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7 The Weed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Laurie   
Wednesday, 09 March 2011 00:00

7 The Weed

Cannabis, marihuana, hashish, pot, charge, tea, ganga, grass, and ten dozen other names; the weed is now probably the most widespread illicit drug in the United Kingdom, with between 30,000 ' and 300,000 users.30

The marihuana plant is a relative of European hemp, looks rather like a scrawny, six-foot nettle, and grows well anywhere ' hot. Although it is cultivated under glass in several parts of England, notably round Windsor, the best supplies come from the Middle East, North and West Africa, India and the West Indies. The dried leaves — tea or pot — are smoked as or with , tobacco in cigarettes or pipe-like devices; the resin distilled from the sticky flowers is made up into cakes that look rather like Oxo, are called hashish, and are used crumbled into cigarettes.

Its effects are well known. As seen from the outside it produces a very characteristic reddening of the eyes, dryness of the mouth, increase in appetite, and the subject 'exudes a strong odour of burning grass'. The physical signs are slight and unimportant, compared to the spectrum of mental effects:

... (a) dulling of attention, (b) loquacious euphoria of variable duration, (c) usually some psycho-motor activity ,and affective lability coloured by the underlying personality [i.e. emotional reactions are likely to become misplaced or misdirected — an example with another drug, alcohol, would be flirtations at a cocktail party], (d)perhaps some distortion of perception and time sense, depending on the dose, (e) perhaps some lassitude culminating in deep sleep if the dose is suffi-
cient.'

Although cannabis is more closely related to the hallucinogens than to any other drug, Michaux, after repeated experiences with both, writes: 'Compared to other hallucinogenic drugs hashish is feeble, without great range, but easy to handle, convenient, repeatable without immediate danger:2 Théophile Gautier gives a classic account from the inside:

My body seemed to dissolve and I became transparent. Within my breast I perceived the hashish I had eaten in the form of an emerald scintillating with a million pointa of fire. My eyelashes elongated indefinitely, unrolling themselves like threads of gold on ivory spindles which spun of their own accord with dazzling rapidity. Around me poured streams of gems of every colour, in ever-changing patterns like the play within a kaleidoscope. My comrades appeared to me to be disfigured, part men, part plants, wearing the pensive air of Ibises. So strange did they seem that I writhed with laughter in my corner and, overcome by the absurdity of the spectacle, flung my cushions in the air, making them twist and pun with the rapidity of an Indian
juggler.

The first attack passed and I found myself in my normal state without any of the unpleasant symptoms that follow intoxication with wine. Half an hour later! fell once more again under the domination of hashish. This time my visions were more complex and more extraordinary. In the diffusely luminous air, perpetually swarming myriad butterflies rustled their wings like fans. Gigantic flowers with calyxes of crystal, enormous hollyhocks, lilies of gold or silver rose before my eyes and spread themselves about me, with a sound resembling that of a firework display. Mi hearing became prodigiously acute. I actually listened to the sound of the colours. From their blues, greens and yellows there reached me sound waves of perfect distinctness. A glass inverted, the creak of an armchair, a word pronounced in a deep voice, vibrated and rumbled about me like the vibrations of thunder. My own voice seemed so loud that I dared not speak for fear of shattering the walls with its bomb-like explosion. More than five hundred clocks seemed to announce the hour in voices silvery, brassy or flutelike. Each object touched gave off a note hie that of a harmonica or an aeolian harp. Floating in a sonorous ocean, like luminous islands, were motifs from Ludo and the Barber of Seville. Never has greater beauty hummed me in its flood... .3

And so on; a vision of a world so fantastic and charming that one is averse to follow him there, for fear of trampling on his silver flowers. It is interesting that he describes synaesthesia — `the sound of the colours' — the crossing of perception from one sense to another, which is very characteristic of the L S D- induced state. Baudelaire, another member of the Club des Haschischiens which used to meet at the Hotel Pimodan in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the mid nineteenth century, emphasizes that the hashish hallucination transforms the real world rather than — as we find with LSD — creating an unreal internal world. The hallucination is progressive, almost voluntary, and ripens only through the action of the imagination. Sounds may seem to say strange things, but‘ there always was a stimulus there in the first place. Strange shapes may be seen, but before becoming strange the shapes were naturaL4

