Drug culture has invaded Middle England

Now I'm expecting my neighbours to come round and ask to borrow a cup of speed
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Now that Keith Hellawell has resigned, he'll need looking after for a while. You must be extremely sensitive when coming down from a five-year-long trip in which you were so removed from reality that you believed you were a tsar. Like most of the people raging against the lowering of dope to a class C drug, he suffers from the hallucination that he's an expert on the effects of this substance he's proud never to have taken, whereas the millions who have taken it know nothing about it. Then he wonders why no one took him seriously.

If you're going to have a drugs tsar, surely it should be someone who could give useful advice, such as "I wouldn't touch that skunk knocking around south London at the moment. Wait till the weekend and there'll be some cracking grass round at Dave's house by Saturday."

Nothing could be more hopeless than his strategy of trying to tell everyone not to take drugs on account of the misery they cause. The reason people smoke dope is because it's enjoyable. If it only caused misery, you wouldn't need a tsar to warn you off it. You don't need an official to warn everyone not to stick their head in a nest of wasps because no one feels the urge to do it. So his message wasn't listened to because it was "Don't try anything that you've heard might be enjoyable. There's no need to seek pleasure, as you can get just as much enjoyment from boredom as you can from fun. When your friends come home 'stoned' they might look as if they've had a good time, but there's nothing like the satisfaction of completing a giant dot-to-dot puzzle or tracing a picture of a cathedral. After all, who do you want to identify with: drug-taking musicians and DJs, or clean-living icons such as Michael Buerk and quizmaster Robert Robertson?"

One expert on yesterday's news claimed the new policy was dangerous because although dope isn't addictive, it "can be a gateway drug for people with addictive personalities". In other words, the fact it isn't addictive is what's wrong with it. If only it was addictive people would stick with it, but because it isn't, these addictive types will seek something else. And you could say the same about lettuce, a frighteningly accessible "gateway salad item".

Dope is so widespread now that if you're under 60, you can't believe the sort of stories you used to get, that "apparently, there was a boy in Dartford, he smoked a puff of that marijooana and now he thinks he's an apple and they can't get him down from his uncle's tree."

Recently, my proper middle-aged neighbours had a party. I prepared to be on my best behaviour but within five minutes the garden was barely visible through a cloud of dope smoke. The nice woman over the road with an alarmingly tidy fish pond told me: "The thing is, darling, we were brought up in the Sixties – with all the stuff we took, it's a wonder we're still alive. Especially my husband – he was a roadie for Led Zeppelin." Now I'm expecting them to come and ask to borrow a cup of speed, "only until my normal delivery comes on Thursday". Someone will go around giving away home-made marmalade, asking: "Which one would you like, dear? I've done some with orange, some with ginger, and some with Lebanese hash oil."

Across Middle England, people are hanging out their washing and telling their neighbours: "We had a quiet weekend, Brian washed the car and mowed the lawn while I got a traditional Sunday lunch of a take-away curry and then we all got ripped on this gear Uncle Norman brought back from Denmark."

Those people objecting to the new dope classification desperately argue that they're concerned for our health. But convincing people to respond to health warnings depends on them being believable – snarling that "dope turns you crazy and leads to crack" is so obviously untrue it's destined to have the same impact as parents who say "finish that bit of carrot or I'm cancelling our holiday". And once someone knows you're talking rubbish about one drug, why should they listen to anything you say about the others? It's as dishonest as fox-hunters who claim hunting helps preserve foxes, or anti-abortionists who say their main concern is for the mental welfare of women. Because hardly anyone objects to all drugs. The problem comes when they're not just taken to ease discomfort but to make people a little happier when there's no initial pain. The disdain is driven almost by a spiritual objection to unearned pleasure.

But these people are fighting a losing battle, as by the time we're one-year-old we're introduced to drug culture, not only stuffed with Calpol but sat in front of four bears who always hug each other, have to hear everything twice before understanding what's been said, wander around a field full of rabbits admiring clouds and end up with the munchies, devouring Tubbytoast.

Comments