Writing this article taught me something: most people will openly admit to smoking weed, but very few will say they read the Daily Mail.
Right now, the fate of cannabis in the UK is unclear. There are signposts to a less prohibitive future; whether its the de facto decriminalisation instigated by certain police forces, such as those in Durham and Avon & Somerset, or this year's bi-party recommendation for the legalisation of medical cannabis. But we still lag far behind many of our European and American neighbours, and we're currently lumbered with a Tory Prime Minister, Theresa May, who has historically made a point of doing whatever she can to block progressive drug policy.
Until public opinion starts to really swing in favour of cannabis reform, the powers that be will continue to shy away from anything that threatens their position. And despite the efforts of the UK's pro-cannabis groups, like the UKCIA, Clear and the United Patients Alliance, there's still a feeling that cannabis is the preserve of the loony left; of The Guardian proselytisers and the VICE aficionados; of the tofu-toting Remainers and their Humanities-educated spawn.
Of course, this is bullshit. As are the stereotypes listed above, as is the idea that every Daily Mail reader is an incontinent, tax-dodging, quasi-racist. However, if any British news outlet typifies the views of Middle Englanders – the exact people politicians are scared of offending with progressive policy – it's the Mail. So I thought it would be interesting to find some cannabis-smoking Mail readers and ask them about their views on politics, rhetoric and freeing the weed.
Paul Birch, 50, entrepreneur and founder of the drug policy innovation hub VOLTEFACE
I am a recreational user, but have never consumed cannabis with tobacco. I use it to relax and I first started eating it when I was 23. After trying every intake method and vapouriser possible, in the last two months I've moved to canna-liquids; these are the same as e-cigarettes but work with cannabis and not nicotine. They're the future, and when legalisation happens will become the main way that people consume cannabis.
I read the Daily Mail Online, but only the news section and never the celebrity nonsense. I was a Remainer but am now very positive about Brexit. I formed [the political party] CISTA (Cannabis Is Safer than Alcohol) to participate in the General Election, and we had 32 candidates standing. We did best in Northern Ireland, where we had enough candidates standing to get a Party Election Broadcast there. The party name is based on polling that shows that 82 percent of people who believe in the simple statement in the party name also believe you should legalise and regulate supply of recreational cannabis.
Cannabis itself is not really a left or right [wing] topic – the current strategy on both sides appears to be to bury their head in the sand and not to mention it or discuss it.
Luke Gardiner*, 30, Kent, senior bailiff
Cannabis relaxes me. I naturally suffer from anxiety, and though people say cannabis causes anxiety, it's the opposite for me. It doesn't hinder my job, social or personal life. I've got a good job, a healthy relationship with my children, wife and family. I've won a boxing title and still train four to five days a week.
I read the Daily Mail at work, and yeah, I voted to leave. Doing the job I do I see the benefit system being massively exploited by immigrants – our own citizens do it, too, which is also unacceptable. I've grown up on council estates and I see foreign families getting houses as priority, over British people. I'm not saying we need to close our borders, at all, I just want it controlled better: filter out the criminals, the unskilled workers – to give our population more jobs – and benefit scammers. At the moment I would vote UKIP, but recently I've been liking Theresa May, so that may change.
Mat Luderman, 46, Southend-on-Sea, unemployed
After being made redundant at the end of 1999 I became addicted to heroin. In 2001 I went to Crete to get clean. While I was there I got hit head on by a car, which left me with six screws in my left femur and tibular, plus major nerve damage. I'm now clean of heroin, but since then I've struggled with depression.
Currently I take Pregablin, Diazepam, Oxycontin and Escitalopram, and I smoke three or four grams [of cannabis] of a day to control the pain. I'm registered disabled, so am signed off as long term sick and get disability allowance for an indefinite period. If I stopped smoking it's very likely I'd end up back on opiates. I did my own grow a year ago, but got arrested. Fortunately I only had nine plants, which is the maximum for personal use, and only got charged for possession. If cannabis was legal, I wouldn't need to go back onto the street to get weed, and to risk being around people and places where there's other drugs going round.
Ali Galt, 54, Wilshire, pub manager
Nowadays I smoke quite rarely; if I do it will be just a neat one skin. I brought up four daughters, though, and used to just smoke my own homegrown at the end of a night. I grew it in my garden, and without it I would have ended up on anti-depressants or Prozac. The effect natural, homegrown weed can have on so many different illnesses – like dementia, multiple sclerosis and cancer – is fantastic. And it's not about getting high and off your head; it's about relaxing muscles, easing pain or making you feel slightly more comfortable and relaxed,
People should have an allowance to grow a certain amount of natural grass. I think the whole relationship with drugs in this country would be different. But so much of the strong cannabis around now is so damaging to kids, and can lead to schizophrenia or psychological problems. I've seen this happen to kids I know and it's just awful.
I read the Daily Mail, but, to be perfectly honest, I try to avoid politics. I would like to see this country in a different frame of mind, but I live in my own world, look after my own and work hard. If I'm going to vote then I'll normally vote for the Green Party. I didn't vote at Brexit; I wanted us to stay, but I also thought it would be really good to leave because we're such a strong country.
WATCH: "High Society – Weed', the new episode of our documentary series about drugs in the UK.
AISHA, 28, BRIGHTON, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE
I've been smoking since I moved to Brighton in 2006. I was at university then, so used to smoke a lot. Since finishing my Masters and working in London from Monday to Friday, it's now just a joint before bed. Cannabis makes stress a lot easier to handle and the high intensity of life easier to deal with. Smoking with friends is fun and I find it more sociable, less destructive and more calming than going to the pub for a drink.
I think the political system in this county is fucked, biased and totally not for the people, but I'm definitely not right-wing. I read the Daily Mail Online; it's like watching trash TV or soaps. Sometimes I read it to laugh about how ridiculous people are, sometimes I read the comments to observe how ignorant some people can be, and to monitor and assess how others view topics differently to me. .
*Name changed to preserve anonymity.
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