The drug's exotic and euphoric effects accorded perfectly with the floridity of Parisian intellectual life a century ago. The wonders of the East were being unfolded, the French were colonizing Africa and fertilizing themselves with Arab culture. Doctor Moreau de Tours brought dawantesc from Algeria — a mash made up of hemp plant tops, sugar, orange juice, cinnamon (itself a marihuana-like drug), cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, musk, pistachios and pine kernels — and, balancing on the little green, smelly nuggets, the Club made strange voyages. It is likely the common dose then was far larger than smokers get today. Ludlow, the young American who published the anonymous Hasheesh Eater in 1860, reports that he took fifty grains at a time, a quantity which would now be called a severe overdose, and that the effects lasted for days. A medical volunteer in a recent experiment took forty-eight grains, grievously twitted his superior on his newly acquired Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians, and felt for a while that 'time and space seemed compressed into one bright minute, during which all was gay talk, and myself the carefree centre of it all.' Dosed with largactil and intravenous dextrose — the insertion of the needle was exquisitely painful — he recovered within three days. The fatal dose is said to be about one and a half pounds of hashish.5

An experienced smoker, who stops when he has reached the peak of euphoria, is unlikely to feel the effects of the drug for more than eight or ten hours, will hardly experience the excitement of the Club, and will suffer no hangover. His experiences 90 while the effect lasts are very much dependent on his mood to begin with, because, Me alcohol, marilmana intensifies one's original state of mind. William Burroughs says: depression turns to despair, anxiety to panic, it makes a bad situation worse.' It is impossible therefore to say that cannabis either does or does not produce crime, sexuality or indeed any particular social effect. These forms of behaviour are at several unpredictable removes from the centres of action of the drug in the brain; character, training, social situation, all are involved in the drug user's final behaviour as society sees it.

Intellectually, the drug increases imagination but reduces concentration.6 Intelligence-test scores are slightly lower or unchanged, and if attention is held, say in a game of poker, an expert player can more than hold his own against other good players? Jazz musicians claim that they play more excitingly under the influence than without; in simple — but musically sterile — laboratory tests of note identification and beat duration their performance is worse on the drug.6 A group of painters and musicians, asked to map out a programme of activity before taking the drug, and then left to themselves under its influence, failed to achieve anything.

It is worth quoting this rather moving letter from a woman to the Canadian Commission of Enquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, and printed by them in their interim report:31

In his bid to solve the `generation-gap' our middle son brought a packet of marihuana to us for a Christmas present a year ago. I was slightly horrified because I hoped, like most other parents, that my children were not using it. I was not prepared to try it then. However, with the sanie sort of persuasion that had previously won him the permission to keep a live garter snake, paint his room in odd colours, and study art instead of mathematics, I tried it as did his father, brother and sister.

Not too much happened the first time, except that a kind of mellowness settled over the family. We smiled a lot and listened to music that seemed somehow less forbidding than when the kids played the records previously. The next night we smoked the rest of it, and the place started swinging. It was really marvellous. Everyone managed to talk together, about trivialities mainly, there was no tendency to put down anyone. Opportunities to complain or dig at the lack of academic dilhgence that was always part of the previous conversations with this boy stem ignored, and father in particular listened to some of his ideas with a semblance of civility. That alone made the experience worthwhile. The family that night was closer together than anytime I can recall. I was greatly surprised to seethat what had seemed to be many hours was only an hour and a half. We were all very happy together, and went off to our rooms feeling as if we loved each other for the human beings we were, not for mere points on a scale of achievement.

For the first time in years my husband and I talked for an hour or more about work, plans, memories, problems and possible solutions — all things we never discussed with each other because of the old scientist/ humanist  conflict and the rivalries that develop between people in conflicting fields of interest. The miracle is that he seemed also to be a human being, and not only a work machine that ignored people, and particularly his family. I must have seemed somewhat more reasonable to him too, as he did not try to depreciate my interests.

