Global Highs

Via Economist:

This makes sense to me. While cannabis is well-known in Russia, attitudes towards it are mostly disparaging where not hostile even in relatively enlightened Moscow. The druggies there tend to be more hardcore anyway. It is a large part of the conversation in the UK – see the debates over what classification it should get – but actually getting hold of it wasn’t easy (I never managed to at any rate, though in fairness I didn’t try; nor did I ever see a weed circle).

In contrast, weed is ubiquitous in the US – well, at least in California. There are books on cannabis horticulture openly sold on the streets (some go on to put this knowledge into practice in secluded inland forest glades). There is the 4/20 Festival in which thousands of people gather round the Bay to smoke weed. While it is illegal in theory in practice it is almost never enforced and one can easily find dealers with product. Indeed one can buy a medical certificate proving that you have an ailment that required treatment with marijuana from a doctor for a small fee.


  1. Whilst I have never myself dabbled or even tried any sort of illegal drug (including cannabis) I think prohibition (as opposed to regulation) is a disastrous and idiotic idea. The only place where it seems to have worked in stamping out an entrenched drugs habit, in this case opium smoking, was in Chairman Mao’s China, which just about says it all.

    I am afraid that here Russian policy is totally wrong. Indeed I read somewhere only a day or so ago that the head of the Russian government’s drugs or rather anti drugs policy was railing at the Beatles for starting it all. With that sort of attitude and with growing affluence I fully expect drugs use to spread and to develop exactly the sort of underground culture and criminal connections that it has in the west.

    • I agree. At the very least, marijuana, khat, shrooms, LSD, and ecstasy have to be legalized just for basic consistency with alcohol and tobacco.

      As for me, I’ve tried weed (quite a few times) and shrooms (twice; and was rather disappointed not to experience any hallucinations for my trouble). Still my favorite drug to date is definitely red wine.

      Lazy Glossophiliac would beg to differ however. 🙂

      • yalensis says:

        I wonder if ethnic Russians are genetically immune to marijuana? I tried it a couple of times with non-Russian friends, and, while they were rolling around on the floor giggling and having a wonderful time, it had absolutely no effect on me. I was jealous. They said, “Oh, it never works the first time.” So I tried it 2, 3 more times on different occasions, once even smoking an entire marijuana cigarette all by myself. Still, zero effect. So I shrugged and gave up. So, like you, I’ll just stick with wine. Wine always has a pleasant effect on me.

        • No, I am affected by marijuana. You should try it with a bong sometime, its a much harder hit that way than via joint.

          I *wasn’t* affected by shrooms which is pretty strange. Well, one time I took them, it was on a ski slope, so I took only a bit because I’m a responsible person. It just made me feel a bit happier and that was all. The other time was at a party and we took a lot. Some colors became brighter but apart from that no hallucinations I’m afraid to say. The next morning I learned that most of the hallucinatory effects apparently come from the stem, not the hood, and I’d only eaten the hoods – so that might explain why I didn’t get to experience a proper trip. I’ll bear that in mind for next time.

      • That’s a nice graph but it of course doesn’t show the more important moral and motivational effects on the subject, that is transforming fine people into vegetables- cigarettes will never do that, cannabis I can witness it daily. If you could ever visit Yemen you’d have seen how most people there are quite literally stone 24/7 on khat, the drug your graph seem to imply is the least dangerous. Really ask anyone who had been there how fresh and sharp that makes them. We don’t call drugs “paradis artificiels” for no reasons.

        Besides, real sino-triumphalists don’t tolerate drug use a single bit, for the same reasons 😉

      • You’re only looking at one side of consistency. Banning everything you’ve mentioned would be just as consistent.

        • But we are not Mao. Banning without removing it from the illegal market is only talk

    • Jennifer Hor says:

      I’ve smelt cannabis smoke and it’s very sweet and sickly and my throat felt sore. Nevertheless I also don’t support prohibition of cannabis. How much difference is there between tobacco and cannabis from a public health policy point of view? I agree regulation and education are the best options. Govt policy on drugs like heroin, ecstasy, meth and other designer drugs should always be about public health, regulating usage and giving advice and medical help if needed, never about law and order and punishing people. (It’s always interesting too that at the same time police are expected to arrest drug users and confiscate drugs, they’re always being drained of funds for holding cells and storage / incinerators for arrestees and the drugs!)

