07 May 2008

Britain To Potheads: You're Reclassified

After several years experimenting with quasi-legalization of marijuana (it was still against the law, but you'd have to try really hard to get arrested for it), the UK has decided to reclassify cannabis again, making it more illegal, but, in that characteristically British way, signaling that nothing in particular is going to be done about it (in other words, the police have already said that they're not going to change their mostly hands-off policy).

The Guardian, one of Britain's two principal pothead papers (the other being the Independent, whose editor, Rosie Boycott, used to keep a potted pot plant in her office), writes about this in hurt-child tones ("But... but... all the experts say marijuana is good for you!") while acknowledging some of the data motivating the government's pseudo-crackdown on the devil weed, specifically some rather evidence linking cannabis use, especially among the young with schizophrenia and other forms of mental breakdown.

I myself have mixed feelings. As I've said for some time now, I'm in favor of any approach, legal, educational or otherwise, that reduces the amount of marijuana being smoked and decreases the likelihood of children and teenagers taking up the habit. It's just that there doesn't seem to be much evidence that stricter law enforcement accomplishes that purpose while it does seem to do considerable harm to many young people who might otherwise never enter the criminal justice system.

At the same time, I don't think it can any longer be disputed that marijuana does serve as an entry-level drug, not just for harder drugs, but also for other forms of more serious criminal activity. The bien pensant liberal left laughs solipsistically at such a notion, damning it as a throwback to the Reefer Madness era of drug education on the grounds that all their friends react to marijuana with nothing more than an increased interest in hobbits or fudge brownies or cod philosophy. They can't seem to get it through their heads that smoking blunts has a rather different effect on young gangbangers, dulling if not eliminating any inclination toward education or work while simultaneously extirpating any remaining vestiges of moral inhibition. Many a bong-sucking hippie has gotten it into his head that he's some form of god; these cats can get similar ideas, but more along the Old Testament avenging angel, drowning whole cities in blood fire sort of line.

But what are you gonna do? Locking as many of them up as possible doesn't seem to have accomplished any more than the "Let the people smoke all the herb they want, man, it's medicine" line. Personally, what I'd like to see (or at least what I think might be most effective) is for marijuana to be treated like cigarettes, i.e., legal for adults, but with strict limitations on where it can be used, with copious amounts of social opprobrium attached to the sad losers who can't seem to kick the habit. It seems to be working with tobacco: whereas at one time half of all adults smoked, it's now down below 20%, especially in those areas which strictly enforce public smoking bans and heavily tax tobacco sales with at least part of the money being used for education and programs to help people quit.

Under the present system, there's still a certain amount of glamor and raciness attached to marijuana use. The pothead has managed to get himself portrayed as a sort of adventurer or rebel rather than as a drug addict and retro-hippie burnout, and as long as this remains the case, kids will inevitably find it necessary to demonstrate their individuality and independence by going along with the pot-smoking herd. When we stop treating potheads as criminals and turn them into laughingstocks instead, we might finally make some progress.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wrote the "I'm not angry" post and you may not be the 'know it all' you once were. However, when you describe previous behavior, scenes, etc that you were part of or saw, that you no longer partake in, you describe them with such ridicule and almost condescension, you sound like the 'know it all' you wrote about back in the day. You write like you are so right and sure of your opinions now, just as you did back when you were a hippie, disco guy, punk, stoner, etc. But now, its different...

Larry Livermore said...

Well, you've definitely got a point there. In fact I was just getting ready to post something to the effect that as soon as I wrote that "I'm Not Angry" thing, I realized that there were many things indeed that still made me angry, but that I just chose to react to them in different, usually less vociferous ways.

And yes, potheads, especially the militant and dishonest ("I'm not smoking this marijuana to get high, it's because it's my 'medicine'") ones are among those things.

Wesley said...

Larry, I agree with your approach to legalization and regulation (and I wish that approach got equal airtime with tie-dyed fools chanting "legalize it" on Venice Beach, but that's neither here nor there).
I'm curious given your other recent post if you'd say the same about acid. And then what about cocaine, etc.? What's the threshold (behavioral, addictive, etc.)? i.e., do you have a grand unified theory of drugs? (I really don't have an opinion here, just positing the question.)

James J. said...

I agree with everything you've written here -- actually, your attitude toward pot is so similar so mine that it's refreshing to see it in print -- but the section about weed's effect on gangbangers neglects to mention that alcohol has precisely the same potential effects. In fact, I'd wager (although I have no stats to back it up) that way more urban violence is committed by drunk people than stoned people.

Matt Andrews said...

Just to be pedantic (since the Independent is my paper of choice), Rosie Boycott last edited it in 1998, and they just (last month) changed hands from Simon Kelner to Roger Alton. Sorry!

Larry Livermore said...

Oh, I know it's been ages since Rosie was at the Independent and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. Sorry if I wasn't clear enough in my writing.

Bibbles said...

I think things as they the stand now are probably more palatable to the average stoners. Their source of cannabis is the criminal underworld and it’s quite affordable; at least it is to all the people on the dole that I know who frequently smoke it. I am quite surprised that the governments approach to cannabis has become so lenient in recent years and I’m even more surprised that they haven’t totally legalised it and started putting tax on it. In essence, if it is legalised then a vast majority of airhead stoners will have to alter their lifestyle as it’s current affordability will go up in smoke. Legalise it I say. But that’s coming from someone who detests stoners. You’ve met one, and you’ve met them all.