The real miracle followed when we had intercourse. Instead of the dull, perfUnctory act it had become, usually indulged in on my part because it made it possible to get out of it the next night, sex was something splendid. All the old routine thrust and counter thrust to get it over with as soon as possible disappeared. The sensation was extraordinary, each second was a kind of new adventure, each movement an experience, and the climaxes beautiful beyond description. It was far more beautiful than the first weeks of marriage, and the glow of fuffilment lasted throughout the next day. It was both a physical and intellectual rediscovery between two people who knew each other too well for too long.

In an important examination of the addictive qualities of cannabis a group of American prisoners were allowed as much as they wanted of a synthetic version of the drug — pyrahexyl compound — for a month. The ordinary effects were seen at first, then euphoria gave way to lassitude after a few days; the subjects became careless, their pulse and temperatures fell, and their weight increased. They found comprehension, analytical thinking and tests of manual dexterity difficult Their inhibitions were decreased, and they were more suggestible. The dominant frequencies in their EE G traces were slowed down. On withdrawal of the drug one subject had a slight panic reaction and another a mild manic excitement, but there were no withdrawal symptoms and no demands to continue.'
Recently there has been some interest in Eastern Europe in cannabis as an antibiotic. It is reported to be active against gram-positive organisms at one part per 100,000. But since it is ineffective in the bloodstream, it seems that its use is confined to ear, nose and throat conditions.8

Marihuana as a Social Menace

The social position of no other drug is as equivocal as that of cannabis. It is variously represented as a vicious scourge or a harmless diversion. In both America and Britain it is controlled as rigidly as heroin, yet the Lancet recently ran an editorial suggesting that the indictment of cannabis was hardly proven, and that although one should be cautious in relaxing controls, the State might do better out of taxing the legalized sales of the drug than it does from fining detected illicit use.9 Responsible doctors are prepared to publish statements like this:

I would be far happier if my own teenager children would, without breaking the law, smoke marijuana when they wished, rather than start on the road of so many of their elders to nicotine and ethyl alcohol addiction.10

Although it is very like LSD in its effects, there is little intellectual interest in it at the moment, and its use is found among relatively isolated groups.

As a matter of form, marihuana was outlawed here in 1928 when Great Britain ratified the Geneva Convention of 1925 controlling the manufacture, sale and movement of dangerous drugs — principally opiates, cocaine and cannabis. We had then no sort of social problem with the drug in this country, and no prospect of one; the ratification was simply so that we could suppress drug traffic in colonies and dependent countries. The drug first became a problem for the West in America during the hysterical thirties. Three titles from a bibliography of the period show which way the wind was blowing at all levels of sophistication:

Marihuana as a Developer of Criminals,11 Sex Crazing Drug, Menace,12 Exposing the Marihuana Drug Evil in Swing Bands.13

The opposition demonstrated their intellectual degeneration in, songs like this:

Sweet Marihuana Brown

In her Victory Garden

The tea grows all around,

She plants, you dig,

She flips your wig.

Get help, take care,

Look out, beware

Of Sweet Marihuana Brown.

Boy that gal means trouble

You ought to put her down

Every time you take her out

She's bound to take you in

Sweet Marihuana Brown."

The marihuana scare seems to have begun in this country in the mid fifties with the emergence of the coloured immigrant as a social problem. One serious-minded work, Indian Hemp, a Social Menace, was published by a barrister in 1952;15 he quotes as a crushing indictment of the drug and its users a series of articles from the Sunday Graphic — a now extinct journal. They begin:

After several weeks I have just completed exhaustive inquiries into the most insidious vice Scotland Yard has ever been called on to tackle — dope peddling.

Detectives on this assignment are agreed that never have they had experience of a crime so vicious, so ruthless and unpitying and so well organized. Hemp, marihuana and hashish represent a thoroughly unsavoury trade.

One of the detectives told me: 'We are dealing with the most evil men who have ever taken to the vice business.' The victims are teenage British girls, and to a ler extent, teenage youths....

The racketeers are 90 per cent coloured men from the West Indies and west coast of Africa. How serious the situation is, how great the danger to our social structure, may be gathered from the fact that despite increasing police attention, despite several raids, there are more than a dozen clubs in London's West End at which drugs are peddled.

