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01/08/2007 00:00:00

UK: Doping the masses

Once upon a time, when men wore their hair long and women didn't wear
bras, calling for the legalisation of cannabis was a vaguely radical
request. It was a two-fingered salute to the powers-that-be, a demand
that the grey-suited squares clogging up the corridors of power butt out
of our lives and let us get our kicks however we please.

Not any more. Today there's nobody squarer than a pro-cannabis activist.
These dopes argue that smoking shit is "responsible" and "civilised" and
far preferable to the apparently lethal activity of swilling lager on a
Saturday night. They're less interested in legalising cannabis as a
strike for individual freedom, than in proselytising about the benefits
of cannabis as a means of social control.

Over the past two weeks of heated debate about cannabis (not that anyone
on dope can ever get properly heated about anything), the main
justification put forward for legalising it is that it is Not Alcohol.
Where booze apparently turns us into reckless, shouty, uncontrollable
wife-beaters, dope makes us placid and polite and about as threatening
as a castrated poodle. Many see cannabis as preferable to alcohol
because it numbs our naughtiness and dulls our desires, and therefore is
better "both for the individual and for society".

The authoritarian instincts behind the pro-dope lobby are clear in its
ceaseless attacks on "binge-drinking". As the author of Clearhead, a
blog by a former cannabis-user, puts it: "[Dope users] look upon the
average drinker with a feeling of moral superiority." The Legalise
Cannabis Alliance refers to alcohol as a "hard addictive drug"; it talks
about "drink-frenzied" Britain, where every drunken Saturday night the
"police try to control the streets and the NHS struggles to cope with
the alcoholic aftermath".

Some commentators have asked why certain drugs are still illegal when
the "biggest drug problem is the sea of cheap booze", giving rise to a
culture of "dysfunctional drinking". On a news discussion board this
week, one contributor summed up the stoners' case against beer: "The
drunk = violent, unpredictable menace to society. The stoner = happy
laid-back, peaceful consumer of many snacks."

Such is the cannabis lobby's hostility to booze that the handful of
short-lived dope cafes that sprung up in Britain in recent years banned
booze from their premises. One had a sign saying: "No alcohol or drunk
and disorderly persons on the premises." Another advertised itself as "a
social meeting place that is alcohol-free and free from violence" (we
get the message: booze makes people mental!) and reminded patrons: "Will
you please bear in mind, alcohol kills 28/33,000 people every year."

They sound more like petit-prohibitionists than radical experimenters.
They're effectively breathing life back into the old Prohibition
movement's argument that beer and whiskey can wreck family and social
life, as they create "safe zones" where strictly no booze is allowed.

Cannabis campaigners explicitly celebrate the drug's "pacifying" impact.
The Hempire, a dope-smoking online collective, says "cannabis is well
known for its calming effects in healthy people" and it can also "help
with sufferers from aggressive disorders". Traditionally, only
totalitarian regimes dared to propose the use of drugs as a means of
pacifying the populace. Now, supposedly radical dopeheads not only weep
about the dangerous sea of booze flooding Britain (sounding like Ann
Widdecombe on weed), they also offer cannabis up as a way of mending
aggressive tendencies in society.

Perhaps this is why some people in positions of authority, including top
cops, have flirted with the idea of legalising cannabis: they see it as
a safer, more acceptable and middle-class alternative to
"binge-drinking", that pastime of chavs and slags which results only in
vomit and violence.

Indeed, European authorities have already conducted cannabis-calming
experiments on football fans. In 2004, the Portugese police adopted a
Here We Blow policy, where they allowed England fans visiting the
country to smoke dope, while simultaneously clamping down on drunken
behaviour, on the basis that dope would "reduce chances of punch-up
between rival fans". The Legalise Cannabis Alliance celebrated this
sinister social experiment designed to modify behaviour through
drug-use. It argued that: "If people are drinking they lose control; if
they smoke cannabis they don't."

In Holland in 2000, during the Euro 2000 football tournament, the
authorities allowed cannabis cafes to remain open late and encouraged
fans to spend their time smoking rather than drinking. One city official
said this helped "relax the fans". Roland Dam, founder of the Cannabis
College, a dope information centre in Amsterdam, declared: "There is
always less trouble when cannabis is involved. Have you ever heard of
anyone smoking a joint and then starting a riot?"

Some are hostile to booze because it is a social drug: it involves
getting together with friends and downing drinks that make you talkative
and rowdy and arrogant and horny. In contrast, cannabis is a mostly
solitary pursuit: you do it on your lonesome and it makes you too dopey
to hold a conversation, let alone put up a fight. As the Clearhead blog
says: "Cannabis users ... tend to be just as happy smoking alone or in a
quiet group rather than in any raucous party atmosphere."

All drugs should be decriminalised and people should be free to choose
what they ingest into their bodies. But there's nothing remotely rad in
the present-day campaigns for legalised cannabis. In fact, there's a
strong whiff of social engineering in the demand to set dope free in
order to "relax" the masses. It fits very well with today's therapy
culture, which seems designed to expunge anger and other edgy emotions
from the human mind and to put anything like fighting or rioting (tut
tut) off the agenda. Today's celebration of dope is about emasculating
cocky men and women in favour of churning out a generation of wasted

Author: The Guardian via UKCIA

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