View attachment 41465 Whoever says legalising drugs would not lead to more people using them is talking about as much sense as a teenage stoner trying to convince his grandmother that hip hop is high art? I for one would be tempted to give them a go, so that's one extra at least.
Admittedly, I wouldn't swap my Saturday night gin and tonic for a joint straight away. Not while my mother is still alive, my kids are still impressionable young adults and I still need a job to pay the mortgage. But, I have to admit, from a distance of 15 years, being stoned while pottering around the garden does seem a rather nice way to spend your retirement. Well isn't cannabis less fattening than alcohol and good for all those little aches and pains? Who knows, I might even be persuaded to take the harder stuff if somebody told me it would stop me wasting the last year's of my life snoozing in an armchair waiting for News at Ten.
Well, it's not like it can start a downward spiral that can ruin a life already lived, or a body already ravaged. It's the young who develop psychiatric problems, isn't it? Whenever anybody talks about a drugs epidemic it's always accompanied by photographs of young, skanky hoodies skulking along grim, grey, tower block walkways. Yet in reality it's a habit users are just as likely to be found in country mansions and Clifton semis as inner city flats. And as the baby boomers start to retire, it's creeping into retirement villages too.
There's a lot of cannabis and cocaine curious older people who just said no when they were young because they knew getting caught would mean social suicide and would add taking drugs to their list of things to do before they die if they could. If it was allowed. If everybody was doing it. If it became a bit like going to Glastonbury.
Don't believe me? Just look what happened when Denver, Colorado, decriminalised cannabis. To the surprise of weed entrepreneurs who rushed to take advantage of the relaxed laws, it wasn't just the young, who came flocking. Older people started swapping wine-tasting for weed-sampling and marijuana missions became as popular as vineyard tours. They even have cannabis concierges to drive these elderly dope hunters around the various dispensaries where shopkeepers sell their wares as if they are describing the difference between a quarter of mint humbugs and a poly-bag of Werther's Original.
On Radio 4 no less, I heard one older, American lady dissolve into an incoherent stupor after selecting a drug that gave her far more than the giggles she was told to expect. I don't know which was the most shocking. Her behaviour or the fact that it was being broadcast on the same channel that brings us the shipping forecast. Either way, it shows that the more things are normalised the more people are tempted to take it. You only have to look at the middle-class love affair with their nightly glass of dry white to see that. My parents never drank in the house unless there was a party.
Although around one in three adults, 12 million people, admit to taking drugs in their lifetime, it's still a minority pastime in the UK. The latest statistics suggest it is decreasing and at it's lowest level since records started in 1996. Assuming those statistics are correct and everybody's telling the truth, it doesn't sound much like a lost war to me. Lib Dem Home Office Minister Nick Baker points to Portugal, where he says decriminalisation has led to a fall in drug use, fewer cases of HIV and Aids as well as lower policing costs and fewer people in prison.
But even his controversial report, which has divided the Coalition, concludes that the levels of drug use in particular countries depends on society's attitudes rather than how tough the laws are. The UK is not Portugal. David Cameron fears decriminalising drugs will send out the wrong message to young people. He should be worried about decriminalisation sending out the wrong message to older people with a bucket list and, thanks to government reforms, cash from their pension pot to pay for it.
University professor Dr Claire Crawford says more research is needed to find out why graduates who went to public school still earn an average £1,700 a year more than former comprehensive school pupils with exactly the degree from the same university. The leading light at the Institute of Fiscal Studies says her report proves that school and family background still make a difference in the workplace. You don't say. Only this week Tom Parker Bowles admitted that when he was at Eton his grades were so poor that his father used to drive him past a comprehensive school in Corsham and threaten to send him there unless he bucked his ideas up.
'I was rubbish at everything. I was good at smoking," he told the interviewer. Unless Oxford University accepted a grade A in Lambert and Butler, it must have worked because TPB studied at the top university and eventually, after being sacked from every other job for being "rubbish", became a leading food writer.
As it turns out, he's a good food writer. But one can't help but wonder what career the boys smoking cigarettes behind the bike sheds in Corsham "fell into". There's not a lot of call for people to write about cheese rolls at the local café. My guess is that whatever it is, they would be delighted to earn £1,700 less than Mr Parker-Bowles for writing about their hobbies. And that's why, Dr Crawford, he is not sending his kids to boarding school at the age of seven but will be packing them off to Eton quicker than you can say social mobility as soon as they hit their teens.
Concerns about buck teeth and a speech impediment have been used as an excuse to point out that Posh Spice has been caught betraying her common roots after being seen leaving a fancy shop with her three-year-old daughter Harper sucking a dummy. As if a global style icon who eats nothing but prawns and a glass of water would let her precious daughter develop anything but a perfect smile.
After being forced to go from dummy snob to slightly shamed pacifier addict when my youngest daughter was born, Victoria Beckham has my sympathies. It's easy to dismiss dummies when your baby repeatedly spits them out, or you can hand a crying child to the au pair. Anti-dummy sentiment remains so strong that I spent my wedding night trying to soothe my daughter to sleep because my embarrassed mother-in-law had hidden hers in case it appeared in any of the pictures.
But, believe me, when you see your fretting and fraught child settle into contentment at the first suck, you eat your accusatory words. So for all those guilty dummy-angst mothers out there, don't be worrying too much. My dummy addict is now a capable young woman with a healthy smile. In fact she's so articulate it's usually me lost for words and wishing they did dummies for teenagers. Each generation creates its own definitive Christmas and those of us making a fuss over Cadbury's chocolate coins going out of circulation are betraying our age as surely as talking about the time children used to get lump of coal at the bottom of their stocking.
My mum doesn't think it's Christmas without tangerines bulging at the bottom of a stocking and my children have come to see the appearance of the rapidly shrinking tins of Quality Street and Roses as the official starting gun for the festive season. But somehow I can't see Cotswolds residents ever, ever, ever saying that it's not Christmas until Simpsons chippie in Cheltenham starts selling deep fried, battered Christmas plum puddings, can you? It's almost as bad as saying pass me an Iceland mince pie". Yes the pies from the frozen food store came top in the Good Housekeeping taste test last week.
By Janet Hughes - The Western Daily Press/Nov. 1, 2014
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