As the result of my inquiries, I share the fear of detectives now on the job that there is the greatest danger of the reefer craze becoming the greatest social menace this country has known.

The other day I sat in a tawdry West End club. I was introduced by a member, a useful contact both to me and the police.

Drinks sold were nothing stronger than lukewarm black coffee, `near beer' or orangeade.

I watched the dancing. My contact and I were two of six white men. I counted twenty-eight coloured men and some thirty white girls. None of the girls looked more than twenty-five. In a corner five coloured musicians with brows perspiring played bebop music with extraordinary fervour. Girls and coloured partners danced with an abandon — a savagery almost — which was both fascinating and embarrassing. From a doorway came a coloured man, flinging away the end of a strange cigarette.

He danced peculiar convulsions on his own, then bounced to a table and held out shimmering arms to a girl. My contact indicated photographs on the walls. They were of girls in the flimsiest drapings.

'They are, or were, members,' I was told.

We went outiide. I had seen enough of my first bebop club, its coloured peddlers, its half crazed, uncaring young girls.

In their way, the pieces are small masterpieces of mass Sunday indignation; but one feels they come to the point d'appui only at the end of the last article:

'The day will come,' said the dusky Jesse, 'when this country will be all mixtures if we don't watch out. There will be only half castes:16

The book goes on to suggest with legalistic subtlety that cannabis could be the instrument of the perfect crime — a secret dose, a psychosis, committal to mental hospital, a power of attorney — Heavens, the deed box! Exactly the fantasy that is advanced against L SD now.

Investigations into the Social Effects of Cannabis

The first properly conducted inquiries into the effects and harm done by the drug seem to have been those of the U.S. Army in the Canal Zone in 1932-3.17 It was concluded that marihuana presented no threat to military discipline, and 'there is no evidence that marihuana as grown here is a habit-forming drug in the sense in which the tennis applied to alcohol, opium, cocaine, etc. and that no recommendations to prevent the sale or use of marihuana are deemed advisable.'

Indeed Murphy, reviewing the recent psychiatric literature in the W.H.O.'s authoritative Bulletin on Narcotics, says:

The majority of the papers here reviewed hold fairly clearly that cannabis is 'habit forming' rather than 'addiction producing' (in terms of the now obsolete W.H.O. definitions). Most individual users intensively studied could accept or abandon the habit without withdrawal symptoms; none of them showed true physical dependence; none of them had shown a-tendency to increase dosage, and most, when given as much as they asked for, tended to be quite moderate in their demands or to reduce dosage.'

The only reports of marihuana 'addiction' in Western society come from two groups of misfit American Army soldiers who seem to have been angling for discharges on the grounds of their drug use. Their cases are of some interest, because they illustrate vividly how even a drug that is agreed to have no physically addicting properties can nevertheless produce intense psychological dependence in personalities that suffer from sufficient social and psychological imbalance.

The two psychiatrists in charge of one group, mainly of coloured men, write:

Marihuana addicts are unaffected by social disapproval, rewards, punishments or any of the incentives or deprivations which affect the behaviour of normal or even neurotic patients.. .. A completely adequate estimate of the effects of marihuana can only be obtained by viewing its use as part of an entire life pattern. The problems of marhuana addiction cannot be understood from the study of its effects on non-addicts or on persons who do not become addicts — that is on persons to whom the personality problems of addiction are foreign. It needs to be emphasized that the problem is not the drug, but the users of the drug— the addict in relation to himself and society.

As a group their backgrounds were heavily loaded with adverse familial, social and economic factors. Their histories were characterized by delinquency and criminal behaviour and failure to develop any consistent life patterns of productive work. In fact, they felt and acted like enemy aliens towards society.

The personality picture of such addicts shows a typical response pattern to repeated situations of frustration and deprivation. This consists on the one hand of immediate and constant gratification of the need for sensual pleasure and for omnipotence, as well as the need to overcome their unbearable anxiety. On the other' hand they show hostility and aggression towards others, especially those in authority, with the neurotic creation of situations that lead to further suffering. The addictive smoking of marihuana serves simultaneously as a satisfaction of all these drives. It is but one aspect of a complex picture of maladjustment."

