The puritan spin machine in action…

A couple of good “ooh, isn’t cannabis awful” stories around today: apparently EEEEVIL DEEEEEALERS are targeting loonies; while a particular variety of cannabis is now more popular than other varieties, and this is a TERRIBLE THING.

The first story isn’t news. It is entirely certain that there is a correlation between mental illness and cannabis smoking, with some mental patients smoking cannabis as a form of self-medication (although it has not been demonstrated by anyone ever that there is a causal link betwen cannabis smoking in adults and mental illness – just that it can exacerbate already-present tendencies towards schizophrenia).

But it’s clearly not an “evil dealers” thing. People who smoke cannabis tend to have friends who do the same, and who view smoking it as a harmless-to-good thing. Small-time cannabis selling is a near-zero-profit activity which involves people sorting out their mates. So the first story really says “stoners like to sort their friends out if their friends are having a shitty time of it, although perhaps their way of doing so isn’t the wisest”.

The second story is more clever, and more insidious. It’s based around the entirely stupid meme that old-style hippy peace-‘n’-love cannabis like what Jacquie Smith smoked is harmless, whereas this new evil skunk stuff will turn you into a gun-toting Yardie in ten seconds flat.

It’s clever because it allows prohibitionists to get round the whole Lenny Bruce concept of “the many law students who now smoke pot will some day become congressmen and legalise it in order to protect themselves”. The government can now say to all the ex-toker baby boomers “ah, but your personal experience is worth nothing – you only smoked weed, whereas this stuff kids are smoking now is a serious, proper drug that will totally flip you out, dude.”

The fact that it’s complete and utter bollocks is more or less irrelevant. More distressingly, the fact that it’s transparently and obviously complete and utter bollocks is more or less irrelevant. I know, because I smoke cannabis from time to time and have been doing for the last 15 years or so (without any major impact on my personal or professional lives) that there have been two trends in cannabis availability over that timeframe:

1) good stuff, rather than diesel-flavoured resin that’s been up a Moroccan trucker’s arse, is more readily available than it was ten years ago
2) said good stuff is slightly stronger than it was ten years ago, but by a factor of about 50% (it remains about twice as strong as trucker’s-arse resin, which has also increased slightly)

This is borne out by the actual data, not to be confused with random lies about “SUPER SKUNK SO POWERFUL ONE PUFF CAN DRIVE YOU MAD” (fuck knows what the source for the latter is – do the police even believe the stories they’re peddling?)

The problem is, while it’s socially acceptable for non-anonymous writers to say “I smoked cannabis 15 years ago and it was fine”, it’s not socially acceptable for non-anonymous writers who don’t want to be identified as Druggie Writers to say “I still smoke cannabis now, and this stuff about superskunk is the most ridiculous hoax ever perpetuated on anyone”. And this includes your (slightly ashamed of his lack of principles) host.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure: while beating people to death if they lie that cannabis causes major social problems would be fair enough, it probably wouldn’t do much to win the public’s sympathy. And I don’t think it’s fair to ask people who harmlessly break the law on a regular basis to publicly out themselves (I’m certainly not joining the queue). So it’s a pretty depressing situation, with idiot puritans taking the upper hand because – unfortunately – nobody ever got fired for being an idiot puritan…

Note: I wholeheartedly accept that cannabis use may make your teeth fall out. Until we ban Coca-Cola, this doesn’t really go beyond the ‘mildly interesting but entirely irrelevant to anything’ notch on the radar.

5 thoughts on “The puritan spin machine in action…

  1. Geoff says:

    Not entirely sure whether cannabis itself causes your teeth to fall out – falling asleep stoned on the sofa before you can brush your teeth however….

  2. Jim Bliss says:

    As it happens, I suspect I was identified as a “Druggie Writer” many years ago (when I edited a zine extolling the virtues of a harm-reduction approach to recreational drug use and received occasional visits from the police as a result), so the horse has already bolted on that one. A few months back I published a short piece on my blog regarding the myth of stronger cannabis.

    And it is a myth. In reality, aside from anecdotal evidence such as your own experience*, there’s no statistical evidence that cannabis has gotten stronger since the early 1970s when the first studies were carried out.

    * Even the anecdotal evidence is kind of dubious. I too have noticed that over the years, the cannabis I’ve been smoking is stronger and better quality (less adulterants). But I suspect that’s down to a number of factors, one of which, I admit, is the greater availability of quality weed as opposed to soap-bar hash (the Moroccan trucker’s arse brand). But just as important is the fact that these days I can afford to buy an ounce of quality weed when I want, whereas 15 years ago, I was looking for the cheapest teenth available in North London. These days I seek quality over cheapness.

  3. Jim Bliss says:

    Note: I’ve just read that Guardian article. I’m very interested in reading the results of the studies currently being compiled in the UK. Not the headline soundbites that make a newspaper column, but the actual details. I’d be very surprised if they discovered anything other than what’s already been discovered by the US studies (i.e. that cannabis strength has not changed significantly, but that the stronger varieties — which have always been available — are getting a slightly higher “market share” than was previously the case.

  4. Larry Teabag says:

    All these years I’ve been wondering what was going on with your Shane McGowan look…

  5. PDF says:

    All these years I’ve been wondering what was going on with your mum’s Shane McGowan look…

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