Sunday, November 1, 2009
[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.