Christmas tree card

It was 2am and now he was singing about Dwarf Porn. ‘Dwarf Porn, Dwarf Porn, it’s deep down in my soul. Dwarf Porn, Dwarf Porn, that’s my ultimate goal.’

The window was open. Reefer smoke drifted out onto the hillside. He was eight pints of snakebite into the night. I watched him sitting there in my cheap armchair, singing, laughing to himself, older. He’d talked almost without a breath for over an hour. Rambling, laughing, trying his best earnest dissection of the latest problems in both of our lives. The trouble lines on his face had eased from earlier in the night. I was glad to see the change. He’d swerved responsibility again – we both had – for the zillionth time. Just a few hours back in the good old bubble. Two old hands at this now, slowed down and world-weary, going over the same things we’d been chewing up for the past thirty years. Same, same, same. Someone told me it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become really good at something. We had those sorts of hours under our belts for sure. And the bruises.

He went to sleep on the sofa. I don’t know what time, because I was in bed while he was crashing around cursing, looking for ways to open the window again for one last bedtime smoke. Scared to sleep.

In the morning I cleared up the cans. Little ground particles of weed had worked into the rug by the low table we’d been using to roll joints on. I had a train to catch. He was mumbling about bus times and trying to help his brain through the ice of post-blow-out emotional deadness. If his head felt anything like mine then he’d need a couple of days to get back to some form of equilibrium. But we knew all this. You either accept the brain reset or you go hard against it and keep the momentum going. I knew what I’d be doing: the former. A post-binge hangover is a personal thing. You’re on your own. There is no guiding light and no patron Saint to calm the fractured synapses.

I hugged him goodbye at a lonely bus stop in the middle of nowhere – never seen anyone use it, let alone a bus drive past – and walked on to the train station. He sparked up a cigarette and stood leaning against the wind, eyes on the little road.



Bye Bye Howard. Thanks.

“Most people are driven by greed, fear, envy, and other emotions that render objectivity impossible and open the door for significant mistakes.” – Howard Marks


Slate. Moroccan. Gold Seal. Red Seal. Today, the most famous purveyor of Hashish is dead, and with him the faded old world of the moral smuggler, the deadpan police interview, gentlemanly handshakes, and the ancient and righteous belief in doing the right thing no matter what the cost.

He was a modern day prophet – without religion even getting a look in – and, in my opinion, he was one of the very few who transcended the drudgery of life. See, Howard believed 100% in the use of a substance to render a subtly different perspective on the user. And he believed in freedom. Think about that right now, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. Tempting ideas, eh?

Cannabis was never one of the target drugs for us at the NHS. Workers would laugh off a regular cannabis user; we had bigger and more poppy-flavoured fish to fry. That was until the hashish market fell apart in the 90s when people began to realise you can grow the stuff here and simply sell it as is, as opposed to having to go through the whole process of growing acres of the stuff to turn into hashish. First rule of business – create a product the market wants.

The growers began to nurture new stronger strains of cannabis plants in the attics of Toxteth/Balby/your street. Yeah, man. No more trips across the ferry for anyone. In a stroke it rendered HM Customs useless. But it created a monster even Howard never foresaw.

In place of the chilled out and peaceful vibe surrounding hash, the skunkworks of modern day cannabis farmers weren’t signed up to any moral or esoteric doctrine. Cannabis fell out of love with what was left of the Love Generation and into a brutal marriage with anyone who didn’t want to be perceived as ‘straight’ and boring. Love was lost; replaced with brutal gangs and lumped in with the harder side of the drug culture and its even harder products.

We argued a lot at work about the negative effects of cannabis – our records showed that, anecdotally, before the rise of skunk we hardly ever saw a ‘problem’ cannabis user – and came to the conclusion that skunk had changed everything a ‘safe’ drug used to be about. People were presenting at the service with pretty severe mental health problems since the rise of skunk, and links started being made. In the lab, the THC content of skunk was found to be four or five times stronger than hash. But worse, was that the Cannibidiol content of skunk was nil – Cannabidiol is a chemical naturally present in hash which suppresses the effects of the psychotic element in THC. Handy if you don’t want to start running after cars and barking at the wheels.

The modern day reefer burner is compromising their mental health where, in the past, they compromised nothing. How could such a decent substance have turned so shit?

And what can we do?

Well, Howard had the answer to that question: legalise cannabis. Let the producers produce. Regulate it. Tax it. Stock it in supermarkets. Skunk will almost disappear within weeks. Ye Gods… it really is that easy. Take it all back to the days of Gold seal and warm summers and good music and good friends.

Ah, the sweet vagaries of time and the wisdom of youth. No-one sane really believes in the current UK government taking that line. There is no corporate interest in cannabis. And a drug like cannabis doesn’t fit into an era of fear and greed and control. The government have objectives, but those objectives are not about the freedoms of you or I, they are about the accumulation of money for faceless multinational corporations. It’s about a gilded ladder that only the richest get to the top of, and only a tiny minority ever get to touch in the first place. This is all a huge mistake. Surely? You don’t need to be stoned to know what’s right and whats wrong, but who can blame anyone for wanting to detach themselves from the current bad vibes of living in the UK. Any port in a storm.

So to you, Howard Marks, I’ll raise a glass tonight. We talked about GO once. I’m sure you’d have beaten me no matter what you were smoking in recent times. Thanks for having morals, wit, and for a bit of my past.