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The great marijuana debate

Everyone has their own opinion on whether marijuana should be legalised

“There’s some fierce bad ganja about these days Dr Pat. I blame George W Bush.”

“Do you now?”I asked. It was a quiet afternoon.

“You see, before the Gulf war we had great stuff. It was all resin. No harm at all in it . Then they started the Gulf war and they stopped shipping it. And do you know what happened?”

I could think of many an answer, but a consultation involves a certain amount of fact-finding.

“No.”

“The quality suffered. What do we have now?”

“What indeed?”

“We have grass. Genetically modified, bad quality dope grown by some poor so-and-so from Vietnam, whose family are under a death sentence. Then they catch the poor so-and-so, he goes to jail and the big boys get off scot free. And that grass is terrible. Did you know that back in the day you could have a music festival with 20,000 at it, stoned out of their boxes, and not one fight? Now you have young lads going mad, having hallucinations and hanging around like zombies. And drug dealers going around making a fortune off the back of it in their SUVs like the boys in Love/Hate. I’ll take my cert now. I haven’t all day to sit here talking.”

I thought about it as I left the office and walked to meet my learned friend, who is paid well to know about most things. When I was doing psychiatry 30 years ago and he was already an eminent lawyer, marijuana was not much of a problem. There was always the odd one, but they tended to have more wrong with their lives than a cannabis habit, and did little damage to anybody except themselves. Now I hear that cannabis use is a terrible problem. The question I had was does prohibition work?

“No,” said my learned friend.

“Poitín became a serious problem because they banned it. Before that every townland had a distillery. The quality was excellent. If it was bad then people would not buy it, so market forces ensured good quality. Then somebody got the bright idea of taxing it. Instead of lovingly making the finest of uisce beatha from the best of materials, you had a rushed job in a bothy up the mountains hiding from the redcoats. It was all bog water and methanol. Have you ever sampled grappa in an orchard in the sun?”


I had not.

“Well I have. Made by an Italian doctor in his back garden from his own pears and apricots. And all perfectly legal. If you ban anything the quality suffers and the gangsters move in. Another small one there Brian, good man.”

The newest member at the CME meeting had no doubts.
“It’s addictive,” she said. “Ten per cent get hooked. And then they take every other bloody thing as well. They start young and wake up at 50 with bad teeth wondering what happened. We should have zero tolerance.”

“And if we legalise it what will happen?,” asked her wingman. “Every waster in England will come over here looking for it. Think of the stag parties. No, they should lock up everyone who uses it. That’ll teach them.”

“They would have to ban it all over the EEC,” said the oldest member.

“They don’t call it that anymore,” snapped the newest member.

“And then there’s the Medical Council,” went the oldest member, ignoring her. “Sure that lot would have your licence if they knew that you owned a Bob Marley record. Mind you, it seems to be good for all sorts. I have aches in every bit of me. If it was even half as good as they say it is then I could do with it. But sure I can’t afford to get struck off and stop working, not since the business with the primary care centre.”

“What’s a Bob Marley? And what’s a record?,” asked the newest member. “I come here to learn, you know.”

I cycled slowly home. A local drug dealer was parked nearby, his new SUV churning diesel into the evening air. The young guards slept soundly in their poverty stricken bedsits; their clocks set so they could rise early and breathalyse the parents sitting in the traffic jam at the gaelscoil. The grannies were smoking outside the Bingo hall, happily trading benzos and z drugs. The yellow flowers of St John’s wort bloomed in the hedgerows, flaunting their illegality. Ragwort stood sulkily in the fields; no guard had looked at them in years. Children lay cuddled in their sleeping bags in doorways. A reggae band played in the pub as young women in high heels vomited on the pavement outside. I put my head down and hurried home, humming ‘redemption songs’.

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