The scourge of the self-righteous stoner

Friday, November 25, 2016
David Sergeant


A response to the Adam Smith Institute's 'The Tide Effect: How the World is Changing Its Mind on Cannabis Legislation'

When will spoiled, liberal, middle class stoners acknowledge that they’re destroying working class lives at home and abroad?

According to a report published by the Adam Smith Institute this week: "cannabis legalisation and regulation is now inevitable." While this supposed ‘inevitability’ may have political and social elites jumping for joy, it’s yet another step toward greater suffering for those vulnerable individuals at risk of damage from the mind-altering drug, as well as their families and communities who are, and will increasingly, be forced to pick up the pieces.

One thing of which we can be confident - none of those responsible for compiling the report praised for its ‘fresh thinking’ and ‘market-based approaches,’ have ever or will ever live in one of the homes or communities, up and down Great Britain, blighted by the genuine heartache and misery caused by cannabis dependency. This however will not halt the ideologues, corporate lobbyists and big-business special interests, dogmatic in their pursuit of recreational drug legalisation. Indeed, Nick Clegg has called those of us who wish to keep our homes and streets free of cannabis an ‘embarrassment.’

Forgive my scepticism, but when the all-knowing beacon of progress and morality, billionaire Richard Branson insisted that, ‘most of us’ could smoke skunk without it doing us ‘any harm,’ I was not immediately convinced.

You see, the problem is that most of the people that Mr Branson has ever met are wealthy, expensively educated elites, who likely have access to the private health insurance he’s so keen for ‘Virgin Healthcare’ to bestow on the rest of us.

Even if Mr Branson was right and cannabis, for most, presented no tangible health risks, this would still not be sufficient moral rationale for its legalisation. If we care about all of our fellow citizens we cannot sacrifice the mental health and of some for the recreational pleasure of ‘most.’

As it is, the well perpetuated myth of ‘harmlessness’ has now been comprehensively medically discredited.

There are few more disturbing things than seeing a friend or relative struggle with mental health issues – a daily battle not with the world but with themselves. The mind, once lost is surely an exceedingly difficult thing to get back.

There are those in Parliament and the media who will appeal to your wallets in the hope that we, like them, will come to prize cash over humanity. The money-worshiping Adam Smith Institute have promised us £1 billion in additional tax revenue every year. All we need to do is legalise the harmless herb. Moreover, if we legalise cannabis, its convenient supply, social acceptability and cheaper price might actually lead to a decrease in those choosing to smoke it…

It’s not just in our own country in which cannabis ruins lives. Wealthy Western demand forces those in producer-nations, blighted by economic desperation and poverty into an existence of violence, intimidation and fear.

‘But if we legalised cannabis then that wouldn’t be an issue anymore and we could all live in peace.’

Rather than insisting on legislative changes before they are prepared to consider ceasing their indirect contribution to the killing of poor people in South-America, could cannabis users perhaps just stop getting high?

Nevertheless, unlike Mr Branson and Mr Clegg, I’m a true believer in democracy. If working-class communities genuinely believe that the best way to combat cannabis is through legalisation, then who am I to argue. The reality is quite the contrary. Time and again polling has found that those groups hardest hit by cannabis, namely the poor and ethnic minorities, believe most strongly in its prohibition. Is this really surprising? After all, the dark world of drug-related crime, violence and addiction hit harder in the streets of Hull than they do in Hampstead. Its working class young people who are least afford to afford the damage that cannabis wreaks on their focus, self-belief and motivation, as well as on their education and career opportunities. If we as a society, truly care about those who suffer the most at the hands of cannabis, maybe we should take the revolutionary approach of listening to what they think we should do about it.

However, there’s little point moaning about cannabis and its toxic effects on society without providing any meaningful solutions. We must counter the false claim that only legalisation can allow for effective and compassionate treatment for those who have become mentally dependent. Judgement-free, abstinence based assistance for those struggling, but willing to cease their habitual high should be well funded and available. This should be coupled with early intervention for those who have developed mental health problems. Likewise, we cannot be seen to be shying away from the debate on drugs, why would we? The facts and the evidence regarding the harmfulness of cannabis stand in our support. Education, countering nonsensical claims that cannabis is ‘twenty two thousand’ times less dangerous than alcohol should be comprehensive. 

Coupled with this, real deterrence must be enforced to stem the demand side of the trade. Rigorous, visible and aggressive policing can drive up the price of weed and mitigate its negative secondary societal consequences. Insisting the only way to tackle drug criminality in working class communities is to capitulate to those terrorising them by legalising their product is defeatist madness. The two-tier, confused policing of cannabis must also be immediately halted, while drug-snobbery and police profiling stamped out. Why are extensive bag searches and sniffer dogs common place at working-class music festivals while glitter-covered Home County revellers at Glastonbury are able to visibly consume drugs without consequence? The message that drugs are ok so long as secondary behaviour does not cause a nuisance must end, replaced by the message that taking drugs is wrong full-stop. Police officers must be reminded that their job is to consistently enforce the law, not enact backdoor decriminalisation.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s certain, rare scenarios in which cannabis can indeed be a force for good. While it possesses no curative potential it would be nasty and dogmatic to deny those with specific, serious, terminal health problems the use of the drug, if they personally feel that it is beneficial in relieving their symptoms. Similarly this article is not an attack on the middle class in general, or even all of those members of the middle class who smoke the drug. While sensible support networks and access to early intervention may help many navigate the pitfalls of cannabis, schizophrenia and depression respect not income nor family stability. It’s our societal responsibility to safeguard all our people from a drug that may not, but may well, ruin their life.

But let’s be honest. The majority of those pushing for cannabis legalisation aren’t doing so because they truly believe it is in the best interests of anyone’s health or even finances. They’re doing so because a world that gets high, is a world that appeals to them. When In Colorado, the CEO of a newly legal cannabis dispensary was asked what the best thing about legalisation was, he rejoiced that: “People who would never have considered pot before are now popping their heads in.” 

We owe it to everyone to resist, with all our might, the ‘inevitable’ social normalisation and legislative legalisation of cannabis.

David Sergeant is an Intern at the Bow Group