Pubdate: Wed, 09 Feb 2000
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: Guardian Media Group 2000
Author: Simon Regan


The debate on the decriminalisation of cannabis has been a long time
coming. In 1965 a friend of mine was caught with an eighth of on ounce
on him and got five years in Maidstone jail. Only last week another
friend of mine was found with a similar amount and was let off with a
caution. If, as recent statistics reveal, some 40% of the population
has or is experiencing soft drugs on a regular basis, I imagine that
the work load would deter the police from prosecuting those found with
small amounts.

I simply do not know anyone who has not "experimented" with cannabis
and I am now nearing 60 and by no means mixing in teenage circles. Yet
I was in on the beginning of the near-hysteria which greeted the
cannabis scene in the 60s. I was a zealous reporter on the newly
formed investigation department at the News of the World which got
very busy exposing the whole drug scene. The late Mike Gabbert was
features editor, brought in to create exposure journalism for the "new
look" NoW.

One of his first coups was a series called "Pop Stars and Drugs"; it
involved almost every important act of the day - the Beatles, the
Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix et al. I was a leading undercover
reporter on all this, but I was found the scene so attractive myself
that I begged to come off such stories.

In I967 I was a regular smoker of cannabis, and despite the paranoia
we had ourselves helped to generate, could get it whenever I wanted
it; smoking it was routine. All I can remember of those days is a
great deal of collective giggling between otherwise mainly intelligent

That year I baked a large Christmas cake containing a full ounce of
"golden" Lebanese grass and cut it into 16 slices to give away as
Christmas presents. I gave a slice to Gabbert, telling him exactly
what it was. In the New Year he called me into his office and asked me
if I could cook him a full cake for himself. "I have never had such
great sex," he explained. "It'll be on expenses, of course."

Stafford Sommerfield, the editor, had vociferously and personally
instigated all the drug exposures. Yet a week after I had given
Gabbert the cake, he rather sheepishly asked me if I could cook
another one "for Stafford". Apparently Gabbert had given a couple of
slices to the editor, who had taken them home; he had got completely
stoned. Now I was technically a dealer myself. I supplied about one
cake a month to Gabbert and had no idea what happened to it. But the
drugs exposures did dramatically cease. When Rupert Murdoch took over
the NoW, the expenses dried up and Stafford was subsequently eased

By the 70s foreign assignments had taken me completely away from the
drugs scene and I did not smoke again until 1997 when I found a new
partner who could hardly get up in the morning without a joint. I
decided to join her. In the 90s I became seriously infirm due to a
muscle withering disease. The disability made me fall over quite a lot
and I added to my woes with a multiple hip fracture, which in turn
caused mild panic attacks in a crowd. I was drinking far too much,
found it difficult to perform in bed, and I had an eating disorder.
Frankly, I was in a bit of a mess.

By golly, the cannabis helped. I did not smoke a serious amount, but
began taking a few puffs about three times a day. The first effects
were far greater relaxation, followed by the return of my appetite,
and of feeling deeply sexy again. I have almost stopped having panic
attacks. My drinking has become far more moderate.

In the 60s, I took cannabis largely because it induced mild mind
expansion. Such things as music became more enchanting and
fascinating. In the 90s my intake is (almost) all medicinal. On
millennium eve, I cooked another cake and gave a slice to my
octogenarian mother (who is severely arthritic) and a crusty old
retired colonel from the Guards.

Both have since asked me for the recipe. 
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