review : Put that in your pipe and smoke it

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The Independent Culture
"If the hideous monster Frankenstein came across the hideous monster Marijuana he would have dropped dead in fright," wrote Harry J Anslinger, head of narcotics for the FBI. Actually, as "Pot Night" (C4) revealed, the Monster could have done worse than light up and get mellow ("Sure, I know, the bolts are a bummer, but try to see the real me, man"). These days, as Miranda Sawyer pointed out in A Leaf through the Century, the drug's status has softened considerably. Compared to crack it's positively cuddly and for most young people a joint would be deemed "about as revolutionary as a Take That poster".

Still, the police aren't allowed to break your door down with a sledgehammer if they suspect that a Take That habit is getting out of hand (even though statistics show that it can lead to infatuation with East 17), which meant that "Pot Night" still had a whiff of cautious transgression. The evening began with disapproval, a stern female vox pop arguing that cannabis had introduced her friends to smack and heroin, which felt like they were putting the health warning up front. It ended, for me at least, with Bruce Morton trawling through the coffee shops of Amsterdam for a sanctioned high ("It's beautiful," he said towards the end of his increasingly rambling investigation, "there's like a canal situation out there").

Indeed the scheduling seemed to be based on the principle that the viewers would be getting more and more... well, let's say equable... as the evening wore on. First you got a relatively sober analysis of the drug's social history, then short and useful documentaries about the drug's legal and medical aspects. A Rock and a Hard Place contrasted policing in Leeds and Sweden (despairing and rigorous respectively), while a Pulse Special explored cannabis's potential pain relief. Though tincture of cannabis was still a prescribable drug in 1971 and though Queen Victoria herself had taken cannabis to help with menstrual cramps ("We are not amused, we are stoned") the toughening of drugs law means that it is no longer available for those in chronic pain. More than a few sufferers take a sufficiently dim view of this illogical anomaly (opiates are legally prescribable) to break the law, including a game old lady with cerebral palsy who grows her own from seed bought at a fishing shop.

A little earlier the evening had started to get giggly, with a tongue- in-cheek guide to home cultivation couched entirely in negatives, and from the watershed onwards the brakes were off. Even the advertisers seemed to join in: was the Bisto commercial screened at just before one in the morning aimed at viewers succumbing to a serious attack of the munchies? Certainly the spaced out tampon advert that followed it will have confused some viewers - it was so trippy and laid back that it looked like you were meant to smoke the things. As I was suffering from heavy flu, I simulated the required state of groggy stupefaction with a cocktail of Chardonnay and Night Nurse. It can't have been a very good simulation, though, because I still found it impossible to laugh at the Cheech and Chong movie.

Undoubtedly the best programme of the evening was Joint Ventures, a clever piece of speculation in which Adam Faith investigated how a small businessman might react to legalisation. He hauled in a marketing company to research customer attitudes, visited a hi-tech breeding centre in Holland to select a "defensible" product and finally settled on chocolates as the best commercial vehicle for the drug. His doped up version of After Eight mints ("After eight you'll think you're a giraffe") went down a treat with prospective consumers but there was a problem. They would have to retail at £60 a box if the Government, the biggest dealer of them all, took its conventional cut.