not a member? click here to sign up
EVENTUALLY, spliffs will be freely on sale in supermarkets and record stores, and from vending machines in public places.
Eamonn McCann, 28 Jul 1993
EVENTUALLY, spliffs will be freely on sale in supermarkets and record stores, and from vending machines in public places. There'll be all manner of spliffs. Spliffs made with mint and oregano, parsley and sage, basil and bouquet garni. The variety of human preferment is infinite and cannabis combines well with almost anything.
There'll be neat spliffs too, I imagine, perhaps with cardboard adverts above the shelf-displays: "Hand-rolled Herbals for pure enjoyment - Guaranteed no added extras!"
There'll be ready-rubbed and blended, aromatic, king-sized, filter-tipped and mentholate.
Maybe there'll even be spliffs made with tobacco, for the minority still addicted to nicotine. They'll die out eventually, of course, the nicotine freaks. Not solely on account of cancers, heart failures, clogged veins, and all the other agonies that tobacco-abusers are prey to, but because addiction to lethal drugs is a product of psychic discontent, and there'll be a lot less of that around when we live in freedom and rationality and spliffs are on sale in the shops.
You'll be able to buy cannabis in bulk at wholesalers. Or baked into baps, buns or potato-bread. You'll be able to pick up pot-plants in garden centres on Sunday afternoon trips out of town with the family.
There will be money-off spliff promotions, stamps to be collected, sponsorship of sports and entertainments. The Tasti-Toke All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship. Jolli-Joints - Official Purveyors of Marijuana to the Republic of Ireland World Cup Squad. The Ganja-Gro Feis Cheoil na hEireann.
Governments will sponsor buy-Irish campaigns: "Irish grass is greener - and it smokes better too!". Or: "Roll with your own with best home-grown!"
There will be specialist shops selling accessories. We'll call them Roach's Stores.
And when we are in a mellow mood of a musical evening we will sometimes chuckle about the days of the old daftness when, for example, journalists, cops and customs officers, politicians, naval geezers and free-lance moralisers all worked themselves up into a lather of excitement about the interception of consignments of this pleasurable, life-enhancing substance which happened to be headed for Ireland.
On the Sunday before last an RTE journalist had the current mouth-piece for the senior officials of the Department of "Justice", Ms. Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, in his sights for a live interview. Naturally, the talk turned to the incident when armed men boarded a yacht carrying a reported two tonnes of good-quality North African cannabis off the coast of Clare, and forced the crew at gunpoint to pull into port where the cannabis was confiscated and the crew-members put in prison!
Was the woman invited to explain herself to the public? Was she asked to defend this vast and senseless waste of precious public funds? Was she questioned as to her plans for changing the ludicrous laws which permitted this sequence of events to come about in the first place?
Not a bit of it. The entire interview was conducted in terms and tones which implied that nothing which had happened was legitimately open to question. As if there was no room for controversy or concern. As if everybody was of one mind - that to try to bring cannabis into the Irish State was self-evidently wicked and reprehensible and that the resources and personnel of the State had been properly and acceptably deployed.
Well, there's nothing self-evident about any of it. The very opposite is the case. Everybody who knows anything about the subject knows well that treating a consignment of cannabis like it was a deadly-dangerous cargo is utterly farcical.
There are many thousands of people in Ireland who know this very well. How many thousands exactly, I cannot be sure. Such is the stupidity, ignorance and hysteria surrounding the subject that hardly anybody says loudly in public what everybody with a half-ounce of cop-op acknowledges casually in private.
The main practical effect of the seizure will be to push up prices on the street. I read that the two tonnes had a "street value" of £20 million. Maybe they mean that two tonnes would sell for £20 million now that this two tonnes has been removed from the market?
I don't know. I never know where they get these figures from, how they translate into tenner deals or quarters or whatever. Maybe some DS thicko sucked the figure out of his thumb and the hacks obediently wrote it down. That's how most of the media's "information" on cannabis is obtained. At any rate, dope will be dearer as a result of the seizure.
This is an achievement?
