The bigotry drug

I sat next to a man recently at the launch of an art exhibition.

“Apparently,” he said, “the Roman Empire fell as a result of the Romans’ indulgence in cannabis.”

Really, I said. What evidence do you have to support this?

“None,” he replied. “But it’s a fact.”

I was reminded of this incident the weekend before last when Ann Widdecombe appeared on Radio 4’s Any Questions to voice her opposition to the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C. She said that she had visited sink estates and seen the debilitating effects of drugs on the community, noting on the ground discarded hypodermic needles and detritus from other drugs (such as, one presumes, abandoned bongs and Rizla papers).

She concluded her argument: “For those who disagree with me, no argument is possible, and for those who agree with me, no argument is necessary.”

A better definition of bigotry I find hard to muster.

There is one other argument to consider in the infinite debate over the reclassification of cannabis, and it is a good one. Cannabis is known to induce, or exacerbate, the symptoms of psychosis in a small and poorly-measured proportion of the population (as researched by Robin Murray of King’s College London).

Should we, on this basis, ban peanuts?

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