      Driving cannabis underground might actually create a bigger future health problem as current strains being grown are apparently stronger than what it used to be. Stronger grass might be more addictive and have more side effects. Users may also be encouraged to try harder drugs to alleviate side effects. I don’t think that cannabis in itself leads to harder drugs: it’s how you obtain cannabis that might lead you to them ie the dope pusher and what else s/he sells. That’s why I think the film “Easy Rider” doesn’t really deserve the cult status it has as it expresses some surprisingly conservative ideas about cannabis: in one scene, Jack Nicholson asks Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper whether smoking grass will involve him in harder drugs and neither of the two hippies is able to answer him.

      • By the way here is a reference on RT to the comment by Russia’s drugs tsar blaming the Beatles.

      • yalensis says:

        @Jennifer: Despite my couple of attempts at marijuana (see above), I don’t recommend it to anyone. Since you have to suck in a lot of smoke, it goes without saying this would damage a person’s lungs the same way regular cigarettes would? When I tried it, it made me cough a lot, and was not pleasant.

        • Jennifer Hor says:


          Yes, smoking would damage your lungs: the act itself, regardless of what’s smoked, involves combustion so some radiation is released. Long-term exposure to small amounts of radiation would lead to a long-term cancer risk that’s higher than the same amount of radiation delivered in one big burst (I think that’s called the Piatkus effect).

          Smoking also produces some carbon monoxide which affects oxygen supply to the brain. A recent study done in Tel Aviv showed that a small amount of carbon monoxide has a relaxing and calming effect on mood and if this study’s results can be replicated and validated, we’d have a better understanding of why people continue to smoke even though they know smoking is bad for them.

          Of all the places where a study like that could be done, it had to be Israel! (You probably know the Nazis used carbon monoxide gas to kill Jews in Sobibor, Chelmno and Treblinka death camps.)

          So if you’re still keen on marijuana, try eating it instead in muffins or bread.

  2. “…even in relatively enlightened Moscow…”

    Our ideas of what constitutes enlightenment aren’t the same.

    I’m proud of never even having seen any drugs. Wouldn’t know what pot smells like. This will sound arrogant, but I’ve always been curious about high-class stuff, not low-class stuff. What’s it like to be able to play classical piano well, was there anything interesting in Shakespeare or was his posthumous fame a complete fluke, is there anything interesting in philosophy (so far I’ve only discovered that Nietzsche was good), what would Greek and Roman poetry feel like in the original languages – I’m curious about stuff like THAT. What’s it like to do drugs, to go to prison, to associate with lowlifes, to steal, to know something about the WWF, rap music, soap operas, horror movies – not curious. Bored by the idea. Whatever my level is, even if it’s not very high, I’m always excited about a chance to look up. Why would anyone want to look down? Sometimes when I’m clicking through news channels on TV I come across MSNBC’s prison shows. They’re clearly geared towards an audience that thinks that there’s something cool about prison. I had classmates in school who obviously thought that. I was never that kid. Half Sigma often mentiones “Class” by Paul Fussell. I read that book long before I ever heard of Half Sigma. Here was someone who obviously belonged to a higher class than I did writing about class. Oooh, I wanted to read THAT. And it’s not a bad book.

    When you look up, you often see complicated things. That engages the mind, scares away boredom. When I look down, I see sadness, or people excited by things that honestly seem boring to me – laughing at unfunny jokes, adults engrossed in comic books or novels about magic wands. I’m sure that the average janitor in New York has taken drugs many times. Subtracting snobbery from the equation, looking at things factually, has the average janitor or building super ever seemed happy to me? No. Do things that seem interesting to them normally interest me? No. Does an online buddy of mine who happens to be a Mormon, and who’s never even tried any tea, seem a lot happier than that? Yes. With whom would I rather have a conversation on the average day? That’s not even a serious question.

    So yeah, the chances of me ever trying any drugs are pretty low.

    • I don’t know enough about Shakespeare and its era but i watched a movie about him a couple of months ago and that clearly indicated to me that he was a soap opera writer of his day. But age gives him class.