Strolling along the seafront at Teignmouth last week I was supposed to be taking in the majesty of the British coast in the late winter and early spring months. However, absorbing such beauty was interrupted by the all too frequent smell of cannabis that has become a defining characteristic of Britain’s streets and now, apparently, coastal walkways. Hidden behind some steps I could make out the figures of the culprits who clearly had no regard for those who wished to use the walkway without taking in the stench of the Class B drug.
This has not been the first time I’ve noticed the odour of the drug in recent weeks. Walking in East and Central London has also been accompanied by the unwanted stench. What I thought was a smell associated with London and urban settings has now impinged on the beauty and awe of our coastlines. ‘Lighten up’ you might say. ‘They’re only smoking a bit of pot’. Indeed, I’m sure of the ones who are alight in this situation.
Whilst I accept that cannabis and other drug use is a common part of adolescent life, as it has been for some time, I find the line between casual use and private use a worrying matter. And it is the widespread use of the drug - amongst strangers and those known to me - that compels me to write something on the matter.
Cannabis is so often termed a recreational drug. But why should something recreational be paid at such a desperately sad price? Something recreational is fun and enjoyable. It shouldn’t lead to teenagers going from ‘smoking some pot’ with their smoking partners (friends in most cases is too strong a status of relationship), to a secret and dangerous habit.
The so-called recreational status of cannabis smoking needs to be stopped. Cannabis is promoted by those who long for control of their bodies and decisions. But they fail to realise that by smoking the drug they give up the autonomy they strive for. They become a slave to the very action of their idea of freedom.
Libertarians, so often the advocates of cannabis legalisation, fail to win me over on this issue. The boundary of freedom ends when your actions have a detrimental effect on others. I don’t wish to smell cannabis on the streets and coasts of Britain and I shouldn’t have to put up with doing so. Opposing cannabis one the grounds of the smell it produces is hardly tantamount to banning petrol because some dislike the smell of its fumes – there is a much deeper social issue at play here.
What was even more ironic about the events on the Devon coast was the fact that there were two police officers in close proximity. Either they were pursuing ‘recreationalists’, or they were some a symbol of how the enforcement of the drug law is so weak that fifteen year olds are undeterred in breaking it.
Being the age I am (19) I feel some duty to recognise that we are all impressionable and open to influences. Cannabis use is, unfortunately, a permanent feature of my generation. However, it is synoptic of a wider issue within our society that needs to be addressed. The notion that you can do what you want and you have the right to is powerful and widespread.
Education has failed to inform many about the dangers of cannabis. Use is widespread. Policing is negligible. And, while I share a drop of sympathy for those who want to party while they’re young, it’s those alone in their rooms who I fear for.