Nick Clegg – he’s a mixed-up chap, isn’t he? As leader of the LibDems, he was a smoker who supported any initiative to suppress his habit. As a smoker, he was always claiming he’d quit – only to be caught having quick gaspers behind the bike-sheds. Now he’s tying himself in knots over marijuana, advocating the ‘Colorado model’ –praising California for following suit, and no doubt giving succour to Justin Trudeau’s Canada, which intends to legalise recreational marijuana next spring.

 Whether legalisation is a good idea or not has yet to be proved. The state of Colorado will make about $1 billion this year from taxing the marijuana industry (which is also stimulating its tourist industry). On the other hand, police in the state capital of Denver have reported huge rises in crime, dangerous driving and road accidents; and doctors continue to warn of possible catastrophic psychological effects. But how any legalisation is implemented is also an issue – and one that reveals exactly how muddled poor Cleggy is.

Here is a man who wants to stop the inhalation of one type of burnt organic material (tobacco) and yet to provide legal safeguards for the inhalation of another (marijuana). Now, at that basic level – furring arteries, clogging lungs – both are equally bad for the health; and Clegg says he wants equal health warnings and restrictions to apply. But he may not have bargained for the quite different intentions of the big businessmen – such as the British banker Roger Jenkins – who stand to make most from legal weed; nor for the market models so far gaining favour in North America.

In the US, plans to use all the dark arts of advertising and marketing to encourage dope-smoking are already well-advanced. (See http://www.sparkthecreative.com/branding-marijuana/ and http://www.sparkthecreative.com/best-cannabis-startup-logos/) In Canada – which will actually introduce plain packaging for cigarettes next year – the CEO of medical-marijuana firm Aphria is equally enthusiastic. In April, Vic Neufeld told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “We’re close to making a decision on colour scheme of label, packaging design…all over the top stuff.”

Is this what Clegg wants to see? Wacky, ‘over the top’ branding for a mind-altering substance? ‘Fun’ product names? Marijuana given the same social acceptance as a Bacardi Breezer? You have to wonder if a man who believes there is a moral case for the narcotic smoke of one leaf – as opposed to the stimulant smoke of another – hasn’t been puffing something other than tobacco.

by Tim Willis