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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 13. Somewhere-in-July. 1971



A turned on world drawing

Henwood A Turned On World Drug Use in New Zealand.

Mr Henwood, Dsir Toxicologist and sometime hired proselyte of the chocolate industry - a persuasion more appropriate to those of the Fat Freedy school of thought - felt "Plagued by the question of the desirability of further publicity for this already over exposed phenomenon of the illicit use of drugs." (1)

This didn't, apparently, deter him from writing - which word rather dignifies the torrid struggle with usage, syntax and grammar the author has had - a sub-literate porridge of dubious opinion.

"Thus although it (cannabis) has not the dependence producing properties of the opiates... it is strongly habit-forming." (2) p.23. emotive bias,

"hallucinogenic and stimulant drugs,... have played an important part in the almost ritualistic way of life of many young people" (3) p. 19. and elementary misconceptions,

"The effects of the drug (cannabis) are seen very quickly and reach a peak in about two hours. (!4!) p. 23.

All this seems to add up to the wishful thinking of a puritan lab technician playing thoughtful-citizen games. Everyone to their own ritual, Ray: distinguish, if you will, between the narcissistic circus of New Zealand's professional theatre, the Labour Party Conference, the Karori Branch of the Save the Children Fund's Winter and Spring (charity) Fashion Show, and a Shield Challenge at Christ-church. All these performances are at least as visibly ritualistic (watch out for some of those surf-lifesavers when you're really whacked - they're something else) as a rock concert, if you're objective - or stoned - enough. I'll let you be in my ritual if you'll let me be in your's.

In this context, the psychedelic cover design seems a rather cynical appeal to the drug book market. Most city book shops stock these publications, which range from informative to pernicious. Mr Henwood talks blandly about "exploitation of drug users" but he doesn't say anything about the profit that the straight business world makes out of the drug books and drug music.

The book purports to describe drug use in New Zealand. Mr Henwood is at his best on chemistry and pharmacology but his ideas on the local scene are well adrift. He claims for instance that locally grown cannabis is [unclear: aker] and scarcer than overseas. As discerning smokers [unclear: ell] know, the best New Zealand Green gets better every [unclear: ar], and although it is not up to the best imported grass in [unclear: ality], it is an excellent smoke. Some scientific growers [unclear: have] achieved quite amazing results, a fitting reward for [unclear: eh] religious devotion as is necessary to really get the best [unclear: t] of the local climate. The more people who grown their [unclear: n] and the better the quality of what they grow, the [unclear: etter] it will be for things in general. It would effect the [unclear: rrently] drastically inflated prices, and it would obviate [unclear: nuggling]. which is getting harder to get away with. One of [unclear: e] results of the improved customs procedures has been a reference for hash before grass, and hard gear or acid [unclear: efore] either Which is not a good thing. Not that there's [unclear: nything] wrong with hash, but long term smokers do Not invariably" prefer it, as Mr Henwood seems to think they [unclear: o]. He should really have consulted people who knew what [unclear: hey] were talking about, instead of comparatively naive [unclear: ople] on whom he seems to have relied on for infor-[unclear: nation]. He quotes accounts of cannabis freak-outs, but he [unclear: oesn't] realise that these are uncommon. When this sort of [unclear: hing] happens, it's usually analogous to a schoolboy [unclear: Irinking] too much whisky. It's a damn fool who smokes or [unclear: hinks] more than they can handle with comfort, and an experienced head knows the approximate strength of what he's smoking from the first puff. Of course there are certain [unclear: ndividuals], particularly those who are prone to neurotic [unclear: nxiety], who shouldn't smoke or who take longer than [unclear: sual] to get used to being a little confused, but they usually find out for themselves if they want to perservere with it or not. Of the hundreds of regular smokers known to this writer, none have suffered permanent trauma from an unpleasant cannabis experience. As Mr Henwood himself notes, attempts to identify a characteristic cannabis psychosis have failed. And seeing that 200 million people have been reasonably estimated as users of the drug, it's pretty strange that its psychosis-inducing properties have yet to be demonstrated. A lot of users never have an unpleasant time, and for most of those that do have one it is as a result of a first encounter with exceptionally strong grass (rarely hash, unless you eat it, which would be too expensive for most people in this country); to the inexperienced, this can be disturbing, but to the long term smoker it's a rare treat. Mr Henwood finds it remarkable that one can get so stoned one is reduced to a crawl, but thousands of New Zealanders get themselves into a worse state every week with alcohol voluntarily. Although Mr Henwood puts stress on the notion that alcohol is a drug - fancy that! (and the best thing about the book is its attack on the A and DA act,) he has nothing much to say about alcohol and alcoholism, except that liquor is a good thing for most people, a bad thing for some people, and impossible to prohibit. So what's new?

