Being a young adult in the 60s, was an odd experience in Great Britain, because our dull post war world, seemed to have suddenly opened up like a beautiful flower. Introducing colour and excitement – to our otherwise drab lives – it made us all look more critically at the somewhat austere views of our parents, who seemed to be largely oblivious to the new world, now appearing before them. At the same time, we newbies were – as the Bill Evens song called “Waltz for Debbie” tells us – “Unaware of the worried frowns that our weary grownups all wear.” But, what about our friends, contemporaries, and relations? Well, they seemed to come in three categories.
Firstly, there were those who modelled themselves on William Gladstone, who went around clutching prayer books, endlessly talking about maintaining moral standards, and listening to Edward Elgar on a Sunday afternoon. Secondly, there were those who saw themselves as Bertie Wooster characters, who skip jived to traditional jazz, went to gymkhana’s and barn dances, and often becoming Young Conservative supporters.
But finally, there was us. We used to ‘turn on,’ wear bell bottom jeans and Cuban heel boots, talk endless crap, and end up at the Marquee Club on Wardour Street – or Alexis Corner’s Ricky Tick Club in Windsor – listening to The Rolling Stones. All very daring of us; but was it?
By then, the rest of Europe was not obsessed with the continuation of outdated Victorian mores and biases, but with finding their way out of the post WW2 jungle. Hardly concerned with people smoking the odd Joint, enjoying the occasional Fudge Brownie, or the coffee shops of Amsterdam, it all seemed so far away from the British Isles, and its special brand of pontificating political dinosaurs.
And today? Well the UK seems to have grown up a bit, stopped senselessly arresting happy pot smokers, and devoting police time to tracking down major drug importers. In London, if you feel like making a joint, it is rather like ordering a pizza – one phone call and there is a ring on the bell – thank you and Goodnite.
In 2015, the first cannabis festival in Greece took place in Syntagma Square in Athens with participation, organized by SYRIZA youth, and the human rights department of the party.
The advocates of the legalization of cannabis, who organized the festival, called it Athens Cannabis Protestival, and they asked for the legalization of cannabis and soft drugs, and the decriminalization of users. The festival organizers said that such an act would benefit the Greek economy. It would bring sizeable revenues to the state, through a state-run cannabis production industry, and would also create 40,000 jobs. Such a prospect would bring 2.5 billion euros a year, and help the Greek economy come out of the slump.
Festival organizers called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to attend the festival, because, in the past, he had supported the movement to legalize cannabis and soft drugs.
What they were asking was the legalization and cultivation of cannabis for personal use, therapeutic, and entertainment purposes. The protest, part of the festival, was to ask for the “right of an individual to use the euphoric substance of their choice.” The poster for the festival depicted the ancient goddess Athena, cultivating the cannabis plant. The two main sponsors of the festival were two Spanish websites, selling cannabis seeds.
The festival organizers proposed that “Greece adopts the Uruguay model, according to which each citizen has the right to cultivate up to six plants for personal use, the formation of non-profit cannabis social clubs, and the state selling certain quantities per year, to adults at low prices.” In 2015, they believed that with the current government in Greece, the time was ripe for such a radical move.
Greece has a long history of cannabis production, and prior to the prohibition era, this Southern European nation also produced high-quality hashish that was exported throughout Europe. Now, some pockets of cannabis cultivation still remain, although the laws are now very harsh by European standards.
The Greek law states that individuals found cultivating cannabis are subject to a maximum of five months imprisonment, if it can be proved that the amount under cultivation was for personal use only. If the amount cannot be established for personal use, then the individual will be subject to the same penalties as for sale and trafficking, including a custodial sentence of eight or more years, and a possible fine of €50,000–€500,000, and up to €1,000,000 in certain circumstances.
Although cultivation laws are relatively harsh in today’s Europe, cannabis is treated separately from other cultivated drugs, such as opium made from the poppy flower.
Despite the severity of its current laws, Greece has a long and distinguished history as a producer of fine-quality cannabis. In particular from the Peloponnese – and the city of Kalamata – which is known to have a long-preserved pool of Landrace genetics, that have a reputation of almost unparalleled quality.
