Pubdate: Fri, 23 Jan 2004
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2004 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: John O'Farrell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


The war on drugs has taken a dramatic new turn. Yesterday, before the
world's media, a peace treaty was signed between the British
government and cannabis. Hardliners had insisted that there should
have been no talks with cannabis supporters until all joints had been
put beyond use, until they had laid down their bongs and stopped
giggling. But secret negotiations had been under way for some time.
The government said it would downgrade the drug from class B to C and
discourage police officers from automatically arresting people for
possession, while the cannabis delegation said that the carpet was so
red, it was like really, really red.

There have been some concessions from drug takers. They have promised
not to sit in the corner at parties taking far too long to roll a
joint while they bore everyone about who really killed JFK. They have
undertaken to stop ripping up the mini-cab cards that were pinned up
by the telephone. And they have finally admitted that T-shirts
featuring a marijuana leaf under a sign saying "Keep Off the Grass"
are not really all that funny.

Users of cannabis have been complaining for some time that they were
being pointlessly targeted and also that it was much harder to make
joints on CD cases than on album covers. But a more lenient approach
has been emerging in the last decade. The House of Commons is now
populated with a generation of politicians who will have smoked
cannabis though still have to pretend they don't condone its use.
"Cannabis remains illegal..." said one Home Office minister. "It is
well known that repeated use of this drug can affect your .. um ...
thingy ... What was I saying?"

This liberalisation comes at the same time that stricter limits are
being placed on the smoking of tobacco in public places. Soon you will
overhear people on trains saying: "Excuse me would you put that
cigarette out please!" "It's not a cigarette, it's a joint." "Oh
terribly sorry, do carry on ..." Restaurants will be divided into
"smoking", "non-smoking" and "Hey, squat down and like, skin up".

Now cannabis will be placed on the same level as prescription drugs,
with the result that hundreds of people will rush to their doctor's
surgery saying: "I'm going to the Glastonbury festival at the weekend,
and I wondered if you could prescribe me something to help me relax?"
Maybe Rizla could even begin making king-size cigarette papers
specifically for rolling joints. No, that would be too obvious, no one
would go that far just yet.

Until recently, 90% of all arrests for possession of drugs were for
cannabis. At last our bobbies will have time for more important tasks,
such as using their highly sophisticated methods for searching out
drug dealers by pulling over any black man driving a nice car.

The idea of freeing up the police from the front line of the drugs war
is being extended. Rave venues have recently been fitted with "speed
cameras" to take photos of anyone out of their head on speed. What the
dancers may have thought was a strobe light was in fact the double
flash of a police camera recording them dancing suspiciously quickly.

It is the more pernicious drugs that the police should be
concentrating on. I don't mean heroin or cocaine or ecstasy, I mean
the real social menace: echinacea and arnica and all the herbal
remedies that are sold at great expense and don't do anything whatsoever.

All over Britain traumatised children are being forced to take fish
oil while the callous pushers in the health food shop buy another
gold-studded collar for their rottweilers and laugh at the gullibility
of the liberal middle classes. "Wanna score some more St John's wort
man? It'll cost you, brother, this is good shit, I ain't cutting in no
low-grade marigold." Armed police burst in. "This is a raid! Hand over
your royal jelly!"

But everyone agreed that cannabis was overdue for downgrading.
Everyone, that is, except Michael Howard. The leader of the opposition
couldn't have made himself look any more out of touch if he called it
"pot". A previous Conservative attempt to appear to be tough on
cannabis backfired when half a dozen members of the shadow cabinet
admitted that they had smoked it (though not presumably all at the
same Tory cheese-and-wine do). Howard refuses to answer this
particular question, but if he can't remember, well, enough said.

The leader of the opposition has even announced that his Conservative
government would reverse the downgrading of cannabis. So he actually
thinks he's going to be prime minister, does he? I don't know what
Michael Howard has been smoking, but it must be pretty powerful stuff.
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