Britain, Cannabis, Crime, Drugs

Skunk shops in suburbia: Who said cannabis was illegal?

Cannabis Leaf

The garish cannabis motif

Cannabis smoking is effectively legal. Possession of cannabis is often excuse with a limp “cannabis warning” and it is unashamedly smoked in the open. Yet the cannabis lobby continues to shout the cannabis use is persecuted. With skunk shops opening on suburban streets, James Garry cares to disagree. 

In the nondescript suburbia where I live, there is probably an Acacia Lane. Every suburbia needs an Acacia Lane to lend it a quaint Englishness. I have just checked the map and, indeed, there is a street bearing the name of the acacia. There are also streets bearing the names of elm, oak, maple, ash and willow. Such names conjure the comfort of living halfway between the capital and the country.

I wonder what the names of future developments shall be: Cannabis Close? Sativa Street? I do not ask this flippantly for, in an increasingly commercialised and shabby street on the border of this town and the next, there is a shop called Skunk Shop or Skunk Works or Skunk Factory or Skunk Emporium. Something like that. And, no, they do not retail accessories for noisome polecats but accessories for the noisome weed.

The dingy shop is directly opposite a major supermarket. The colour of its exterior is black and green, that jarring coordination beloved of dope-smokers. It sells everything to do with cannabis except cannabis itself. Most of its products bear the sativa leaf motif. In front of the shop is a parking space large enough for two cars.

Is this not evidence, contrary to the cannabis lobby’s claims of persecution, that their chosen poison is legal?

If cannabis is illegal, cannabis “accessories” shops would not brazenly sit opposite popular high-street shops. If cannabis is illegal then shops would not be permitted to advertise cannabis – which is exactly what they do when they emblazon products with the green sativa leaf on a black background. Everyone knows what this image represents. If the authorities actually thought cannabis ought be illegal because it is dangerous then they would not permit a cannabis “accessories” shop to have customer parking facilities.

What clear-thinking person would want to walk their children along a street that not only has a cannabis shop but one with a driveway that invites its customers to park there? Is it not conceivable that people who are so enthralled with cannabis will go to a cannabis “accessories” shop to buy a bong pipe with THC (the active ingredient of cannabis) still in their bloodstream?

It is a busy road with a famous supermarket. Parents and their children will use it. Who is to say that a drug-addled maniac will not mow down a child because he impaired his senses with his poisonous peccadillo? It was only by sheer fortune that, in 2010, the singer George Michael did not harm anyone (or damage anything except a wall) when he crashed his Range Rover into a shop-front while under the influence of cannabis.

He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison despite his committing a similar offence in 2007. He served only four weeks of his sentence in prison. A token gesture of a prison sentence if ever there was one. (Or do I mean a toking gesture?)

This is the same George Michael who, in an interview with the Guardian in 2009, said he only smokes seven or eight cannabis spliffs per day instead of twenty-five as he used to. If cannabis were against the law, then the police would use George Michael’s public admission of copious cannabis consumption to get a warrant to impound his cannabis stash.

The cannabis legalisers pretend that cannabis is a recreational drug that can be used responsibly. It cannot. Whether you smoke one cannabis spliff or eight or twenty-five in a day, I would not want you behind the wheel of a mighty Range Rover. Or even a Mini Cooper, for that matter.

Why, when we are walking down the high-street, do we not see burglary accessories shops, murder accessories shops or rape accessories shops? Because these crimes are plainly illegal and we would not tolerate shops that accessorised nor facilitate these crimes. We would be repelled and abhorred that a commercial enterprise could legally promote these crimes.

If cannabis use were illegal we would similarly not permit and tolerate the establishment of cannabis shops on our streets.

The most illuminating thing about my suburban Skunk Shop is not what it sells but what it is called. Skunk. The cannabis lobby like to argue that it is more dangerous to criminalise cannabis than to decriminalise it.

It is a silly argument but one that returns time and again to these debates: If the cannabis were legalised, the content of cannabis could be standardised and there will be no more bad skunk on the market. It is skunk which is dangerous and gives cannabis a bad name, they say. (The cannabis lobby are forced into this concession because of the ever-strengthening evidence that cannabis, particularly the “skunk” variations that contain greater concentrations of THC, causes psychosis).

If the cannabis lobby really were serious about disambiguating cannabis from “skunk”, then why is the Skunk Shop called the Skunk Shop? I know one man’s shop’s name does not represent an entire army of dope lobbyists, but I think it is significant. I expect many dope lobbyists do not care for the niceties of distinguishing cannabis from skunk.

The cannabis lobby will use any technique or trickery to get their beloved weed legalised. This is why they attempt to bedazzle us with scientific claims that cannabis is medicinal or, if not, just a harmless bit of fun. They lie that evil drug dealers sell dangerous skunk and this danger could be combated with regulated, standardised cannabis.

I suspect that, even if cannabis were totally legalised – to the extent that it is available in shops – many dope-smokers would get their “softer” weekday cannabis from the newsagent and their stronger Sunday-best skunk from a drug dealer (the very drug dealers who would supposedly go out of business because of legalisation). Users habituate to drugs and need ever-stronger formulae to achieve the effects they desire. For many cannabis smokers the transition to skunk is inevitable.

And when cannabis is totally legalised, there will soon be a Skunk Shop coming to pollute a suburban town near you.

About James Garry

James Garry is a political writer and commentator. He is the chief editor of Poltics On Toast a political magazine with a right-wing editorial bias. He believes that Britain should return to social, moral and political conservatism and that the changes since the 1960s Cultural Revolution should be undone. He wants out of the European Union and he wants capital punishment visited upon murderers, rapists and drug dealers. He is not a Thatcherite or a free-marketeer. He considers David Cameron and the rest of the Tory brigand to be liberal imposters. His other writings can be found on his personal blog James Garry on Politics in Britain and Hackeryblog


6 thoughts on “Skunk shops in suburbia: Who said cannabis was illegal?

  1. it’s an interesting debate but I would take issue with the idea that “many dope-smokers would get their “softer” weekday cannabis from the newsagent and their stronger Sunday-best skunk from a drug dealer” the majority of people who drink alcohol don’t buy moonshine if you talk to the majority of people who have smoked they will tell hat a mellower weed can give a better high. It is not demand which has fuelled super strength weed but illegality. If you have to sell five ounces of weaker drugs to make the profit of one ounce of super strength but face the consequence of a five time greater risk of detection and a larger sentence due to the size of possession which course would you pursue.
    Certainly excessive THC can cause psychosis but alcohol can cause an array of medical problems if consumed at comparable strength but that doesn’t make beer a dangerous substance when consumed in moderation. It’s a worthwhile comparison because many of the arguments used in the marijuana debate could as easily have been advanced during prohibition in America.

    Posted by Harry Raffal | July 31, 2011, 11:02 pm
  2. Thanks for your comment, Harry.

    I am not so sure that alcohol and cannabis are suitable for comparison. Alcohol can be consumed sensibly and without making the consumer stupefied. The sole reason to smoke cannabis is stupefication. In contrast to alcohol, cannabis cannot be taken in moderation. Cannabis is fat soluble and can stay in the system for weeks after use.

    Posted by James Garry | August 1, 2011, 4:26 pm
  3. I disagree I’m afraid, Cannabis can be taken in moderation and consumed sensibly. I don’t think this is simply a matter of opinion, if you smoke a joint it doesn’t get you as stoned as smoking, two or three. If you smoke a joint and smoke another as the effects diminish you are maintaining a low level of intoxication. I do agree that it will inevitably adjust certain perceptions but so does the consumption of alcohol even in moderation. Certainly it is fat soluble but the studies which have looked at the after effects have not, to my knowledge, produced any compelling evidence that it has harmful consequences after the initial usage.
    Personally I concur with the following “There is a body of opinion that criticises the present legislative treatment of cannabis on the grounds that it exaggerates the dangers of the drug, and needlessly interferes with civil liberty” this is from the general conclusions of the Wootton report and has been repeated in most studies of cannabis use undertaken by the British government since the date it was completed. I would say there is plenty of room for dissent but currently we criminalise a section of society for pursuing a course of action which has lower health risks than, smoking, alcohol consumption and over eating leading to obesity. If we pursued a different course we could redirect police resources to tackling heavier drug use that has proven anti-social consequences, free prison spaces and raise considerable revenues from both direct taxation of the product and indirect revenues raised. In addition to this commonwealth countries such as this would be able to raise taxes on a legitimate tax crop rather than squander resources in a never-ending battle that has failed to work for the last fifty years.

    Posted by Harry Raffal | August 2, 2011, 2:18 am
  4. Interesting you mention the Wooton Report as, since then, there has been no real attempt to criminalise cannabis possession which has made cannabis effectively legal for forty years.

    We must as why the Wooton report has been repeated in most studies by British governments since the date it was completed? Has it anything to do with the fact that all the major institutions that would be involved in these studies (universities, government agencies etc.) are institutions which adhere very tightly to the post 1960’s cultural revolution ideology? I think it might be so.

