I have smoked cannabis since I was 14. There have been a few breaks, some of a few months, some of a year or two but those apart, I have smoked cannabis every day of my life for nearly 40 years.
I have come to regard weed or hash, in all seriousness, as the Rastafarians do, as “God’s herb”. It is a sacrament, a truly positive, honourable and precious thing in my life. Something that I thank God, I did not miss.
I grew up with smokin’ dope. It was a fundamental part of my adolescent culture with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, with a heady summer living the love and peace dream in Amsterdam. LSD blew my mind in those days but a joint was always a sustaining experience. Something I held onto.
As I grew up and got interested in business, I relished the delicious and maverick escape that I enjoyed. I took it seriously and wrote a 40 page report for the Home Affairs Committee entitled “An Unaffordable Prejudice”.
The prejudice, misinformation and sheer nonsense has continued throughout my life. The idiocy of downgrading cannabis to a Class C drug and then, just two years later, back up to Class B is only outdone by the crass stupidity of failing to decriminalise it completely. Prohibition has proved time after time to be an ineffective solution. Worse than that, the law makes a complete ass of itself by sustaining the criminal supply and distribution of a product that is never going to go away.
Regulation is the only viable solution and would provide the framework to care for those very few who may suffer from cannabis use.
What are the dangers? Clearly any intoxicant offers more potential for harm when used by the young, when the brain is still developing. Despite my own experience, cannabis use should be for adults only. In adults it has been proved to be one of the least harmful substances known to man time and time again – despite the fact that most have actually set out to prove the opposite.
Recently the popular argument has been against skunk, a strain of cannabis that can be up to 20 times stronger than that previously known.
To claim this is a recent development is simply wrong. For at least 20 years it has been difficult to buy anything but skunk and other F1/F2 hybrids of the plant. There are many others: Northern Lights, Haze, Blueberry, etc. In my teens it was difficult to buy anything but Lebanese or Moroccan hashish. In Holland where the market is partly regulated there has always been a wide choice of grass or hash from all parts of the world grown and/or processed in many different ways.
The latest suggestion is that skunk is causing psychoses in adolescents – yet the incidence of psychoses in adolescents has remained constant since records began. This is just the lastest scaremongering. 60 years ago it was said that cannabis caused young women to be promiscuous with black men. The standard of the argument has not improved.
It really is time that this hopeless policy against a benign, natural herbal product was stopped. Hemp is one of the most ecologically friendly, sustainable crops in the world. As regulated cannabis it would pull the rug from underneath a great swathe of criminality and produce billions in additional tax income. As biofuel, building materials, fabrics and cattle feed it could help to revitalise agriculture and many other businesses.