Monday 14 March 2016

Weed in the garden?

Over the years, I’ve occasionally touched on the issue of cannabis legalisation. In theory, this is an idea for which I have a considerable amount of sympathy. However, I tend to be put off by the way that many pro-cannabis campaigners make a major plank of their argument the claim that cannabis is far less harmful than alcohol. Surely pro-cannabis and pro-alcohol advocates should be able to make common cause on the argument that both are substances that bring people a lot of pleasure and, if consumed responsibly, do little harm. The two are chalk and cheese and are not directly comparable.

To their credit, the Liberal Democrats have attempted to address the issue of what legalisation might look like. It’s not an issue that I have studied in depth, so I won’t attempt to give any kind of detailed commentary. However, I don’t see why ready-made cannabis joints shouldn’t be made available, and I also struggle to see why imports should be prohibited. Doesn’t cannabis from various locations have different characteristics?

Our first stop is in Bogota
To check Colombian fields
The natives smile and pass along
A sample of their yield
Sweet Jamaican pipe dreams
Golden Acapulco nights
Then Morocco, and the East
Fly by morning light

A couple of points in the report also demand attention from the pub and beer point of view. The first is that it suggests cannabis smoking is something that could be done in pub gardens. I can’t really see many licensees being happy to tolerate that, as cannabis, unlike tobacco, is to some extent a competitor product to alcohol. They might make more money from selling crisps and nuts, but it could give the pub an undesirable image. In any case, many cannabis advocates take the view that it’s not something that really belongs in the pub milieu, and it is better enjoyed separately. Why couldn’t it be smoked in council-owned parks?

The second point is that it proposes that people could set up non-profit-making “cannabis clubs” where they could get together to consume the product. All very well, but why shouldn’t tobacco users be able to create “tobacco clubs”? Which might even be allowed to sell the odd drop of alcohol too? Sounds like a good idea to me.

A fundamental issue that is skated over is that, in practice, cannabis is widely mixed in with tobacco, and the typical joint wouldn’t work without a combination of the two. The same would apply to ready-made cannabis cigarettes. See here, for example. But that creates an uneasy juxtaposition between something that the politically correct want to liberalise, and something they want to restrict. For that reason, if no other, I can’t see cannabis legalisation making much progress in this country.

And if legalisation happened, would cannabis users be subjected to the same degree of health nannying that smokers and drinkers have to endure?


  1. Never used the dreaded weed much myself, just a few times when at university. Never did much for me. Last time I tried it was in a pub, ironically, in a lock-in. It was snunk and it did my head in. Never again.

  2. Snunk? I meant skunk. Sorry.

    1. Is snunk a new super-strong version of skunk? ;-)

  3. Well, I certainly agree that the 'my poison is better than your poison' is often self defeating. I think
    a small minority of pubs would be happy for people to smoke cannabis in beer gardens and if it were not for the
    smoking ban some would allow it inside (the majority would probably allow tobacco smoking). Drinking and cannabis
    are far from mutually exclusive.

  4. Don't get me wrong, if people want to smoke cannabis, perhaps they should be allowed to do so. I have no strong views either way. Me, I'll stick to brown bitter.

  5. I hate cannabis. Due to complete failure on the part of the police its foul smell is everywhere now; I smell it somewhere most days; it comes into my house from smoking passers-by and comes into my car from smoking fellow road-users. I hate it for the squalor and crime that always accompanies it. Legalising the stuff will only create more squalor and crime and would be disastrous for public health. Curmudgeon I am saddened by your "sympathy" with the legalise cannabis people. I am completely opposed to the legalisation and think that the present law against cannabis should be enforced more aggressively.

    1. Surely if you genuinely believe in freedom you should support people's right to do things that you don't do yourself, and which you may even regard as unpleasant or immoral. One of the founding principles of this blog was my opposition to banning something that I don't do, and that when it was lawful I sometimes took steps to avoid.

      Having said that, cannabis legalisation is not something about which I can summon up much passion, and it isn't helped by the "you're worse than me" line taken by many of its vocal supporters. I also don't feel they really get the principle of the indivisibility of liberty. When the Mudgie dictatorship comes to pass, it wouldn't be a first-day priority.

      I also observe with wry amusement the collision course between tobacco control and cannabis liberalisation.

      And to some extent surely the squalor are crime are caused by the very fact that it's illegal.