Then there's the behaviour of the DS on the streets, and at innocent events like the Fleadh Mor and, no doubt, the Féile. Ringing towns where music festivals are imminent with road-blocks, picking on anybody who looks "likely" - ie, young but not dressed like a Young Fine Gaeler. Skulking in the crowds to sniff out anybody who's skinned up, disrupting people's innocent enjoyment, generally behaving like dough-heads, messers and ass-holes.
Meanwhile, the heroin merchants ply their trade placidly in the desperate inner cities. Why do we stand for it? Why don't we resolve that we won't any longer?
Why don't we undertake to arrange an appropriate commotion if we see anybody being frog-marched from Semple Stadium for doing something as unremarkable and unobjectionable as smoking a flower?
I recall a gig, at Punchestown I think, many moons aglow, when the Beep, emceeing, issued a clear public warning of the presence of drug-fuzz, describing their sinister looks, bad hair-styles and naff t-shirts, and ending with the splendid injunction to, "Fuck off, policeman!". Biggest cheer Beep ever earned. He hasn't spoken sense like it since.
And here's another thing. Every time there's a major drugs bust somebody is quoted saying that this is only "the tip of the iceberg", that many other major consignments are being landed, that only 10 percent of shipments headed for Ireland - or 20 percent or whichever figure comes first to mind - is discovered.
How do they know?
Reporting the Clare bust, the Tribune told us that "both the gardai and customs officers are agreed that as little as 10 percent of the drugs shipments brought into Ireland are discovered".
How can they put such a precise figure on it? On what basis is the calculation made? How can they tell that the two tonnes they misappropriated this month didn't represent the country's entire August supply? How can they know about shipments which they say they didn't know about?
It reminds me of the day I sat in the press gallery of Leinster House listening to "Justice" Minister Gerry Collins giving TDs a personal assurance that there was no phone-tapping going on in the country that he didn't know about, and when I burst out laughing I was told by a journalist to have more respect.
The point of this wild anti-pot propaganda is clear enough: the cops, the customs, the armed services, all the repressive agencies of the State want more of the State's money. But in tight times like these it isn't easy to argue for a deeper dip into the public purse. The public has other and better priorities.
In this situation a major drugs bust offers an opportunity to frighten folk into agreeing to outrageous demands. There's nothing like a "drugs scare" to panic people who have carefully been kept in ignorance of which drugs are actually scary into parting with more of their money.
You will have noted that all of the reports of the Clare bust highlighted the coordinated involvement in the operation of three separate arms of the machinery of State - the naval service, the garda drugs unit and the customs. You may have noted, too, that each of these institutions used the bust as a peg on which to hang pleas for more public money.
Perhaps you noticed as well that all of the media carried these pleas without comment, criticism or analysis of any sort.
The naval service: "The Irish navy needs to almost double its size if it is to be 100 percent effective in preventing massive drugs shipments being landed on the south and west coasts".
All the papers carried that highly questionable opinion as if it was neither questionable nor indeed an opinion at all. As if it were a statement of fact. A number also told readers that the British Navy is "currently decommissioning 13 mine hunters and a number of frigates which would be suitable for the purposes of the naval service" (Tribune).
Does anybody believe the hacks hit on that angle on their own? Isn't it obvious they were steered towards it by spokespersons for the naval service? And that somebody decided there was no need to alert readers to this aspect of the matter? And, the customs chose this moment to announce an application to the EC for £13 million "to combat drugs smugglers", in the meantime putting it about that Ireland is being used as a major staging-post for the distribution of drugs throughout Europe - a perfectly ridiculous suggestion. Do these people think the rest of us never look at a map?
They all want more power, more money, more personnel. They stoke up hysteria about cannabis not because they genuinely believe it is a dangerous substance but because they want the public to be in fear and to feel the need for protection.
And governments very readily go along with them. And the media play ball, too. I'd say that a good smoke would do them no harm but then that's not a reason for recommending it.
Stick around, fellow democrats. The ass-holes will be off our backs soon enough. And spliffs available from vending machines.