Herodotus, a renowned scholar and historian, who lived from 484–425 BCE, observed that cannabis was cultivated for fibre, and also noted that cannabis grew wild in Thrace, a region of northern Greece, which includes Evros.
Herodotus also famously observed Scythian nomadic horsemen burning cannabis, and inhaling its fumes in order to experience its psychoactive effect; implying that cannabis was certainly also known for its intoxicating properties.
Records suggest that hashish, as we know it today, first appeared in Greece in the early part of the 19th century, as the Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire saw displaced Orthodox Greeks fleeing from Ottoman-controlled lands, bring their hashish-using traditions and hubby bubblies with them.
An immigrant from Turkish Thrace to Greece
So, it is not such a big deal, when you look at it in geopolitical terms, nor is it so unusual to find ‘happy smokers,’ almost everywhere in the world, by enjoying a relaxing moment at home away from their hectic lives, and attendant concerns.
But, back to the skip jiving Chris Barber fans, or avid listeners to the rising crescendo of Edward Elgars “Land Of Hope and Glory,” what are they up to fifty years on – sorry Allen Bennett – and are they still demonising the humble cannabis plant? Well, yes, they usually do!
Down the Checkers Public House, in Watlington, you can still hear the odd pithy remark about “bloody potheads,” over the cacophony and babble of the four ale bar. That is before the politically correct, guzzle the remnants of their tenth gin and tonic, collide with the pub entrance door on the way out, fall over a nearby flower arrangement, drop their car keys, and finally – swerving left and right – disappear into the night.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
The Story of An Ex – President
The White House Washington
It was Christmas and the gray haired man wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and contemplated his life so far. He was confused. But why? After all, he was one of the most powerful men in the world.
However power was not everything, particularly when it came to family life. His wife Tensing was not only uncontrollably ambitious, but had been pushy throughout their entire marriage. Their daughter Fulham was spoilt, and he strongly suspected a little promiscuous. His love for her had been demonstrated by his relentless indulgence, and her love for him, by her total self indulgence. The family power struggle was reaching its peak within the metamorphosis of his marriage, and the visible signs of discontent were now more difficult to contain. This was despite his professional advisors and the public relations experts who daily surrounded both him and his family. Had he come all this way, only to concede that his loneliness now far exceeded his sense of political adventure; the adrenaline on which he existed?
In the background the TV set blandly kept him in touch with international events – with the help of CNN – but on it right now the pundits were discussing domestic issues and the country’s constant obsession with popularity ratings. His were dwindling. But, it was the all too frequent discussion about his private life – and almost historical business deals – which were beginning to irritate him. Was there no part of his life that the media had access to? How anodyne did he have to be, in political office, in order not to attract adverse publicity?
On the glass topped coffee table next to his leather buttoned back chair, there was a copy of Readers Digest, and a Freeman’s catalog – left there no doubt by his wife Tensing. He pushed them to one side, and then out of a heavily ornate silver box he removed some cigarettes, a packet of Rizla cigarette papers, and a small ball of crumpled kitchen foil – which he undid – revealing an innocuous small brown lump.
First he removed four cigarette papers, which he stuck together in a stepped fashion, seeming to form one large paper. Next he broke open one of the cigarettes, which he sprinkled onto the paper. He then picked up the brown substance, and removing a small gas lighter from the box, he started to burn it. The smell was quite noxious, and he smiled with expectation. He then crumbled some of the warm brown substance onto the tobacco, and then assembled the whole thing into a large cigarette. He twisted one end of the now tightly packed cigarette, so it looked like a fuse. Finally, he ripped off a piece of the cigarette packet, which he rolled up like a tube, and inserted it into the remaining open end.
He tidied up the table top, leaving the long cigarette in the ashtray, and then sat back in his club chair, watching – once more – the hourly announcement of his declining popularity. He put the cigarette in his mouth feeling the hard cardboard tip between his lips, and with his soft manicured hand, he squeezed the firm paper tube. He then lit the cigarette carefully, and sat back in his chair awaiting the effect to manifest itself; the craved for feeling of peace and well-being. But, it never happened.
As he puffed on the rocket shaped cigarette, he carefully blew the highly scented smoke out of his mouth, making sure that he did not inhale any of it, because he knew that it was wrong …………..