    2. How have you worked out that legalisation will cause more crime? It takes dealers off the street, regulates to stop the proper grim skunk stuff being sold. You can smell it in your car?!? Don't lie. Why have you got your car windows open in winter and how the hell do you smell it over car fumes and that hot gas that comes out of your mouth Andy?

    3. I don't believe in freedom to commit crime; and there are good, age-old, sound and wise reasons why cannabis use is a crime. Whether or not it is a worse drug than alcohol (and it actually is) legalising it would add another drug's problems to those of alcohol, increasing the burden on the NHS; add to the suffering of families and of society as a whole.

      Crime would not miraculously cease upon the legalisation of pot. There will still be an illegal supply undercutting the legal trade as there is with tobacco, and there will still be an illegal supply to those under whatever the legal age of use is deemed to be, and to follow James' logic there will still be an illegal supply of the stronger, "skunk" types of cannabis which he thinks will be taken off the streets by legalisation. Also, cannabis users will still need to find a whole lot of money for the stuff (because the legal price will certainly not be lower than the current illegal price) and therefore may still commit theft, burglary, muggings etc, to fund their use as before.

      Cannabis has a strong and lingering smell. It gets into a car through the heating and ventilation system and once there stays there for a long time. Drive through Reddish or Gorton, car windows closed, at any time of day or night, to experience this for yourself James.

    4. I think we can translate your comment as:

      "I (that's ME, ME, ME) have an irrational and fanatical hatred of cannabis (which I know nothing about except what I've read in the Sunday tabloids), so I think it should be banned and all those who use it should be imprisoned."

      Because indeed, Andy, your whole comment reeks of utter ignorance and fabrication, and merely displays a quite breathtaking degree of intolerance. In fact I'd wager you probably wouldn't know the smell of cannabis if it came up and barked in your face.

      The smell is everywhere? Comes into your house? Comes into your car? What utter, hyperbolic, juvenile tosh.

    5. "there are good, age-old, sound and wise reasons why cannabis use is a crime"

      are these a secret? Why don't you share them with us, with links to scientific and academic journals that back up your claims of course.

    6. Andy, cannabis has been used by humans for thousands of years. It's only relatively recently that it was made illegal in UK, so these "age-old, sound and wise reasons why cannabis use is a crime", that you speak of, is absolute nonsense (in fact you should do some research into the reasons why cannabis was made illegal and you'll be surprised to learn that it had nothing to do with the reasons you stated).

      Andy's reasoning for cannabis being illegal actually made me chuckle. Some could use similar arguments about making alcohol illegal - drunk people fighting in the street, alcoholics lurking around causing trouble etc. Just because a minority of people may have problems with alcohol, doesn't mean it should be illegal for anyone to use or possess it, so why should cannabis be any different?

      Remember what happened when there was alcohol prohibition in the USA and how that turned out? A substance being classed as illegal can cause more problems to society than if it were legal.

  6. I see your point about mixing tobacco with weed to make joints being a problem selling pre rolled ones. However in the Netherlands they avoid this issue by using a herbal mix alongside weed instead of tobacco. It tastes nicer, is healthier and avoids the whole tax issue.

    1. "It [herbal mix] tastes nicer, is healthier"
      Taste is subjective!
      Where is the evidence that it is healthier?!
      Fair enough about the tax, though, very favourable tax regime!

  7. Forget tobacco. Vaping cannabis is the future.

    To some extent I only think its a competitor to alcohol BECAUSE its illegal and therefore your choice is either to go to the pub OR to stay in and smoke. If it wasn't illegal, that would no longer be a problem.

    Certainly in my experience, most people who sit in and smoke weed do so accompanied by a 4 pack of lager and a whole tableful of snacks.

  8. Yes I've seen people rolling with that 'herbal mixture' in Amsterdam 'coffee shops'. For anyone unfamiliar with the tobacco-smoking laws there, they are less restrictive than the UK, as some small bars can allow smoking and others have separate smoking rooms. Nevertheless I've seen 'coffee shops' where everyone is smoking pot, but to comply with the law, there is a 'smoking area' behind a glass wall for smoking tobacco! At the same time, thanks to recent changes in the law, 'coffee shops' can no longer serve you a beer. And there are, I think, exactly three people in Holland who don't think the whole situation is ridiculous. Anyway it illustrates Curmudgeon's point about the stupidity of the 'ban your pleasure but not mine' mindset.

