Pubdate: Fri, 29 Apr 2016
Source: Marlborough Express (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 Independent Newspapers Limited
Author: Rosemary McLeod


Try to imagine the future and you'll inevitably find it has bypassed 
you entirely, bringing a new present instead, part tragedy and part 
farce. Cannabis is a fine example. I well remember when it came into 
our lives, bringing new heights of paranoia with it.

It was a time of student rebellion.

It was a time of love-ins. It was a time of young blokes you knew 
wearing beads and growing wispy beards. We read Blake.

We discovered Robert Crumb and listened to John Coltrane.

We got the pill. We were in luck.

But the drugs you needed to be authentic and up-to-date were illegal, 
and if you had a tendency to paranoia before you started smoking dope 
you could become a basket case.

The cops were out to get you, and the RSA, whose sacrifices we honour 
every Anzac Day, was a fire-breathing bastion of conservatism that 
would have backed them up.

Maybe memories of that keep me away from dawn services.

Maybe it's just that I don't like going to places where I'm bound to weep.

As a young reporter I was once in the local drug squad offices where 
I saw a wall display of undercover photographs of people I knew.

They were mostly looking cheerful, and were mainly positive about the 
future they wanted to create; anti-American, anti-war, saving old 
houses from bulldozers, that sort of sinister thing.

They were on the wall like criminals because they smoked dope, some 
bought and sold it, as well as stronger stuff, and the drug squad 
needed to recognise them on the street.

The smallest quantity on their person would see them prosecuted.

They would have been wiser to be drunken larrikins; it was more our 
national style.

Over time a fair few of those people wound up in jail, usually over 
dope possession, or selling small quantities of it.

This placed them among rapists, arsonists, thieves and thugs who'd 
never heard of Blake, or Coltrane, or Crumb, and it compromised their futures.

A woman who worked at the same newspaper as me was busted by an 
undercover cop who befriended her family, and even babysat her kids.

She lost her job. There are reasons why so many of my generation 
became anti-police.

While I mostly found stoners - and Coltrane - boring, it never made 
sense to me to criminalise people whose only offence was getting high.

Now, after so many years, most people probably feel that way.

Cannabis for medicinal purposes, which I believe is inevitable, will 
be the start of a whole new attitude to the drug, because what we've 
been doing for so many years doesn't work.

Helen Kelly's pressure to make cannabis legal for fellow cancer 
sufferers herself is a catalyst.

It actually seems possible that people with chronic pain or terminal 
illness will sooner than later be able to ease their suffering with 
dope in some acceptable form. And I think of the people I knew who 
after all were self-medicating with the drug, and who were jailed 
because of it.

With that in mind, irony doesn't begin to describe this week's 
headline Fears cannabis market will bypass NZ.

It is now respectable to think of dope not as an evil gateway to 
serious addiction, but a business opportunity.

While watching cannabis crop destruction by police in the boondocks, 
it seems farmers and growers could well have been calculating how 
many bucks they could get from the hectare if there was a way around 
having to engage criminal gangs for sales and distribution.

Says Horticulture NZ spokeswoman Leigh Catley: "If it is legitimate 
and sensible for us to make this a legal and sustainable business 
opportunity, then that's what we should do.

"We should take a closer look at it."

She highlights Canterbury as a suitable area for growing because 
farmers already have crop infrastructure set up.

Some farmers, too, are reportedly weighing up cannabis' potential in 
the light of falling dairy prices.

Time has a habit of making the unacceptable respectable, and here is 
an example.

It will happen.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom