I can still remember the moment. It was a Saturday afternoon in 1982. About 15 minutes before kick-off, our 1st XV rugby coach completed his changing room team talk. Unusually, he then sent only half of us out to the field to warm up. The rest were held back. We all knew why. They were in for a dressing down about a dope smoking incident. I was the team captain. Needless to say, I found myself making the losers speech at the after-match that day.
In my 55 years I have never smoked dope. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t around when I was a young man. Of course it was. Like alcohol it was a reality in my high school years – especially in the social scene surrounding the 1st XV rugby team. I wasn’t a big fan of beer. But it was a legal product. It was freely available and having a beer with “the boys” after the game was encouraged. Occasionally I had one, mainly just to fit in.
Dope was also part of the scene. But those using it were more discrete. No one offered it around at the post match social gatherings. Even if they had I would have declined. It was illegal and I was a “good kid”. I didn’t want to get in trouble. And I knew drugs were not good for you. The fact they were illegal was part of knowing that.
So the law protected “good kids” like me. It protected me in the health message it sent about cannabis. It also protected me in the way it helped to mitigate peer pressure. Being illegal meant pressure to use dope was much less prevalent and overt than it was for alcohol. It also provided a legitimate objection for those who didn’t want to partake.
Make cannabis legal, and those protections for “good kids” will disappear. But do good kids even matter anymore? Or do we have to sacrifice their best interests to “help” others?
These days many of our political leaders, celebrities, and media personalities happily admit to breaking cannabis laws in their past. It was “a long time ago” or they “didn’t inhale” they tell us with a knowing smile. Having used dope is almost a fashion statement. For such leaders it is no surprise that good kids aren’t in the frame when it comes to drugs policy. In their world they probably didn’t even exist. After all – everyone was doing it weren’t they?
No, they weren’t. And a huge proportion still aren’t. They make up hundreds of thousands of our young people. They are good kids. And they deserve better than to be abandoned to cannabis liberalisation by leaders on a mission to recreate the world in their flawed vision of the lowest common denominator.
Of course our young people need health services and education about drugs. But they also deserve the protection of the law.