WILL SELF: Multicultural man on getting high, legally

PUBLISHED: 15:18 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:01 01 August 2019

A cannabis smoker. Photograph: PA Wire.

A cannabis smoker. Photograph: PA Wire.

PA Wire/PA Images

WILL SELF on the similarities between legalised marijuana culture and Brexit culture.

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A sign points the way to to a cannabis shop. Picture: Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty ImagesA sign points the way to to a cannabis shop. Picture: Mark Rightmire/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

"What do you make," asked my film agent conversationally, 'of our legalized marijuana culture?' It was an idle question - voiced, one might almost say, with hallucinogenic disengagement - so I gave it the lack of attention it deserved, and talk on the terrace - which looked out over the mephitic haze of Los Angeles - moved on.

I say "my film agent", casually implying someone who regularly negotiates deals whereby my books and stories are turned into hugely profitable films and TV series, but the truth is although she's been in post for over a quarter-century, what we have to show for all our joint enterprise is a couple of shorts shown at film festivals and a dud French language feature.

True, an adaptation of my novella Cock once gathered sufficient funding - $14m out of a required $25m - and momentum, to go all the way to the cover of Variety (as I recall the headline was something like: "Cock Almost Bankable"), but this was indeed a premature ejaculation. In truth, Martin Amis had it about right when he said: "Don't believe they've made a movie of your book until you rent the video."

There are parallels between the frustrations of writers struggling interminably with the film industry and those Californian pot heads who've waited out the past several decades fervently hoping for their favoured intoxicant to be legalized.

In both instances the lure is a vision of… fantastic visions, while the progress towards them is defined by interminably boring conversations: the pot heads toking on joints and banging on about their cosmically dull visions, the film executives taking meetings and banging on about their cheaply exploitative visions.

Now, at least the former are finally getting to see what it's like when you can just walk into a shop and buy a jar full of artificial paradise; while the latter are high as kites on the streaming services, which, with their relentless hunger for new product, are like the former with a colossal case of the munchies.

At the Kind Center in North Hollywood, after you've had your photo ID checked and been buzzed in, you can buy all sorts of marijuana products - from good old weed and hashish, to pot chocolates, pot vape pens, pot cookies and pot beer.

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There are nasal and throat sprays high in CBD, and little 'one hit' gummy chews, offering you 5mg of that good ol' tetrahydrocannabinol in a sweetly slobbery way. And all of this stuff is packaged differently - marketing intended to appeal at one end of the spectrum to slick sophisticates and at the other to infantile slackers.

Either you want a vape pen like the nacelle of a missile, which will 'deliver' you a 'smooth performance'; or you favour a pre-rolled joint which comes in a cardboard tube blazoned with a cartoon of a large-breasted woman, and which will 'toss your psychic cookies'.

It gets worse: to one side of the shop there's a glassed-in counter displaying small white cardboard boxes. These contain so-called 'dab': highly concentrated THC oil that's smoked in glass pipes, and which takes you higher than one of Elon Musk's rockets - although whether returning to the launch pad vertically is even less likely. Dab is the logical consequence of a marijuana growing industry that has hybridised and hybridised until it produces strains so strong that were you, gentle New European reader, so much as to catch a whiff some burning, you'd imagine it was the past three years that had been the nightmarish drug vision - and looking up to the sky you'd see no minatory sun, but our David Cameron's radiant red face still beaming down at you.

Dab is the logical consequence of people developing too high a tolerance to marijuana through constant use.

But any addict - whether to pot or patriotism - can overdo it, and end up on hard drugs, or hard Brexit for that matter.

Those in Britain on the socially conservative side of things should fear all this brouhaha about epileptic kids' parents demanding their right to CBD - for this, the less fun psychoactive component in marijuana, is indeed the vector through which legalisation entered the American body politic.

Look, I'm not going to tease out these analogies any further - you get the point: dream factories and nightmare factories share a vital similarity - they're both factories, and it's our willingness to believe we somehow manufacture our way into a better world that's the problem here.

That great avatar of the counter-culture, Timothy Leary, once defined the effect of any hallucinogenic drug as being a function not simply of its pharmacology, but also of both the mindset of the individual taking it, and the social setting in which it's taken.

So, to finally answer my film agent's question: I think your legalized marijuana culture is rather like our legalized Brexit culture - over commercialised, pretty boring and very definitely childish.

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