my aunt is very religious and people avoid them – (I love these topics too but I stick to my seldom read blog). If we stopped people from trying to escape reality, that would be the end of a great deal of what we call civilization, ie movies, television, anything other than utilitarian autos or fashion, religion, and of course alcohol and drugs. I just don’t think making any of them illegal does more than elevate the untaxed profits so that cops go bad, bankers and businesses go criminal (money laundering), the war on African Americans supplies our prison industry, and our government takes advantage of the trade for illegal purposes (IranContra etc). Making marijuana illegal DOES make it a gateway drug because the dealers always try and make more profit and upgrade the customer. Drugs may be a vice, but it is not a crime and even in prostitution, the johns do not go to jail for their pleasure seeking. Next they will be putting fat people in jail.

  6. WWW – most everything is addictive to a greater or lesser degree, and yes, illegal drugs add nefarious profits to Wall Street. Big business has no time for legalities – that’s for the masses.

    Flimsy – escapism is a large part of most people’s lives, and given the dreadfully boring, grey lives they’re often forced to lead, it’s hardly surprising. You make an important point in stating that marijuana is a gateway drug in the sense it is used by dealers as a first push, before the hard stuff. In that sense it certainly is, and decriminalizing would help overcome that problem. It’s surely not right to blame poor old Cannabis sativa for the murky dealings of the unscrupulous?

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