Photo by Michelle Goodman
It's tough to remember it now, but there was a time when smoking weed was considered uncool – when it was the preserve of guys who wore those dank German army jackets and ageing bohemians trying to wrestle a last, few utopian years from life in Totnes. But for a while now, a weed habit's been something to flaunt in people's faces, rather than hide from the world with Right Guard, eyedrops and gainful employment.
Of course, it was always a rite of passage, and even if your dad's a preacher and your mum suffers from chronic hereditary asthma, you've probably still tried it at least once. But now there seems to be a band of people, some in their twenties, who think that bunning a zoot in a Tesco car park is the coolest shit that's ever happened. They wax lyrical about strains of "Morrocan squidgy" and "alopecia haze". They talk about making bongs from dragon fruit and weigh up the pros and cons of buying a vapouriser. These are people with jobs and girlfriends. It doesn't seem to affect them too bad, and that's fine. But that doesn't mean that I "get" it.
Photo by Michelle Goodman
For me, smoking weed reguarly was always something that 13-year-olds and Americans do. Thirteen-year-olds do it because they can't go to clubs or buy booze in any worthwhile quantity yet, and Americans do it for much the same reason. It seems like something you'd naturally graduate out of once you'd had your first legal pint, your first illegal pill, your first experience of the crushing high-effort/low-profit venture that is love.
It seems like a youthful pursuit that doesn't really have much place in the depressing, day-to-day grind of adulthood. I get the impression that if I was caught by a park warden smoking a crafty one now, he'd probably just look into my soul for a bit rather than bundle me into his buggy and call the cops. Maybe he'd even ask for a toke, realising that he too longed for some kind of respite from the shattered dreams of his adult life.
While it's still illegal, that original youthful thrill is now all but removed from the process. First of all, we're now all too clever to get caught, as we either have our own places or know, at least, that there's only so much fun you can have in a park. Then there's the fact that really, if you did get caught, you'd have to have stumbled across some weed-hating Robocop to be in any real trouble. You'd need to get a copper who got trampled at a Queens Of The Stone Age riot to get anything other than a: "Now, now lads, puffing the magic dragon, are we? In your own homes please, gents."
Photo by Michelle Goodman
I don't know, maybe it's a long-standing thing. Maybe I've been prejudiced against the demon weed since birth. For me, the effect never really outweighed the effort that was involved in producing it. First of all, you'll be lucky to get a weed dealer that will come to you on a bike, let alone one that will turn up on time too. Coke dealers do seem to run on their own warped idea of time, for sure (where "five minutes away" can mean anything from "outside your door right now" to "pulling out of my stripper girlfriend on the other side of the city"), but at least they fucking show. They're professionals; you can tell that because they have more money than you do.
Weed dealers, on the other hand, are invariably private schoolboys happy to tread water on the first rung of the ladder or guys with greying beards who are as lazy and as easily startled as cats. You also have to buy in advance, which sucks, because when I want to take drugs, it's on pure impulse rather than after a lot of tedious and careful planning.
Then, when you do get stoned, nothing that great really happens. We've all seen the American high school movies where some jock/geek/principal takes one drag on an Olympic Torch-sized joint and starts seeing pink elephants/talking like a gangster/dancing to James Brown. In real life, the effect is something more akin to coming off a mild dose of general anaesthetic after an in-grown toenail operation. You just feel a bit woozy, distant, tired and hungry. You might laugh more, but that's more due to how confused you are than because your sense of humour has somehow crossed a boundary and you're now 500 percent funnier than you were sober.
When I take drugs, I do it because I want to feel sharp and to artificially augment my own sense of self-esteem. I don't do it so I can sit around having a whimsical smirk at somebody's Yoda impression. The truth is that for the majority of the time, smoking weed is just fucking dull. If it were a colour, it would be the colour of a jumper from Reiss. If it were a film, it would be something that was highly acclaimed at Sundance, but which is actually just lots of wide-angle shots of people running dust through their fingers.
I'm also of the minority opinion that smoking weed is the most dangerous drug of them all. Of course, I'm going to get all the facts relayed to me here, about how nobody has ever died as a direct result of smoking weed, about how it cures blah, blah, blah...
But while smoking weed might not destroy you physically – settling instead for a more insiduous, attritious kind of dilapidation of your lungs and heart and lips – it may well ruin your mind. Anything more than a few tokes on somebody else's gear a month and chances are that, at the very least, you'll turn into a boring fucker. You'll start leaving parties at 8PM, you'll talk about Malcolm Gladwell, you won't be able to engage in conversation with anyone who isn't also stoned, you might even start using the word "cotch".
Then of course, there's the dark end of the spectrum. The paranoia. Because that's the real problem, isn't it? Because even though science is yet to prove absolutely conclusively that weed turns your brain into an ice-cream scoop sized splat of dog's diarrhoea, we all know people who could prove it with just one look at their bedrooms. These are the casualties, because for every Willy Nelson, every Snoop Dogg, everyone who's handling their shit on the bud, there's a jobless, catatonic, paranoid person whose problems can be directly linked to their draw habit. The only argument that the "legalise it" brigade have to counteract this seems to be listing another billionaire who buns occasionally.
It just doesn't work like that; weed has as many victims as any other drug, yet it insists on sweeping them under the carpet. It's seen as this fuzzy, cuddly drug, but it's not, it's a Labrador that will eventually drive you insane.
Of course, it's ludicrous that smoking weed is still an arrestable offence. It's so widespread, so integral to so many people's day-to-day lives that it seems bizarre that it's still illegal. Not that the laws against it are as harshly enforced as people crying for its legalisation would have you believe. It seems to me that in most cities at least a softly-softly approach has been brought in so quietly that nobody's noticed. Maybe if you puff a smoke ring of Daily Mail terror-skunk in a superintendent's face and call him a "bumbarass", you might find yourself getting hauled in, but on the whole, if you aren't going out of your way to get caught, you probably won't. On the ladder of criminal offences, it seems to be on the rung between driving without a seatbelt and pissing on a lamp post.
While I can see that those old "reefer madness" videos and today's scare tactic-employing anti-weed lobbyists sound so insane they probably came up with their propaganda while under the influence, essentially what I'm saying is this: yes, outlawing the smoking of a plant you can grow in your own home is dumb, but making it your divine quest to legalise it is too. It's far worse for your personality, intellect and temperament than Richard Branson is suggesting to the Commons Select Committee. Because while there's guys like him who can keep it together, there's a whole generation of kids brought up on psychosis-in-a-baggie shit who think their cat is trying to kill them.
Throw in the fact that really, it's just not that great, and I've gotta say it: I just don't "get" smoking weed.
Follow Wallace on Twitter: @mrwallaceark