It's 2000, and Britain's mellow, man

Jim White imagines a future in which dope is as legal as wine
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The Independent Online
Here's a hypothesis. As a celebration of the new millennium, cannabis is legalised. To prevent widespread exposure to the carcinogens produced when the stuff is smoked, it is decided that, initially, it should be exploited commercially in food. The government presides over an auction for the rights to market dope, which is won by a consortium whose chairman, coincidentally, is a former health minister.

Richard Branson is said to be furious that his brand of dopecake, Virgin Munch, does not win the bid, and is hardly pacified when the home secretary announces that the regulatory body of the marijuana trade, OffReef, is to be headed by Norman Lamont.

The first line of dope-eats on the market is a type of chocolate with a chewy, dark, Lebanese-originated centre, known as High Time. Available at selected off-licences and pubs, it becomes an instant success, at a stroke reviving the economy in Beirut.

Such is the demand that the government allows reefer consumption, but, worried by the increasing trade gap in grass, insists that the marijuana is home-grown. Shares in B&Q immediately double in value when the company introduces an enormously popular rapid-grow lightbulb and sells out of window boxes. And 7-11 stores announce that they are to recruit 25,000 more staff nationwide to cope with the rush for junk food at 3am.

In the late Eighties, dope became fashionable among football supporters; the cloud of marijuana smoke enveloping the Stretford End, for instance, in the spring of 1988 was almost impenetrable. It was no coincidence that hooliganism began to decline at the same time: a mellow fan is not a fighting fan. Indeed, according to Richard Kurt, the football sociologist and author of United We Stood, the introduction of all-seater stadiums and closed-circuit television in the mid-Nineties meant that fans were less inclined to "skin up" at matches, for fear of instant arrest.

"So they turned back to alcohol, which may well explain the recent upswing in hooliganism," says Mr Kurt.

Thus it is no surprise that when marijuana is legalised, the first effect is on attitudes to violence. Cinema audiences merely giggle their way through Natural Born Killers IV and attendances at boxing matches dwindle as spectators wonder why these guys are, like, getting so heavy with one another.

Police domestic violence units are gradually disbanded as it is found that, with the widespread replacement of alcohol by dope, husbands stop battering their wives. Likewise, youths refrain from stabbing each other with beer glasses outside pubs at closing time, and most hospitals discover that they can close their accident and emergency wards at 5pm on a Saturday, with enormous savings for the Exchequer.

There are downsides, inevitably. Traffic in town centres reduces to a crawl as every driver gives way to everyone else at roundabouts; the City of London stops being a world leader in financial services as traders really fail to see the point of getting up at 5.30 in the morning, putting on a bizarre blazer and spending the day shouting at each other; and several tabloid newspapers go out of business when their photographers refuse to snap the Royal Family, reasoning that it is, you know, kind of a bit heavy to invade their space like that.

Legalisation of cannabis signals the end, in other words, of civilisation as we know it.