The most thorough investigation of the role of marihuana in normal society was done in New York at the instance of Mayor La Guardia, and published in 1944. Smoking was found mainly in Harlem and the Negro districts, happening in 'tea pads' — comfortable rooms with a juke box, dim lights and sexy pictures on the walls. 'The tea pad takes on the atmosphere of a very congenial social club. The smoker readily engages in conversation with strangers, discussing freely his pleasant reactions to the drug and philosophizing on subjects pertaining to life in a manner which at times appears to be out of keeping with his intellectual level.' It was found that smokers, unlike alcohol drinkers, know to a nicety how much they need to get 'high ', and having reached that condition could not be persuaded to take more.

If a tea pad were shut, the disappointed smoker would go back to what he was doing —working or playing pool —perfectly calmly. This reaction contrasted so strikingly to that of heroin addicts cut off from the source of their drug, that the committee was convinced of the non-addictiveness of marihuana. It also found no connection between the diug and sexuality and crime, and no evidence that marihuana smoking leads to narcotic addiction.19

This report was a prime weapon of the 'doves' of the American drug control; it immediately drew a blast of fire from the former Commissioner Anslinger, a super-hawk in charge of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who is probably personally responsible by his rigidity for a good deal of America's present drug problem. In a style strikingly reminiscent of Pravda, he refers to a very unfortunate report released some years ago by the so-called La Guardia committee on marihuana. The [Federal] Bureau [of Narcotics] immediately detected the superficiality and hollowness of its findings and denounced it. However it gave wide circulation to the idea that this drug is relatively innocuous. The La Guardia report is the favourite reference of the proselytor for narcotic drug use.20

But he is unable to produce more than narrative evidence for his condemnation of marihuana and his contention that it leads inevitably to opiate addiction.

Even before the La Guardia Report the relationship beiween crime and marihuana had been exhaustively studied. A survey by the District Attorney of New Orleans found that in 1930, 125 out of 450 men convicted of major crimes were regular marihuana smokers. About half the murderers and a fifth of those convicted for assault, larceny and robbery were users.21 Startling though these figures are, there is no attempt to claim that marihuana caused or facilitated these crimes, and they show no more than that in that society the people who commit violent crime also tend to smoke marihuana, probably both because of the same underlying psychopathy. A causal connection is denied in another investigation by the same writer of 17,000 felonies and 75,000 misdemeanours in New York City between 1932 and 1937: he found hardly any relation between serious crime and marihuana use, and no correlation at all with murder or sex crime.22 This result was confirmed twenty-two years later in yet another study of 14,954 convictions in the New York County Court of General Sessions.23

As has now become well known, the American Army, the defender of the freedom of the West, is riddled with 'drug abusers'. In peaceful Europe large proportions of the American garrisons use marihuana in a more or less illicit way; while among combat troops in Vietnam, use of the drug was general and overi. So far no one has suggested that America's military reversals in that theatre were due to the peri2cious effects of marihuana.

The same problems showed themselves recently in the British Forces, particularly the British Army on the Rhine, and all three services had, by early 1970, set up special drug squads. Drug abuse is apparently seen as being not only undesirable in terms of its ordinary effects, but also as exposing abusers to the risk of security blackmail.

In fact, in the psychiatric literature of European societies in the West it is difficult tt) find any convincing accounts of personal or social damage due to the drug. There are occasional descriptions of precipitated psychotic states, such as this from Anslinger, where, as well as being unbalanced, the subject was unused to the effects of the drug.

One summer evening Moses M. bought his first two marilmana cigarettes for twenty-five cents each. After smoking them he said, 'I felt just like I was flying.' Moses, crazed with marihuana, went through the window of his hotel room, dropped eighteen feet onto the roof of the garage next door in his bare feet, and then went through the window of K.'s room, crying, 'God told me to kill this man 'Seizing K. by the throat, Moses beat him to death with his fists, after which he broke a chair on his victim's head. Then screaming that he was pursued by Hitler, Moses went out through the window, and dropped his twohundred-pound frame to the alley 'thirty feet below. In court Moses had no recollection of the killing and asserted, 'I didn't want to hurt him." Twenty years,' said the Court.20

The chain of cause and effect was far from certain. 'Was he mad because of the drug, or did he use the drug because he was mad?' is a difficult question to answer. It is possible that marihuana, like heroin, barbiturate or amphetamines, is used by some people to stave off their own particular sort of madness.

