Did You Inhale?

Photo by indrasensi
Photo by indrasensi

“Did you inhale?” A cliché of modern politics. Ever since Bill Clinton’s bizarre admission of not-quite-drug-use, that question has become a staple of sniggering journalists everywhere. Meanwhile, “Yes I have and yes I did” has become the boilerplate response for those politicians eager to demonstrate their flawed, human side.

Such admissions are possible because currently, the morality of such individual choices barely gets discussed. “It’s a choice I made when I was young” is the limit of the debate. The transgression is framed as a purely internal, moral choice of the individual. In a liberal, tolerant society, this is not matter for public discussion. (If it were, then another example of tweaking your reality, drinking alcohol, would be dragged into the debate too, and no one wants that). Instead, cannabis use becomes a simple public health issue. The recent furore, in March, was concerned with whether cannabis use can induce psychological problems, and therefore whether class B or C is an appropriate designation.

But there is another argument against cannabis use: It is part of a highly unpleasant and criminal supply chain. For every eighth of hash or bag of weed you buy and smoke, there is a chance that you are lining the pockets of some gangster. Sure, your local dealer is probably a gentle sort, but there is no guarantee that somewhere along the line there is not a more dangerous character who is trafficking in other things too. Heroin. People. It is noteworthy that when a politician is asked about his or her past drug-use, the question is the anodyne “did you inhale?” when it should be “did you know where it came from?” Few of them would know the answer, and “I knowingly contributed to the problem of organized crime and the exploitation of the vulnerable” is a very different mea culpa compared to the usual “I did things when I was young which I now regret.”

It is strange that current debate centres around health issues, since instances of psychosis are relatively small (only 964 instances of cannabis related mental illness were recorded in 2006, compared with 22,000 alcohol related deaths annually). Meanwhile, organized crime is a growing threat and a real social blight. According to the charity DrugScope, it is Vietnamese gangsters who have cornered the market in growing cannabis. They run between two-thirds and three-quarters of illegal cannabis hothouses, forcing illegal immigrants as young as 15 to watch over the harvest. If there is a case for legalization of cannabis, then it lies in cutting off an income stream for criminals, not in arguing over the likelihood of psychosis.

Stereotypically, marijuana is the drug of choice for Lefties, with its connections to hippie counter-culture. (Cocaine, meanwhile, is the unofficial symbol of Thatcherite Britain. A joint is communal property, shared around, but a line of coke is the gift of the wealthy, a self-indulgent, arrogant inhalation of money). One might therefore argue that the immorality of the cannabis trade is a particular problem for the Left, although it is doubtful that these divisions exist so cleanly in reality.

Regardless, it suffices to say that the sinister underworld elements who supply our green, represent a challenge to anyone who considers themselves socially liberal. What is to be done? With legalization still a generation away, progressives need to take matters into their own hands. They need to foster a new drug buying culture, and put more effort into the act of acquiring their drugs. In short, they need to buy Fair Trade Weed.

What is Fair Trade Weed? In short, it is marijuana with a known provenance. The end-user needs to know where it has been grown. It is not enough to simply ask – the ethical toker should insist on being shown the supply chain. Ideally, they should buy direct from the grower. This is probably impossible in the case of organized criminals, so the choice to smoke only Fair Trade dope allows small, home-based business to sprout quickly and fill the niche. This is the cannabis equivalent of the corner-shop versus the multinational supermarket. It is low in smoke-miles (like food miles, but for weed) and should be popular with hippie types.

Finally, an insistence on Fair Trade weed is actually safer. As they buy direct from the grower, or even grown their own, the discerning smoker is afforded greater control over the strength of the herbs they inhale. Ideally, they would attend Pick-Your-Own farms where they are able to pick as many leaves or buds as they wish, thereby curating the strength of their stash.

For those who want to consume prohibited substances, Fair Trade cannabis is the ethical choice. The ease with which one can guarantee that no-one else is harmed by such activities, can be found with no other drug. Cocaine, Ecstasy, Acid, and other fashionable drugs must be refined or even artificially created in a lab, and are therefore bound to the criminal world in a way that need not be true in the case of marijuana. Remember that, next time some candidate or other admits to having taken drugs.

Cross-posted at Progress Online. Photo by indrasensi.

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