Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting High

[This week the Government rejected the report of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which concluded that marijuana is not as dangerous as Class B drugs, and should therefore remain as a Class C drug]

I rather envied my friends who smoked marijuana. Looking back at old photographs of myself at university, bearded with wild curly hair, I could easily have been taken for a pothead, sitting in a circle on a Flokati shagpile rug with Grateful Dead on the record player. Trouble was, when it came to the passing of the joint, I never knew quite what to do.

There was always some terrifying new-fangled way of smoking it: cupping it in your palm, up your nose, through a bong: every week a new gimmick. Petrified of being found out for the goody-two-shoes I was, at parties I dreaded this illicit game of Pass-The-Parcel and watched the thing approach with growing terror. In the end I turned round, put it in my mouth like a cigarette and took a surreptitious puff.

Then I waited for the euphoria, the relaxation, even a bit of cloud floating. Whilst my friends were giggling like maniacs, I went into the kitchen and unscrewed a bottle of Hirondelle. Half a glass of terrible red wine later, and I could really join the party.

Mind you, it wasn’t the smoking of the joint I found most scary so much as the thought that I might be asked to roll one. It looked straightforward enough: stick three Rizla cigarette papers together; fold up a bit of cardboard for a roach; mix some tobacco and marijuana toegether; then deftly roll the thing up with your thumbs. Like all my failed attempts at woodwork, I knew that if I tried the whole thing would go horribly wrong, disintegrate and set fire to the shagpile.

The truth is, I was the world’s worst hippy. Even when I spent my summer vacation in flower-powered California I never really felt part of the club, man. Maybe it was my terrible purple corduroys and striped brown polyester shirt; perhaps I had too many showers: I neither looked nor smelt the part. Frankly, I never saw what the fuss was about, for my brain stubbornly refused to intoxicate itself. Probably because, like Bill Clinton, I never learnt how to inhale.

Despite the accusations of drug-infused iniquity surrounding the television industry, I only ever once tried cocaine. That was on the night of my 40th birthday when a very good friend of mine, who happens to be a fairly well-known comedian, decided that I really ought to give it a go.

It was 4am and after a very drunken party in a local restaurant about a dozen friends retired to my flat for a nightcap. After my glass coffee table was duly prepared, I did as I was told, snorted like a horse and ignored the assembled groans when I sneezed most of the remaining powder onto the floor. I waited: not a sausage. Until 9am, that is.

I had just crawled into bed when I had a strange, eery sensation that my entire bedroom was upside down. In a cold sweat I switched on the light.

It was real. The room was upside down. But it wasn’t the drug. The wardrobe, dressing table, armchairs and lamps had been upended – it was my comedian friend’s parting joke. That’s the closest I’ve ever got to a psychedelic high.

So I’m not the best person in the world to offer advice on the marijuana debate. However neither, I suspect, is Gordon Brown. I can’t imagine him rolling a “Saturday Night Special” when the Darlings pop round for supper. I guess that’s why the Government set up the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review the status of cannabis — because they wanted real experts to tell us the true story.

Now they have: marijuana is far less dangerous and addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. But we knew that before, didn’t we? So why aren’t fags and beer classified as Class B drugs? Ask the taxman. And why has yet another expert report been ignored? Ask Gordon Brown.


Expat mum said...

Don't forget that stuff stinks to high heaven and made me gag before I got near enough to think about doing anything else. Interestingly in the fairly conservative USA, there are more and more states thinking about declassifying it.

Tom Gutteridge said...

Indeed, there's even talk of a change in the federal law because so many states have relaxed their regulations, particularly with regard to use for relieving medical conditions etc.