The uncertain reality of the way the external world looks to the user jibes with the kinds of reality differences experienced by some schizoid personalities. Psychoanalytically, this could be interpreted as a prob. km of the user's narcissism and how its changes affect his ego. . . . Some users may begin taking marihuana as an unconscious attempt to cope with and perhaps curb a developing psychopathology.24

A survey of 1,200 Indian cannabis smokers and drinkers showed that although the drug attracts the mentally unstable, and that the neurotic would usually choose the stronger of the two preparations available while the non-neurotic chose the weaker, the rates for psychosis among users were not significantly different from that among the rest of the population.25 Only 0.1 per cent of Israeli hashish smokers need psychiatric treatment — a proportion that seems very low compared with the usual rate for schizophrenia of 1 per cent. These and similar results seem to suggest that either the cannabis psychosis is very rare indeed, or ". that it substitutes for other forms of psychosis, or even that the drug is protecting its users from ordinary psychoses. Allentuck in a survey of institution and hospital inmates found 9 cases of psychosis in 77 marihuana users, but remarks that

a characteristic marihuana psychosis does not exist. Marihuana will not produce a psychosis de novo in a well integrated, stable person. . Should a psychosis be precipitated in an unstable personality it may last only a few hours or it may be continued a few weeks. It may be controlled by the withdrawal of the drug, and the administration of barbiturates. The psychic habituation to marihuana is not so strong as to tobacco or alcohol... . There is no evidence to suggest that the continued use of marihuana is a stepping-stone to the use of opiates. Prolonged use of the drug does not lead to mental, physical or moral degeneration, nor have we observed any permanent deleterious effects from its continued use."

The more lurid accounts of criminality and psychosis due to the drug come from Africa and the Middle East; often they do not stand up to critical examination. Murphy, reviewing accounts of cannabis psychosis, finds few cases that can certainly be distinguished from schizophrenia, alcoholism, precipitated functional psychoses, manic depressive states, and, particularly in North Africa, the acute toxic states brought about by malnutrition and endemic infection.'

A recent account of cannabis-induced crime from the Professor of Psychiatry at Ibadan University says that half of those convicted of murder were long-term cannabis users, and so were two thirds of burglars, and a third of those convicted of assault, battery and sex offences against women. He says, interestingly, that cannabis use is found mainly in 'in-between' sub-groups, people half way between tribal society and Western-type living.27 But before one can accept the implications of this sort of report, one would at least want to know whether these criminals differed in their use of the drug from other members of their social groups. Even then one would have no causal connection between cannabis and crime. It is as meaningful to say of British criminals that 99 per cent drink tea.

It is interesting that recent (1973) research has turned away from the search after facts — which are, in any case, pretty well understood — to a more polemic role. One notorious experiment, reported first in the Daily Telegraph (19 March 1971) rather than a scientific journal, was some work by a team led by Professor Paton, head of the Department of Pharmacology at Oxford. He reported that if mice were injected with T H C, the active constituent of cannabis, it accumulated in their body fat and foetuses were born deformed. Furthermore, the mice were killed by larger\ doses. It seemed impressive until the relationship of dose to body weight was analysed. It then turned out that while the normal, social, use of T HC was about 2 microgrammes per gramme of body weight, the mice died from injected doses of 1,000 mcg. to 5,000 mcg. per gramme. It was as if a grown man had been Injected with nearly a pint of pure THC: death would not be surprising. The Guardian commented the next day that 'it was unclear whether mice shouldn't use cannabis, or professors shouldn't use mice':

Another exercise, also reported in the Daily Telegraph (6 October 1971), was research by Dr. Cockett into young prisoners at Ashford Remand Centre, outside London. He found that three in five of those interviewed began drug-taking with cannabis, and that only one in five was a 'successful' pot smoker in the sense that they continued to smoke only cannabis. The implication of this research, that cannabis leads to hard drugs, is rather vitiated to the critical observer by the high degree of selection of the subject population.