  9. I agree that it should be legalised. In fact i'd go further and argue all recrational drugs should be legal, but very heavily regulated. Money used on enforcement and punishment for drug crime should go on treatment for addiction.

    Having said that I would not allow cannabis to be smoked in my pub or beeer garden, and I would avoid any pub that allowed it. There are a few reasons, cheifly the smell, and that it would change the social dynamic to something that most people would not be comfortable with (although attitudes may well change over time). I've never been to Amsterdam, might be worth a research trip! Do you think HRMC would let me write it off as a business expense?

  10. Pity there's no country nearby where it's been decriminalised and its sale and use in specially-licenced cafés has been regulated and taxed for decades to draw experience from.

    Seriously, I'm not a user myself, nor would I be if it were legal where I live, and though I would like to see it legalised for the commonly-offered reasons, I think specially-licenced cafés like in the Netherlands would be better than allowing it in pub gardens. Even limiting it to private use (at home, basically) like Oregon has done would be a good start.

    And this bit about mixing tobacco in...I did not know that. It was certainly not done in my youth, and "people" never had trouble getting their joints to smoke well. Ick. I can't imagine toking away and holding it in if there was tobacco in it.

  11. On a couple of points. This is one substance where you can say passive smoking has an effect on those nearby so the only public space it could be conducted would be Amsterdamm type cafes rather than pub beer gardens.

    The reason for sprinkling resin over other leaves is due to the logistics of transporting an illegal substance. Concentrating the active compounds. Not necessary if legal.

    Unlike alcohol, it is easy to produce at home to a superior quality to anything commercial. So talk of taxing and controlling a commercial product is less straight forward. I can grow at home better than you can sell me using kit I got from the garden center. Like I could do with tomatoes if I could be bothered.

    On a personal note, I stopped smoking it at University because I didn't like the dealers that turned up to the Halls. I prefered the company of boozers and my choice of drug was sealed at that point. Liking beer is nothing more than a cultural legacy of being British. I don't think I really liked it as such until my mid twenties. I got used to it because young men of my social class, education, social circle drank pints.

    I was glad I picked booze. The stoners seemed to struggle with an academic process us boozers found unchallenging and straightforward. Takes a lot more booze over more years to addle yourself to the degree stoners seem to manage. All the paranoid addled piss heads I know are CAMRA wallas older than Mudge that don't work and seem to think cask beer is virtuous enough to assist in self denial. A state achieved over many years it seemed to take stoners less than an academic year.

  12. Y'all cowards don't even smoke crack.

    1. Bloody good job too. Brown bitter every time.

  13. I've extracted this from a post I wrote in 2012. My father used to work in the tobacco industry.

    My father told me that the cigarette industry in the 60s was preparing itself for the legalisation of marijuana. They had brand names, packet designs and recipes all ready to go: all that was needed was the lawmakers to do their bit, which of course never happened. I asked him whether he could get me one of the prototype marijuana cigarette packets for interest, but he told me that they had all been destroyed when it was clear that legalisation wasn’t going to happen. I assume that, as the tide turned away from the possibility of legalised marijuana, the industry didn’t want people to know that they had ever taken the idea seriously.

  14. I do not enjoy vomiting. And mixing weed and alcohol will do this every time.

    So avoid even secondhand weed like the plague.

  15. Syd Differential18 March 2016 at 07:31

    I loved weed with a passion.
    Sadly, after four decades of enthusiastic use,it no longer loves my body the way it used to and I finally bade my old friend farewell some years back.
    I occasionally catch a passing whiff and memories of some great times come flooding back - negotiating with smiley locals at the end of Caribbean beaches,uninhibited sex with relative strangers,coming home late after a long working day to find a couple of perfectly-rolled spliffs courtesy of herself and small intimate music clubs in rural America among some of them.
    Weed was both social lubricant and combustible Nurofen to dull some of life's harsher blows.
    Funnily enough I'm not a huge fan of legalising it.It's already freely available at a reasonable price if not of great quality so why get hung up about it.The police these days don't appear to give a toss either.
    And as trying to hold a conversation with a stoner whilst not under the influence yourself is a dreadful bore I wouldn't be at all keen on allowing it to be smoked in pub gardens.

    1. I've suggested in the past that, from the point of view of current users, legalisation might be a double-edged sword.


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