    I disagree also that we should not criminalise cannabis users because smoking and alcohol are legal. Just because two dangerous substances are legal does not mean that a third should be. This is not a good argument.

    Also, I don’t accept that cannabis can be consumed safely. I have seen people who have smoked a single joint. I would not let them get behind the wheel of a car and drive me home. There are plenty of studies that show that cannabis dulls the smoker’s perceptions. They may not be aware of anything other than their mellow feeling (and how could you be aware that your reactions are a split second slower?) but the split-second difference in their judgement can be the matter of life and death.

    And in everything in life their is a trade-off. Something must be gained and something must be lost. It cannot be possible to smoke a cannabis joint to achieve a “mellow” feeling and not lose something as a consequence.

    I also don’t agree with the argument that if cannabis were taxed, that would be a good thing. We should not legalise criminal and moral behaviour just because a profit might be made. Why not legalise any other number of crimes, then?

    Also, would legalising cannabis really generate profits? Wouldn’t drug dealers – who wouldn’t need to pay tax – just undercut the legal suppliers?

    Or consider another possibility: If drug dealers no longer had a grip on the over 16 market, would they not concentrate their efforts on pushing cannabis to underage school children?

    If cannabis were legalised then more people would smoke. It is just a fact that illegality (or supposed illegality) deters people from doing the illegal act. If cannabis were legalised then more people would be admitted to hospital with mental and physical health problems which would be an even bigger drain on the NHS budget.

    And then there is also the fact that it makes people unemployed and unemployable. Twenty one year old Paul Holland is unfit to work because of depression caused by cannabis use. He has been unemployed all his working life and depressed since the age of thirteen. I wonder how much in benefits we’ve paid him? Legalising cannabis would generate even more Paul Hollands.

    Posted by James Garry | August 2, 2011, 10:41 am
    • James you raise some good points and it’s why the issue is contentious because there are solid arguments for and against. Firstly I wouldn’t deny any aspect of the below
      “Also, I don’t accept that cannabis can be consumed safely. I have seen people who have smoked a single joint. I would not let them get behind the wheel of a car and drive me home. There are plenty of studies that show that cannabis dulls the smoker’s perceptions. They may not be aware of anything other than their mellow feeling (and how could you be aware that your reactions are a split second slower?) but the split-second difference in their judgement can be the matter of life and death.”
      But in some countries, Sweden I believe but don’t quote me, one drink would put you above the drink drive limit and one drink is certainly enough to slow your reaction speeds. This doesn’t seem sufficient reason to justify banning a substance.

      As for not comparing smoking, drink and cannabis I think we’ll have to agree to differ. Personally I don’t think it is right to dictate to people the lifestyle choices they make if they don’t negatively impact on the rest of society. Cannabis use doesn’t have significant direct anti-social consequences, in fact it has significantly less than alcohol. This being the case we should ask if we’re prepared to say it’s acceptable for people to choose to drink why we think it’s also acceptable to stop the use of cannabis. Especially since many studies suggest that the legislation of it’s use would see less harmful effects because it would not need to be produced to high strengths.

      I do think there are important points to consider in how dealers will react to legalisation. But if we were to have a government system of regulation with high quality manufacture people will choose the quality product over the unrefined illegal product. We could have a clear system of policing targeted at deterring young people from early use and those who seeks to supply them. This seems infinitely preferable to the current system where young people are already targeted and are susceptible because there is no means to discuss the issue rationally.

      I don’t think it is a fact that criminalisation deters people, especially the young who can be drawn to supposedly illegal and there for risqué acts. This area isn’t clear cut though. What is important given your mention of the NHS is that cannabis is often seen as a gate way drug. Why is this? Is it not because people are forced to frequent dealers looking to push them onto harder drugs where they can make more money. What is the cost of this to society in general and the NHS in particular?

      Just to deal with your last point, what about the employment created by licensed shops? Or the disabled who as a result of cannabis use may be able to return to work. I don’t think this point is as substantial as it appears especially when you consider that many of the negative effects of cannabis are linked to super high strength THC levels which are a direct result of it’s criminalisation.

      Posted by Harry Raffal | August 2, 2011, 11:58 am
  5. Pretty heavily biased article, the author seems stuck in a 1930’s mindset which disregards sientific study in favor of “harsher punishments”. Well James, they have been trying this for 70+ years, and it didn’t work. Time to look at viable alternatives.

    Posted by Edd Lloyd | January 23, 2013, 3:53 pm

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