24 February 2015
ETHANOL IS A DANGEROUS DEPRESSANT
c'mon, surprise us, Mr Premier!
Just get on and legalise the herb
by PHILIP WHITE
Remember when the most dangerous thing you could do was mix your drinks?
Younger readers may find this strange, the notion that the devil would get you and you'd turn into a deranged killer if you had a few beers then a glass of wine or a whisky or something, but it's not long ago that such behaviour was considered more dangerous than copulating without a franger or leaving the single-shot .22 behind the door with one up its spout for that moment when the dogs warned your pop that the fox was back in the fowlhouse.
As a bloke who's spent thirty five years encouraging the drinking of wine under the guise of promoting the gastronomic arts and supporting this state's most widely-promoted essential industries, both primary and secondary, I found this great big scary mixing of drinks theory bemusing.
It held about as much logic as the promise of eternal life singing hymns up in heaven with Jesus if you're good. In a society which accepts as a civilised ritual the notion of having a glass of fizz with your hors d'oeuvres, white wine with your entree, red with your main, a sticky with dessert and a cognac or port as a digestive, fashionably followed by a few cleansing ales, the whole notion seemed anathema to this writer.
Which leads me to the tricky bit never mentioned in the Food and Wine pages: ethanol is intoxicating.
Too much wine leads to falling over ... photo Philip White
All those millions of words spread over all these media for all those years were fine while they attracted the rivers of gold through the advertising spacefloggers, but how many wine columns can you recall that warned that too much ethanol is a really dangerous depressant?
All those thousands of hectares of countryside cleared of native flora and fauna to make way for monocultural barley to make beer or vineyards to make wine? I can't recall a coincident mention of ethanol or intoxication relative to that tireless human endeavour in all my long years of schooling or decades of doing the right thing by the farmers and our splendid rural communities by encouraging the consumption of their wares.
Intoxicating vista ... McLaren Vale ... photo Milton Wordley
As a bloke with dangerous literary tendencies who's well versed in various degrees of intoxication, I've long related this state-imposed hypocrisy to the car industry. We were proud to have thousands of workers building splendid cars at General Motors Holden: automotive products whose quality was measured by their capacity to break the road laws within a certain number of seconds and top speeds at least double the hike the law permits.
Not to mention the lucrative taxes raised every time a driver has a go at using this technology.
Putting extreme versions of such machines in the city streets to display their capacity to break every law relative to transport, safety or noise in an annual state-funded orgy of excess was always bizarre to me, especially when this is wrapped in ethanol promotion.
Why aren't we leading the world in electric cars that quite safely drive themselves?
Politics? Start with the left. It's only a few weeks since Premier Weatherill promised us some radical new turns in government endeavour. Expect some big surprises? The only examples of this new order that stick in my mind are the state angst over losing the rights to build incredibly complex and expensive underwater spaceships designed specifically to kill people and the promise of a royal enquiry into the possibility of value-adding to our uranium industry.
I won't mention our capacity to over-deliver in our radioactive exports. Or Fukushima. Feel the quality.
Imagine Japan following our drug policy, punishing the dealer rather than the user.
This country's mindless lurch to the right sees the good people of New South Wales expected to love their Premier's promise to evict drug dealers from public housing. Like it's fine for them to drive their 220 km/hr broom-brooms down to Hungry Dan's for a bootload of discount booze grown by the aforementioned farmers and refined by those ethanol industrialists which government markets as glamorous tourist attractions, but sell a bag of pot? Uh-huh. Out on your arse, Sunshine. Take to the streets and don't get in the way of the traffic.
Back to the top. The mixing of drinks boogie man has been replaced by the state-sponsored fear of what it names pre-loading, which means daring to have a few drinks before venturing forth to a night on the town, like the Fringe or the car races or something. Government would prefer those dollars tipped into tills where the tax far exceeds the pittance they took on your discounted pre-load.
Mr Premier, if you want to do something enlightened to help our economy, legalise pot. Tax commercial sales; let the rest grow our own, like we home brew. None of this bullshit about doing it as a medicinal move, which it would be regardless. Just legalise it. Pure and simple. You won't need a Royal Enquiry: we already paid for that in Don Dunstan's brilliant time. It's called Cannabis: A discussion paper, Adelaide, South Australia - Royal Commission into the non-medical use of drugs 1978.
Dangerous criminals: DBC Pierre and the author committing the deadly sin: Honey, take the kids inside ... photo by Pike
My longest-lasting pair of jeans are made of hemp. You can build houses from it. Car panels. Make paper. Relieve pain. Encourage an appetite when you're on chemo.
As for the state-promoted fear of mixing ethanol with cannabis? I'm obliged to advise that a puff significantly enhances my capacity to enjoy the finest of the gastronomic arts. I consume less ethanol. And the conversation is better.
But then, I don't drive. For obvious reasons, I deliberately let my license expire thirty years back. I have taught myself to live comfortably, in the country, many kilometres from the nearest shop. There are cars going everywhere, all the time, with only one occupant. Drivers like company. Learn the neighbours' habits, catch a ride. You don't need to burn petrol in your personal 220 km/hr vehicle every time you need milk.
Let's defer to that bastion of democracy which we always follow, The USA, where there are only 23 states that still prohibit pot outright; where 'medical' marijuana, the decriminalization of marijuana possession, or both, have been legalized in 27 states. Not to mention the District of Columbia.
The taxes raised are very shiny indeed.
You can also empty the ridiculously expensive overcrowded prisons, Mr Premier.
Take the advice of Bill Maher, whose viewers number four to five times South Australia's population per show. On Friday he said:
“Obama should acknowledge that putting people in jail for non-violent drug offences was a giant mistake in the first place, and then he should use the power of the presidential pardon and free them all. Come on, you know you want to! You’ve been stingy with those pardons! Here’s a great way to make up for it, and there’s plenty of precedent. Lincoln, a Republican, pardoned the southern rebels after the Civil War. Ford, a Republican, pardoned Vietnam draft dodgers. Ronald Reagan signed an amnesty for 2.7 million Mexican illegals. If Republicans can forgive people for armed insurrection, desertion, and speaking Spanish, a Democrat can forgive us for getting high.”