“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.”
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