College days remembered

In The autumn of 1969 I was a research student in the English department of Manchester University, a late entrant who'd intended to continue his studies at Hull. Despairing of the loneliness of postgraduate life in a new town, I was happy to fall in with a crowd of interesting, bar-based students, the nucleus being a fellow English researcher who'd just returned from a creative writing course at an American university and had been in the same class as reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon. Cool.

One evening in his flat in the Fallowfield area, I "turned on" for the first time. A bunch of us sat around on cushions as the joint was rolled and passed around. At the time I felt nothing, and couldn't understand why people paid so much for so little of the stuff: I felt the same way several hours later after I'd waded through half a dozen

chicken biriyanis. The person who brought and supplied the dope was new to me. He was Ed Straw, and was and is the younger brother of Jack, then a feisty student leader across the Pennines in Leeds, now the Home Secretary. He was accompanied by his splen did sister, Sue, a blonde ringer for Patti Boyd, then beloved of George Harrison and later to marry Eric Clapton. At the time, Ed was what could be termed "an enthusiastic user", certainly no pusher, not even a dealer, but someone from London, a notch ab ove the rest on the hip-scale, and a guy who could always lay his hands on it, it seemed. God bless him. This incident, pleasantly remembered and lost in the narcoleptic mists, has gnawed at me for some time: ever since such uptight attitudes were assumed by certain members of the Labour cabinet on the subject of decriminalisation; especially since thenews that instead of a proper debate on a subject that remains a fundamental issue of civil liberties, the Government intends to ape the Americans and appoint a "drugs commissar" - aah, those reassuringly English phrases. Though I make no allegations about J ack Straw's behaviour or beliefs - he had and still has his own agenda - the incident does mirror the hypocrisy of a government that on the one hand celebrates its long-haired past, its love of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, a government that invit es Noel Gallagher to No 10 and talks excitedly about its links with the young, and then - when it suits - tries to deny its own roots, its own history. Several people were present on this evening, three with whom I'm still in touch: one is a company director, another a headmaster, the third a senior lecturer at a college in an area of Wales not known for its progressive lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, none of them wants to be involved though all are sympathetic and, like me, hardly regard a retelling of these sub-hippy japes of nearly three decades ago as an act of betrayal. Of course it may embarrass Jack Straw, may even make him accept that marijuana is not as alien and unfriendly a substance as his previous pronouncements may indicate. I'm sure he considers it a trivial issue: people used to think the same about the laws against homosexuality before their reform, a year before this incident occurred. Then otherwise law-abiding citizens went around scared, risked disgrace and blackmail; now so many people, from plumbers and milkmen to local government heads, head teachers and BBC executives, feel very much the same way. I expected better from this new government: I expected something honest and grown-up, not the same kind of ill-informed, "I didn't inhale" garbage. After all, we survived, didn't we? Those of us, that is, who haven't been driven mad by LSD, killed by her oin, or battered, bothered and bewildered by those more familiar scourges, alcohol and tobacco. "We can't legalise cannabis: we don't know its long-term effects." But we do know the long-term effects of alcohol and tobacco, so why not ban everything? Come on, Jack and co, do something positive about the ludicrous state of our cannabis laws. The drug culture is already with us: in music, on film, in books, on the stage, on television - didn't we all howl with delight as Rab C Nesbitt got smashed in Am sterdam, or when EastEnders threw a hash-cake party? And while Rizla will tell you that its highly successful, king-sized cigarette papers have absolutely nothing to do with the joint-rolling subculture, just ask yourself: do you know anyone who smokes k ing-size, roll-up cigarettes?

The writer is executive editor of 'Time Out'.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect