Parent's peril in the great dope debate

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The Independent Online
ANY MINUTE now, someone is going to telephone and ask me to comment on today's House of Lords report on smoking dope. I hope it's that nice girl from Sky Television.

Last time I appeared on Sky News, they paid me a hundred quid. Not bad for an interview consisting of two questions lasting approximately 97 seconds.

Q: Cannabis is an illegal substance. Knowing that you're breaking the law, why do you smoke it?

A: Because it improves my eyesight.

Q: Are you in favour of decriminalising cannabis for medical purposes?

A: Sure.

There's a bit more to it than that and, depending on how much time they give me, I rabbit on about this tiresome hereditary complaint I have known as retinitis pigmentosa, which makes everything I see, especially faces and print, as blurred as if I were attempting to focus through a jam-jar darkly.

Late-night chat shows are more generous. Late-night listeners are a peculiar breed, let's face it. If they were normal they'd be asleep. Nutters calling from lonely phone boxes I can cope with, it's the know-alls up to their armpits in statistics that throw me. "I take it Ms Arnold is familiar with the second draft amendment to the recent government White Paper on recreational drugs which states categorically ..."

No, Alistair from Tring, I am familiar neither with the amendment nor the White Paper. Even if I were I doubt it would help me make up my mind about the second and far more controversial part of The Great Cannabis Debate upon which their Lordships will inevitably be asked to debate, namely should we go the whole hog and decriminalise cannabis altogether?

Now this is serious stuff. Legalising pot for medical reasons hardly needed debating. It so obviously needed to be done.

Do I think cannabis should be legalised? If you'd asked me before this year's A-level results came out I'd have said yes. I'm liberal, I'm broad- minded, I'm tolerant, I'm modern. But when the 17-year-old told me his A-level results I went ballistic. I call his teacher, what happened? "With the best will in the world you can't teach kids about the finer points of Shakespearean imagery when they're stoned," she said.

By all means let us legalise cannabis for recreational purposes, but let us add a proviso and make it available only to adults.

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