Complex, I like it. Warhead's nailed it pretty well so far. Time for a view from a different side of the fence to what we have seen so far.
As a teenager I only ever smoked occasionally - at a party, few drags, fair nuff. At university, ironically, I never got the chance - I did not hang out with the stoners and, for some reason
, they never seemed to stay in uni that long before dropping out.
It wasn't until a couple of years after university when I got double-whammied by the tech bubble burst and swinging between unemployment and contact work that I started smoking increasing amounts of the leaf, typically resin crumbled into roll-ups. I became a lot more 'chilled out', self confident, especially amongst fellow smokers.
During this time I managed to get a secure, fulltime job. I also continued to increase the amount I smoked, to the point it was my primary past time. Without realising it my friendship group contracted to about 2-people, fellow stoners, and all I was doing was sitting around watching sci-fi and cartoons, playing computer games occasionally taking part in a smoke-wreathed tabletop roleplaying game. My quality of work and interactions with fellow employees became unpredictable - not enough to get me fired (nearly got official warning once), but enough to make life difficult, not helped out by increasing paranoia.
Then one of the other two quit because of a job where they needed to not
regularly imbibe an illegal substance. Not long after my other fellow leafwarrior had a nervous break down chiefly due to stress, diet-based chemical imbalance, a bad break-up with a garnish of weed on top. They recovered fully but wisely decided to give up the leaf. A few months after that my then land lord gave me my two months notice from my non-smoking
flat - I had been there for nearly four years, kept the place in good order, but I think they wanted to redecorate. At the time I was paranoid that they were turfing my out for the smoking, even though in hindsight they could have evicted me for breach of contract and
I ended up getting all of my deposit back (which they could have kept).
At this point I decided to cut out tobacco whilst looking for a new flat. Not the brightest move, but I figured if I could do it during a flat hunt then I'd be fine. Pipe-smoking became the way forward - less persistant odour, but more fiddly. Also much harder to smoke a lot of resin with compared to rollies. So I found myself smoking a lot less and after I stablised from nicotine withdrawal I found myself less paranoid. I also found that smoking weed stopped being my default activity, more of a nightcap/weekend affair. I also realised that if I had had the same relationship with alcohol as I did with weed back when I was smoking rollies I would probably have been considered a functional alchoholic.
After a while supplies started to dry up locally and, I found, not being such an epic smoker and using a pipe that a little went a long way. I smoked increasingly sparingly and, when I finally ran out, I did not feel compelled to seek out more.
That was about a year ago. Looking back now I am no longer paranoid, actually have a sense of smell, have much more enthusiasm, focus and self-discipline. I am a reliable member of the team at work and get on well with all my co-workers. My friendship group has expanded back out to include half a dozen good friends and twice as many again friends and aquaintances. It has been oft noted how my attitude and general demeanor has improved.
This is by no means the worse example of the Great Cannabis Experience but I hope it demonstrates how easy it is to get snared by something which starts harmless but can easily take over your life.
The really interesting part comes from the responses you get regarding legalisation from a UK perspective. Almost without exception heavy smokers or those whom have never tried it but hold romantic notions over the whole affair believe that many problems would be solved through legalisation, often with a few caveats such as keeping it out of reach of children, decent regulation and so on like Bonn-o-Tron.
As I cut down I found myself sliding from a firm 'yes' to a qualfied 'yes', and now at a firm 'not yet'. Put simply I do not believe UK society is ready - good progress has been made on discouraging tobacco smoking in public, but the nation's relationship with drink is still quite unhealthy. It would also encourage smoking, particulary amongst the young adult and the underaged set - folks we really want to discourage from smoking.
The best proposal I have heard so far is legalisation by locale, where specific sites are designated for the smoking of cannabis. There are alot
of downsides - it would need firm policing and draining resources from government and council coffers making it a political nightmare, such places could easily become habitats rather than drop-ins leading to a reinforcement of unhealthy lifestyles. It would keep weed away from kids and place it in a controlled, regulated environment but remove one of the thrills of cannabis smoking - the knowledge that, in some small way, one is breaking the law and rebelling.