By Guest · Jan 5, 2004 ·
  1. Guest
    Author: Trish Bolton
    Note: Trish Bolton is a Melbourne writer and a tutor in media and
    communications at Swinburne and Monash universities.


    People who smoke pot don't belong to a subculture, they're part of the

    Australians don't really need an excuse to have a drink but it's that time
    of year where you can really drink up, indulge as much as you want; get
    drunk, smashed, blotto - no one will really mind.

    You can start drinking at the lunchtime barbie or picnic, down at the beach
    or while you're watching the cricket; you can do it in front of your
    parents and kids and with neighbours and friends.

    But if you want to roll one, have a choof or take a toke, you won't find
    the same warm reception at home, in your workplace or anywhere else. Unless
    you're in Nimbin, you'll have to sneak away and do the deed in private.

    And if word gets out about your nasty habit you'll be called a druggie when
    your back is turned, families will talk in hushed tones about your wicked
    ways, neighbours will ostracise you, and better pray no one tells the boss.

    If this isn't bad enough, there's always the chance you'll be caught for
    possession; you might merely be warned or you could end up before the
    courts; it all depends on the state you're in at the time - and I don't
    mean how stoned you are.

    If you're in the Netherlands you can go shopping for cannabis but in
    Australia buying it makes you a criminal, and growing it can land you in
    prison for up to 12 months.

    It's all a bit silly really - we encourage and condone the use of one drug
    and demonise the other.

    Sillier still is that we don't just allow alcohol, we push it, and we push
    it very hard indeed. Marketing booze is big business. What's a sporting
    hero without a magnum in hand, why have a celebration without alcohol and
    what's sex without a little drunken abandon to add to its appeal? So
    surrounded is alcohol by images of success, sexuality and good times that
    we might as well pour it down the throats of the children we seek to protect.

    Line up on a Friday or Saturday night at any bottle shop and you'll see
    parents taking orders from their clearly under-age kids about what their
    teenagers want for that night's drinking; these same parents would freak if
    they thought their kids smoked marijuana.

    It's OK to get out of it, what seems to matter is the substance we abuse to
    do it. Who cares that hospital beds are filled with people who abuse legal
    drugs and that more young people overdose on alcohol than are damaged by a
    night's bingeing on marijuana.

    But people who smoke pot don't belong to a subculture, they're part of the
    mainstream. Hell, even Homer Simpson got stoned, Bill Clinton almost did
    and Mark Latham admits to it. The groovy gen Xers in the successful
    television show The Secret Life of Us regularly pass a joint and
    advertisers often use drug parlance to market their wares; it's as much a
    part of life as a having a VB or a chardonnay.

    We use drugs for all sorts of reasons but mostly because they're fun -
    that's why we've been doing it for thousands of years. Of course, it's no
    fun at all if occasional pleasure becomes habitual abuse, but prohibiting a
    substance won't change that.

    According to statistics released by the Australian Institute of Health and
    Welfare, one in three Australians used cannabis in a 12-month period;
    one-third of the population is getting high, most of them aren't having
    psychotic episodes and the majority are ordinary hard-working Australians.

    This is not to say that marijuana doesn't have both short and long-term
    side effects. Like all drugs, it does. But tackling those concerns in a
    health setting rather than in a punitive legal framework will produce more
    enlightened outcomes than have occurred with prohibition.

    Let's bring marijuana use out into the open and liberate wardrobes of the
    now ubiquitous "grow lights" to accommodate that other fetish - fashion.

    Decriminalisation will have many benefits: backyards all over Australia
    will be free to cultivate an organically grown plant or two, young people
    won't be exposed to criminals, in what Access Economics have identified as
    Australia's $4 billion blackmarket, and courts will be freed up.

    In the end is there really so much difference between lighting up and
    pouring a drink, or between chilling a wine cask in the fridge and
    cultivating a plant in the backyard?

    I'll kick back, have a drink, and think about it.

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