Ian O'Doherty

Wednesday 30 July 2014

A nice idea – and you know it'll never happen

Published 28/10/2013|21:30

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Weed save a fortune: Ming Flanagan wants the Government to legalise cannabis
Acting the maggot: Russell Brand

Well, another day another debate about drugs. And, Ireland being Ireland, another debate about drugs that immediately descends into the kind of hallucinatory silliness you'd normally associate with a hit of particularly strong acid.

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Luke Ming Flanagan's suggestion last week that this country legalise cannabis and save €300m in the process has been greeted with derision in some quarters and, let's be honest, that should hardly come as much of a surprise.

But the thing is – and I don't derive any great satisfaction from publicly admitting this – he is probably right, if even for the wrong reasons.

Because the idea that the State would automatically save three hundred million quid in one fell swoop seems, to put it kindly, to be based on voodoo mathematics.

Even if the figures were accurate, it doesn't matter. Because it just ain't gonna happen.

Cannabis will never be legalised in this country because we simply do not have a culture that allows citizens to make their own decisions about what they do with their own body – as we know, allowing adults to make informed choices about how they live their lives has never been part of our social DNA.

The debate over legalising weed has long been characterised by extremists on both sides – and both sides are equally irritating and, sadly, equally prone to hysteria and hyperbole.

On the prohibition side, we are usually treated to scare tactics that are as ridiculous as they are dangerous.

I've sat in rooms debating against anti-drug campaigners who will look you in the eye and tell you with a straight face that dope is as bad as heroin or crystal meth and, what's more terrifying, they actually mean it.

No other public health issue would allow itself to be hijacked by people who not only have no idea of what they're talking about, but who seem strangely proud of their ignorance as they regurgitate long discredited and demonstrably untrue allegations about cannabis leading to paranoid schizophrenia, apathy and eventual chronic addiction.

Statistics show that those who smoke cannabis are no more or no less likely to develop psychiatric disorders while, obviously, anyone who is predisposed towards mental illness should stay away from smoking. But that's the same argument that warns those who are lactose intolerant to stay away from dairy products and we all know that if you have a peanut allergy then you should probably steer clear from a packet of dry roasted.

The debate should be about allowing independent, mature citizens the right to make an informed choice about what they do or do not consume. Instead the prohibition lobby continues to spread misinformation while the pro-legalisation brigade continue to extol the virtues of cannabis with an evangelical zeal that is as stubbornly wrong-headed as the ones their opponents resort to.

Because contrary to what the professional dope smokers would have you believe, cannabis won't suddenly make you a better, happier person who is suffused with Zen-like serenity.

People can and do develop a habit and while it is not a physically addictive substance, the pro-legalisation lobby needs to at least be honest enough to admit that some will become psychologically reliant.

In fact, the dishonesty, dissembling and rambling, tedious propagandising on behalf of dope is enough to turn anybody into a full blown prohibitionist.

But if we were ever to grow up and actually discuss the matter like adults, then we would stop making asinine Reefer Madness-style claims about its dangers or, equally, the painfully Cheech and Chong claims about its benefits. We would simply say that as long as someone is minding their own business, is harming nobody else and, above all, treating the drug with the respect it deserves (not driving while high or operating machinery being the most obvious examples), then it is their own private business.

Anytime I've written about this in the past, numerous readers are quick to accuse anyone who smokes a spliff of being directly responsible for gangland murders.

Well, the answer to that one is simple – allow mature adults to grow enough for their own consumption.

In the meantime, Ming, there is the little issue of trying to get the country back on its feet.

So if you could, y'know, like, try to concentrate on the more pressing matters at hand rather than calling for stoners to be allowed to skin up, that would be great.

REALLY, RUSSELL? ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THAT?

Anybody who saw Russell Brand on Newsnight last week will have seen a typical Brand performance – that of the bright boy who acts the maggot when he should be doing his homework.

Jeremy Paxman was in no mood to indulge the comedian, who was on to discuss his stint as guest editor of the New Statesman, and the presenter's irritation was visible when Brand argued that: "it's not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations."

Far be it for any of us to get into a semantic row, but I would have presumed that apathy is exactly a result of absolute indifference. But he really excelled himself when he discussed the need for the redistribution of wealth and claimed: "Profit is a filthy word."

In entirely unrelated news, Brand was also in the news the other day when he splashed out $2.2m on a swanky new bachelor pad.

Yeah, profit is such a filthy thing, eh Russ?

WELL, AT LEAST HE'S HONEST. I SUPPOSE

Jobless father of nine, Lee Miller, from Dorset says that the £32,000 he earns in benefits every year isn't enough to keep him in the style to which he has become accustomed and warns: "If I don't get more, I'll have to go London to rob rich people."

Which, I'm sure you'll agree, is a compelling argument in his favour.

He then defiantly added on Friday: "People admire the way we look after our children. They are always in school."

Well, as Chris Rock famously says all those years ago: "Your kids go to school? You wanna f***ing medal? They're supposed to be in school, dumb ass."

Obviously, Mr Rock is being terribly judgmental and we shouldn't share such a sentiment . . .

Irish Independent

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