Cut Down At Sundown

Wouldn’t it be beautifully poetic justice if that most frothingly reactionary (in a strong field) of Tory politicians, Ann Widdecombe, was the cause of the most liberal piece of legislation this decade? Her muddled ravings at the Tory Conference about on the spot fines for possession of even minute amounts of cannabis have had the opposite effect to that intended and appear to have at last stimulated a serious debate about the whole issue of controlled substances. It now even seems genuinely possible that a bill to decriminalise cannabis could be before Parliament and on the statute books sometime after the next election.

Whilst assessing the damage to her career at her crypt in Westminster, Miss W need look no further than her colleagues when wondering what helped her score her potential place in history. The Tory party’s innate ability to rip itself apart whenever the opportunity for personal advancement arises meant that no sooner had she spouted her patently unworkable nonsense, we were treated to an unsteady stream of chinless wonders distancing themselves from her remarks and staking their claim for the Shadow Home Secretary’s job should her views cause her to be hounded out; at the last count, over a third of the Shadow Cabinet have now admitted to taking cannabis at some point in their lives. Additionally the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont told on the radio of having once taken a ‘space cake’; a frankly bizarre mental image that could at least possibly explain the events of Black Wednesday.

I’m sure once the millions of pounds from the inevitable cannabis tax start flowing into the Treasury’s coffers even the notoriously puritan Tony Blair will be won over and with senior police officers such as Colin Phillips, the Chief Constable of Cumbria, now openly stating his belief that legalisation of cannabis is inevitable and that he would “do nothing” if he was at a friend’s house and saw somebody smoke a joint, surely the argument Is close to being over.

But why should it boil down to mere finance and why should our elected leaders always need to be led on the drug issue? Why is their first instinct always to crack down on rather than explore the possibilities of each new (and some not so new) drug that comes along? Look what has happened with Ecstasy. It’s no exaggeration to say that a massive opportunity was missed in the late Eighties when Ecstasy use started to become widespread. Instead of examining what it was about Ecstasy that made it such a catalyst for an explosion in creativity and social change – helping to generate an amazing new music and develop a whole new culture based around virtually trouble-free gatherings of people – the government decided that it was an evil that needed to be outlawed and a whole generation of Britons were branded criminals for simply swallowing a tablet. Couldn’t a wider view have been taken?

Couldn’t Ecstasy’s advantages over, say, alcohol have been properly investigated? Even if only because, quite simply, people enjoy a relaxing break from routine. A night’s socialising provides this for many and the most common social lubricant is alcohol. But alcohol is a crude, old-fashioned depressant which can promote verbal and physical violence and regularly leads to headaches and nausea the following day. Surely the human race has outgrown the nonsense of the hangover? In fact, who has time for them anymore? Certainly not employers who bemoan the millions of working hours lost to them every year. Those suffering alcohol’s more sinister long term-effects also clog up millions of NHS beds per year. It’s all so ridiculously unnecessary. Isn’t it time we took a brand new drug?