On the other hand the American Department of Defense, forced to recognize that its conscript army contains a large number of drug users, has had to begin to investigate what impact this may have on its military effectiveness. Thus, a survey of 720 hashish users in the army in West Germany found that 300-were moderate users who consumed 10 to 12 gin, monthly, and showed no 'ostensible adverse effects'.34 (See also the research into veteran heroin addicts, p. 34). One suspects that the U.S. Army, unable to eradicate the use of marihuana even with the powerful apparatus of surveillance and control that it can apply to its troops,. is being forced to accept that the drug is essentially harmless and, for the sake of its own public relations, to acknowledge this. A recent review of two thousand papers on marihuana33 concluded that 'Given that any drug in excess is dangerous, marihuana stands up at least as well, and in many ways better, than those two socially accepted drugs, nicotine and alcohol'.

A recent move in America has been to try to improve the acceptability of the drug to the capitalist system by demonstrating that it does not produce an 'amotivational syndrome' — i.e., smokers are just as grasping as anyone else. Thus, much of the statement of M. R. Aldrich of Amorphia, a group dedicated to legalizing marihuana in California, to the President's Coininittee on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, was devoted to this problem. And some workers have even gone so far as to set up a research microeconomy, in which young men, segregated from the world, " 'work' at making stools for payment in tokens, while being . forced to smoke T H C cigarettes. The authors36 found that moderate drug use dicin't interfere much with the subjects' acquisitive instincts, and pointed out with pride, in support of this finding, that the young men had sone on strike half-way through for more payment for their participation in the programme. Just like any other well-adjusted trade unionists.

An authoritative laboratory experiment conducted by Dr J. H. Mendelson of Harvard for the U.S. Army in 1974, but not made public38 until late 1975 — and then under protest — found that even heavy marihuana use did not impair the willingness of its subjects to work for money, nor did it upset their cognitive, neurological or testosterone functions. Some weight gain and impairment of liars function, due to the smoke rather than the drug, were found.

Marihuana Use in Britain

The character of the society in which marihuana is used is vitally important in predicting its effects on individuals. This is partly because of its quality of enhancing mood, and partly because it is a drug, like alcohol, that has to be learnt'. If there were no society of marihuana users, there would be no new users. Unlike the opiates or amphetamines, marihuana produces neither physical dependence nor immediately pleasant effects. Often the first half dozen experiments are frightening when they are not disappointing; there is no good reason in the drug itself why one should persevere with it. To make an expert, who enjoys smoking, there must be an active society of smokers who will welcome the novice and persuade him that the unpleasant sensations he first gets from the drug are in fact delightful and worth repeating. Even more important, they have to supply him with ideas with which to express what is happening to him under the drug; otherwise all is strange and confusing. Becker quotes a musician who was introduced to the drug by his colleagues; they got up on the stand and played the same tune for two hours:

'Anyway, when I saw that, it was too much. I knew! must be really high if anything like that could happen. See, and then they explained to me that it's what it did to you, you had a different sense of time and everything.'

. . . In every case in which use continued the user had acquired the necessary concepts with which to express to himself the fact that he was experiencing new sensations caused by the drug.. In this way marihuana acquires meaning for the user as an object which can be used for pleasure.23

This learning process is relatively time-consuming. It is going to be difficult to go through with it unless the people about the novice allow him to meet smokers; he may even be distracted by more compelling pleasures. Bearing these points in mind, it is not surprising that one finds marihuana use where one does, in two isolated, uninvolved, self-contained sub-groups of society: West Indian immigrants, who brought the habit with them, and students, who learnt it, via the beats, from American Negroes. Among both groups there is the necessary amount of social interaction, isolation from the prejudices and business of the rest of society, and for many, enough leisure and boredom to make the habit worthwhile. An interview in the Sunday Times with one Andrew Venn Mowat, 'one of the most articulate and - • - • undergraduates on the Oxford drug "scene", expresses points clearly.

