As a child protection worker, I have been dealing with young people’s attitudes towards drugs for many years.
The simple fact of the matter is the vast majority of teenagers — and many, many adults — do not believe there is any real harm in using marijuana. And in fact, a huge proportion of them feel it is far better for you, and for society in general, than alcohol.
“The police are called to deal with domestic violence cases caused by alcohol all the time,” Debbie (17) (not her real name), whose father is a garda, told me. “How many times are they called out where a couple have knocked the heads off one another after they’ve smoked a few spliffs? It just doesn’t happen.”
Marcus, who is 18, feels that the negative publicity cannabis receives stems from a desire for societal control.
“Alcohol, nicotine, even caffeine — these are all much worse for you than hash, but they are approved of by the state for economic reasons. Cannabis is criminalised because it is a folk drug. You can grow it easily, it’s cheap and it encourages a sense of brotherhood — all things the Government wishes to actively discourage.”
The suggestion that marijuana might not be as physically or psychologically good for you as its fans might suggest is met with derision. “Any substance is open to abuse if over-used,” Karl, a regular smoker laughs.
“How many alcoholics are there in every town and village in the country? You’ve got to keep a sense of proportion.”
I am forced to wonder, as I listen to all this righteous indignation, should legalisation occur, if these young people would be quite so attracted to their favourite underground toke. It occurs to me that half the glamour is in the act of rebellion.