On a higher level, cannabis has also been subjected to a marketing ploy.
In 2004, cannabis was downgraded to class C; many thought we were on the road to full reform. David Blunkett and his dog were running the Home Office. All was well, Tony Blair had a song out; he did a duet with D’Ream, and Bucksfizz were making a comeback. The details are a bit hazy as you can see, but the basic notion of my point is correct; cannabis was going mainstream. So, how did we go back a stage in cannabis reform? Why the reclassification back to class B under Comrade Brown’s regime? Because, (don’t make me say it again!) marketing came into play. The media battle against cannabis was lost. The Independent newspaper had a front page in print proclaiming the need for cannabis ‘legalisation’. We all assumed Blair was a cheeky toker, he had Noel Gallagher round for tea and we knew they were blazing up. So how did the marketing campaign change our perspective of cannabis? Simple, cannabis was dead, say hello to my little friend Skunk.
Nowadays, we only deal in terms of skunk. Skunk has fully replaced cannabis as a conceptual issue. Skunk is of course the “super strength cousin” of cannabis. Dangerously high in potency – sometimes 40 times stronger than the 60’s if you believe the Daily Mail. The Independent retracted their front page and declared how wrong they were and that they were about to embark on penance by severing their limbs by method of paper cut.
Dr. Ben Goldacre has put out an exquisite piece on the infamous Independent retraction, it’s well worth a read, please do visit Bad Science and look up his cannabis articles. The potency of skunk, and related harms, gave free reign to governments of past and present to do whatever they jolly well feel like with regards to policy; and they have done exactly that. With no evidence, no scientific studies and nothing more than their own opinions, the allowance for keeping skunk as an illicit substance due to the conceived harms is in full effect. You’ve got to hand it to the spin doctors, they’ve done their jobs. Even the word ‘skunk’ sounds dirty; it is all cleverly designed to sway lazy minds.
Of course, those that know cannabis know that skunk is simply bad quality cannabis that has adulterants, the incorrect balance of cannabinoids, and has probably been grown by untrained monkeys with a PH stick. The connoisseurs’ version of skunk differs to that of politics’ and media.
Bearing in mind the full justification of action is now on the shoulders of skunk due to the increased potency, it was somewhat amusing – or should that be bemusing – that on the 4th of April 2011, a full & clear admittance was given by James Brokenshire that we actually have no idea on the measured potency of skunk. There are no records prior to 1995 on the marked potency of cannabis. What does this mean? Well, in my day we used to term this as a “chin on” – in more standard terminology, successive governments are now on record as telling a few fibs. We can all speculate on the increased potency of cannabis, but to legislate on this alone, and to have no evidence of the claims, well, this is not cricket. In fact, this is damn right dangerous. Any other subject matter – if we were to catch our government out making false claims – we would have full rights to an investigation and answers. In this debate? Well, they’re allowed to get away with whatever their opinions tell them at any given day. It doesn’t matter what they can prove, it only matters what they can sell. Marketing 101.
To change the answers, you have to change the questions. The war has waged on the ‘legalisation’ of cannabis for decades, and we’re stalemate. Well, that’s not true is it, we’ve actually regressed. Marketing has won the war on the government’s side. If progression is actually wanted within this debate, then ‘we’ have to start asking our own questions and learning from past marketing failures and successes. If skunk has won the negative war, then prohibition can trump it, if cannabis is dirty, maybe marijuana is the way to go I ponder aloud.
The position of the government is actually the harder position to maintain, as we all know by now, they have no basis of argument and only subjective abuse of power accounts for their action. Cannabis remains an illicit substance for no actual reason. We’ve already won this debate, we just have to market it correctly to get the full and correct messages across.
Personally speaking, I no longer feel the need to defend cannabis as a concept, I field the discussion on the harms of prohibition, and ask; how does the current law help, with decades to account for itself, how has the law succeeded in controlling cannabis? There are no answers for these questions, and it has not failed to stump the hardiest of prohibitionists. I’m by no means saying I’m a good debater, or even a mass debater (obvious gag alert once more) – but I have a basic grasp of marketing, and I know it starts and ends with a projection of message/image. The message of prohibition needs focus, defending cannabis in its generic form has limited appeal.
Right, having said all that, I have a Unicorn to go see; we have a bear to follow. I’ll see you all in the Dragons’ Den!