. . . 'pot' is an acquired taste. The first half dozen times were appointing, but Oxford encouraged him in the habit The University he thinks, might almost be designed to nourish drug addiction. 'You've got this vast, amorphous amount of work that you more or less can or can't do as you wish. This and the permissive atmosphere about the place means that there's no real form to existence here. Marihuana gives it form. There's this part of the day when you know you'll be happy . . . You're free of the feeling - a common one in Oxford - that something marvellous is happening round the corner.'29

A recent study of student drug users in an Friglish provincial university32 found that the 'average student has taken a "soft" drug (especially cannabis) at least once without apparent effect on his career or personality, since there were no significant differences between the cannabis takers and a control sample in either university career or examination performance'.

Although cannabis has the reputation of being the favourite drug of the young, a survey in 1970 by the Daily Mirror found little to confirm this. It turned out that only 9 per cent of the sample, aged between 15 and 19, had ever tried pot (this would, if representative of the country at large, imply that 300,000 teenagers have used the drug once), and less than half had tried it again. More than three quarters thought that the drug should never be legalized, and only 18 per cent thought it should.33 By 1973 rather ' more people had become familiar with the drug. A survey by the B.B.C.'s Midweek programme showed four million people had tried cannabis.37

My own first experience of hashish was with a group of Oxford derivation. I had been introduced to a number of smokers; they were friendly but guarded; until they had seen me using the drug I was not entirely to be trusted. They were intelligent, rather rebellious people, out of sympathy with the ordinAry run of our society. Several of their parents had been refugees from Hitler's Germany, so perhaps they had better reasons than most for mistrusting the good intentions of their fellow men. One of them, an engineer who had served a three-month sentence for possession of marihuana, at length agreed to turn me on. He rang with the address - a narrow door beside a greengrocer's in Earls Court. We climbed five flights of stairs behind a small plump American girl called Johnny. The halls were dark, but under the door lights shone and there was a racket of many conversations. At the top she led us to a box room, tiny, furnished with a beat-up electric fire, an empty trunk, an iron bedstead with a theatrically grimy ticking mattress. On the wall someone had painfully pencilled

Keep a clean nose

Watch the plain clothes

It don't take a weather man to

Tell which way the wind blows.

My friend, a dark, nervous boy, arrived a few minutes later with the hash - a thumbnail-sized ball which he carefully broke and rolled into pellets. I don't normally smoke, so we were to balance these pellets on the glowing end of a lighted cigarette, and suck the smoke up through a Biro tube. 'Oh lovely!' exclaimed a deep-bosomed blonde. "That's how they do in in Algerian prisons - only with a straw.' It seemed an ill-omened observation, but we went to work with a will. As guest, I was handed the tube first and bent over the ashtray. The smoke rose from the pellet in a thick column; when I sucked it bent over pleasingly and went up the Biro. But the lung pain was intense - I coughed like a jet engine lighting up and the precious pellet hurtled off into the dark. After a rest and a couple more tries and lost pellets I had acquired enough control to turn away before I exploded. By the time we'd used up all the pellets the boy who'd brought the stuff and Johnny were lying on the floor giggling, in the state known pleasantly to psychologists as 'fatuous euphoria' - either real or psychosomatic. I was hugging my agonized chest, and felt nothing else at all. So I went home to bed; by all accounts they had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Since then I have become slightly more expert; can inhale without coughing every time. But on the other hand, the drug seems to have no strikingly noticeable effects. I have sometimes felt more giggly than usual, and enjoyed music more. The eff was much like that of a couple of stiff drinks, though with the blurriness of sensation that alcohol produces. On the o hand the impact of nicotine from the tobacco which is mixed with hashish or dried marihuana leaves to make a joint • most unpleasant. Normally I never smoke, and I find that wit • minutes of inhaling my limbs are tingling, I sweat all over, m heart pounds, I feel faint and nauseous. This passes within twen minutes but often completqly masks the pleasant effects, if any, of the cannabis.

 

Our valuable member Peter Laurie has been with us since Sunday, 13 March 2011.

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