"The question really is: can society afford to knowingly introduce another intoxicant when it is obvious we have great difficulty in controlling the present "social lubricant." For the choice offered is not between a society using alcohol Or marijuana but between one using alcohol And marijuana." (5) p.96.

Mr Henwood talks as if no society is known in which both intoxicants are used, but this is not so. If India (insofar as it means anything to talk about it as one "society") I has a serious cannabis problem, no-one has really noticed it; (although the Chopras tried) certainly not the British Indian Army report, anyway. But India (or parts of it) does have an alcoholism problem. As a former piss-head I can assure Mr Henwood that grass is kids' stuff compared to alcohol; but I'd rather use what seems to me the more civilized intoxicant, insofar as intoxication is ever civilized.

"Surely the thalidomide disaster is near enough to us to realise that only after thorough testing can any drug be released into the community." (6) p. 96.

Well, fair enough, but societies all over the world have been using cannabis for millenia; why is it that our lawgivers and their advisers can learn nothing from them? This is history, not biochemical research. But governments, of course, are even more loth to learn from history than science. And information Is available on long term cannabis smoking. (La Guardia report, for one,) This information wouldn't necessarily give the partisans of legislation a mandate, but it should be considered. The best cannabis investigations (British Indian Army, La Guardia, Wooton and Canadian) seem to have been ignored by the Board of Health's Committee, and to give Mr Henwood his due, he has some trenchant criticism of their upholding the ludicrous classification of cannabis as a narcotic.

Most (but certainly not all) of what Mr Henwood has to say about LSD and opiates is accurate and sensible, but he demonstrates little first hand knowledge of the abuse of these drugs in New Zealand, apart from talking about his Dsir experiences. He seems to have talked to policemen - a notable source of accurate information - and (apart from a 'case history' or two) a few apprentice-heads who didn't know much, getting the rest of his information from previously published material, little of it having any direct reference to New Zealand practices or conditions.

The effect of this review is, I find, rather negative. I think I have quoted enough to demonstrate some of the book's shortcomings. But the overall impression it leaves is one of indecision. It is as though Mr Henwood wants to stay on both sides of most fences. Often he says something - sensbible or ridiculous - in one place and nearly controverts it in another. For example, the spread of cannabis use is called "alarming" in one place, but elsewhere he recognises that young cannabis users are not really "criminals".

The weakness of the book is indicated in its last sentence:

"But answers to this problem of drugs in society can only come when we realise that whatever chemicals are involved, a "turned on" world is doomed - a "tuned in" one might have a chance."

What is one supposed to make of this fifth-form tautology? The human animal has survived the social use of a wide variety of drugs through recorded history without benefit of modern pharmacology. The "drug problem" is a component of human nature. What sort of "tuned in" world does Mr Henwood envisage? A toxicologists Utopia of test-tube people munching cheerfully on Moro bars?

The hard truth is that there always has been and always will be individuals, some of them with exceptional positive attributes, with urges of varying strength towards self-destruction or chemical self-consolation. There have always been and always will be individuals who would rather be told what they want than try to ascertain what they want for themselves. Mr Henwood stresses the improtance of drug education, but it seems that he can't recognise the basic fact that behaviour is subordinate to natural selection, even in man. You can't make snaity and positive thinking compulsory, only attractive; to some individuals, including a proportion of those we think of as creative, sensitive, or neurotic, they never will be.