Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jan 2004
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2004
Author: Jenny McCartney
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)


I have a prediction: now that David Blunkett is downgrading cannabis
to a class C drug, dope-smoking will become more widespread, but less

The most intoxicating thing about cannabis for the middle classes -
even taking into account the soaring levels of its active compound,
tetrahydrocannabinol, in specially-bred modern brands - has always
been its delightful illegality, which enables people with mortgages
and sensible jobs to flirt with the pleasurable illusion that they are
living in the Bronx each time they dial up their "dealer". Now the
frisson has been diluted.

Yet just as the Government indicated that perhaps cannabis is not so
dangerous after all, hordes of rather surprising people have come out
and said that it certainly is.

Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatry at the Maudsley hospital, said
that dope-smoking can greatly heighten the user's risk of developing
psychosis, and worsens the symptoms in those already suffering from
mental health problems.

His concerns were echoed by Sue Arnold, a journalist who once
championed the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Ms
Arnold revealed how she had turned against the drug since one of her
sons - who was highly partial to a puff - had a psychotic episode that
has left him on medication for the rest of his life.

The Government's powerful disapproval, however, has long been dope's
greatest marketing asset. There are many people who see the state as a
Big Mummy whom they don't trust. If Mummy proclaims that beef is safe,
she's lying. If Mummy champions GM foods, it's just a way of
maximising profits for the big multinationals while giving us all
mysterious forms of cancer. Mummy says that she doesn't like smoking
and drinking - but she sure creams off the taxes from them, right?

Cannabis enthusiasts protest that while legal cigarettes are
mass-produced using cancer-inducing chemicals, illegal cannabis is
hand-cultivated by counter-culture growers committed to supplying a
harmless high. The impassioned advancement of this argument has given
many stoned folk much pleasure over the years. But what will happen to
the fun now that an exhausted Big Mummy has said, in essence: "Okay -
you lot can smoke dope in your own room, but don't bother the

It seems sensible that the police shouldn't waste time prosecuting
people for posessing small amounts, and no one - including most
psychiatrists - seems particularly worried about those who indulge in
the very occasional spliff. They are, however, highly concerned about
the effects on those who spend whole days in a blurry haze.

Yesterday, a reporter from Radio 4's Today programme ventured to a
south London estate, in which a despairing community worker described
how the local schoolboys have spliffs lodged in their mouths at nine
in the morning. The teenagers themselves appeared knowledgeable but
unconcerned about the potential dangers of cannabis: "Yeah, it makes
you forget things . . . it makes you schizophrenic." One said that he
was smoking "twenty-quid's-worth a day" because of "stress". Did
everyone he knew smoke dope? "Yeah."

It was - unless you were stoned, perhaps - rather depressing to hear,
and the most miserable thing of all was that nobody, not even Big
Mummy, seems to care. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake