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Cannabis production must be weeded out and put in safer hands

WHO WOULD have thought that Ecclefechan would be the centre, allegedly, of a major industry? A multi-million pharmaceutical business operating out of a small town best known for the fact that Thomas Carlyle is a Fechan boy.

That’s not a swear word, by the way, just an affectionate diminutive.

educate regulate cannabis marijuanaThe slight problem is that the commerce in question is the alleged cultivation of cannabis. If I were mayor of Ecclefechan, I would be delighted at the initiative. The signs at the town limits would say: Welcome to Ecclefechan – Scotland’s Alleged Cannabis Capital.

But society has a down on this natural product. While the folk who were the subject of a police raid last week will not be getting a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, they could end up as guests of Her Majesty.

A large number of decent and otherwise law-abiding Scottish citizens consume cannabis. Lots more would do so if it were not illegal. It seems illogical that so much police time and legal system resources should be devoted to its prohibition. It seems illogical that the provision of this popular recreational drug should be left to people perceived as criminals. Allegedly.

Demand could be met on a safe, controlled and legal basis. I am sure the big pharmaceutical companies are just itching to expand from pills and potions and into the hashish business. The drinks and tobacco giants, who have much experience in selling addictive substances, would love to add dope to their portfolio of products. It makes financial sense. The tax revenue from cannabis would be welcomed by our straitened Treasury. It could fund any number of MPs’ second homes, shopping trips, clean moats and dwellings for ducks.

The supermarket chains would take kindly to cannabis vending. Think about the special offers. Buy a joint of meat and get a free joint of the hash variety. Buy a packet of king-size filter-tip finest Ecclefechan (allegedly) smokes and get a free packet of Nestlé Munchies.

But cannabis consumerism should not be left solely in the hands of big business. I would prefer to buy grass at my local greengrocer where I can be sure of the quality and that the alleged growers are getting a Fairtrade deal. One might prefer to score a deal at a farmers’ market, where the stuff is bound to be organic.

Scotland’s patisseries could do a nice line in space cakes. Genteel tearooms could offer cannabis-laced scones as well as fruit, plain, and wheaten along with the afternoon pot of Darjeeling.

Bars could cash in on the cannabis market, in the manner of Holland’s brown cafés, if it were not for the smoking ban. There is a way for publicans to pursue this profitable line of business. It is called vapourisation and is done with a bit of kit which eliminates undesired compounds in the weed and delivers the pure stuff, the tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), straight into the lungs and thence to the bloodstream. With no smoky toxins and no calories (apart from perhaps that packet of Munchies), this sounds like a healthy way to get stoned.

And there is recycling involved. After the cannabis has been cooked in the vapouriser, there is a residue of cannibinoids which can be mixed with high-proof alcohol and made into a potent drink.

There is a body of opinion that cannabis is a dangerous drug which will lead all our children into addiction and perdition. The yellow press are forever reporting that skunk, a form of cannabis with high levels of THC, turns young people mental and violent.

One young man reportedly “high on skunk cannabis, prowled the streets searching for women victims to act out the sick fantasies he learned from the game Grand Theft Auto”. This sounds more like a case for banning Grand Theft Auto. One social commentator blithely opined that cannabis “is believed to be behind a string of violent murders”.

Author Julie Myerson chucked her son Jake out of the house, claiming his cannabis consumption turned him into a degenerate who was impossible to live with. She wrote a book, The Lost Child, about how her teenage son had been taken away from her by skunk. Jake responded by writing that his parents were “naïve and slightly insane”. This case could also illustrate the highly dangerous and addictive process of writing books about your family.

BBC3, the TV channel for young people, broadcast a documentary Should I Smoke Dope? in which journalist Nicky Taylor tried skunk and reported that it made her paranoid and terrified. For the purposes of her documentary, Taylor had gone to Amsterdam to smoke large amounts of skunk. She also had THC injected straight into her veins.

In previous investigative programmes, Taylor had cosmetic surgery and had a go at binge drinking. To me, this illustrates the danger of gonzo journalism.

In years of observing people who like a toke, I have not detected any great tendency to violent behaviour. Most seem about as dangerous as Dylan in Magic Roundabout. I don’t know anyone whose life has been ruined by cannabis. That Kirsty Wark off the telly allegedly tried it and survived.

I don’t use the stuff much. It makes me too relaxed which, to be honest, I don’t need. I did have a bad trip once in Amsterdam. After indulging in some space cake, I spent half an hour in my hotel room trying to work out what final task I had to complete before going to bed. I finally realised the problem was I hadn’t taken my socks off. My overdose had more to do with an addiction to cake than drugs. The result was hilarity rather than paranoia.

Cannabis has been in use since the dawn of time. Hindus and various other religious sects use it as an aid to devotion.

The mental health charity Sane take a much more serious view. It says there is a link between psychosis and cannabis, particularly in its more potent forms. It says the government should warn young cannabis users that some of them are risking lifelong mental illness.

Which brings me back to my point that if people are going to use cannabis, and it seems that they will, production and distribution of the stuff should be in safer hands.

By Tom Shields

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