Kyla Cobbler | Barcelona, Spain | 21.08.21

Kyla Cobbler is an Irish comedian and cannabis advocate living in Barcelona, Spain. She has built up an audience of 53.6 thousand followers on Instagram over the past two years, as her comedic ‘Stories’ have gained popularity. Recently, she announced that she would step back from social media for a break and some time to reflect. Earlier this month, she officially began working in a Cannabis Social Club in Barcelona, called Club Guru.

Hello Kyla! Hi! I’ll start the recording now, if you don’t mind. *Robotic Zoom voice confirms the recording has started* Oh, there you go… Did you hear that? ‘This meeting is being recorded.’ That was cool, I didn’t know it did that. The robot? I sorted that out from my side for the meeting, I wanted it to seem professional.

Excellent! How long have you been living in Barcelona? I’ve been living in Barcelona since February 2020. Right on time for the pandemic. I got here on the first, and then it went into lockdown. But I was living in Milan previously, for seven years. So, I literally went from the fire pot into the pan, or whatever the expression is. You had quite the experience with the post package that one time, and the threat of prisonYeah, you did your research, yeah! That was a mental situation, glad you got out of that one. Yeah, it was. It was quite an experience. Especially when it was an experience with drugs, that weren’t my drugs. I don’t take cocaine or ecstasy, I was like… *shocked expression* ‘Nooo!’ So it was a little bit hurtful. But yeah, I got here in February 2020 and then we went into lockdown Friday the 13th of March. And then we stayed in for sixty days, so that was fun. That was exciting. I bet it was, yeah. How did you manage to get the gig at The Comedy Clubhouse? Basically, I came in to do stand-up and there was an open mic and I met one of the owners.

The two owners are Dr. Matthew Murtha and John Allis, they’re both comedians, from America and New Zealand. I came in to see stand-up and I saw that they are absolutely hilarious and brilliant comedians, but terrible bartenders! So, obviously, with the Irish background, I slipped in, as an opportunity, and asked if they needed a hand, even just on weekends. Because I was waiting on Club Guru to be open, it was still under construction. But I was very lucky, because one, it was fun, and two, just to be around comedians and writers and creative people, it’s very stimulating and it’s just a good time. You know what I mean? It doesn’t feel like work, ever. I consider them my friends, for sure. Would you have a background in writing? Because I got the impression from an older post once that you were having a bit of a creative block. Yeah. I’ve always written. I’ve always done, we’ll say, more background work. So I’m very much happy to be the right hand man, or the wingman. That’d be more my kind of role.

Because I love writing jokes, and if someone comes to me with a thread or a sketch I am more than happy to write with them. I mean it depends on what the premise is, or what platform you’re using to perform the joke, ‘cause it always changes. I did stand-up comedy in Italy as well, in Milan, but in Italian. Oh wow! And I was always writing, you just always do write. If you see comedians, they always have notepads, they always have stationary shit in their hands, (stuff) written in their phones. It’s an observation, it’s a constant comic thread. And I write as well for pleasure, just to journal, for my business. Very impressive that you did stand-up in Italian, that’s mad! It is impressive. I’m glad you said that, it is impressive, I’m surprised myself (that) I did it! *Laughter* Do you know what it is? I wasn’t great at school. In the Leaving Cert, I got 225 points only. So I barely, barely passed. And then I didn’t go on to third level education. I did foundation maths. You know, I wasn’t necessarily an academic student or someone that would’ve thrived in that situation. But with languages, I love talking. I love chatting, I love expressing myself.

I’m very, very curious about other people. I think that’s one of my passions, just humans, you know? Yeah. And going to Italy and being forced to learn the language, it was just such an easy way to learn, for me. That’s how I learn, how my brain works. After about two or three years, I became fluent. Their sense of humour is very different from the Irish, and it was very curious to me. Because, you know in Ireland, it’s like.. Not ‘dog eat dog’, but they’re merciless like. If you go to the pub with a new hat, or new runners.. Oh my God, when it’s your night, Richard, you know yourself (slang translation – ‘you know how it is’). It’s fucking depressing. So, it was great to go to a different culture and just immerse (myself) in that way of joking. And they have a very stupid sense of humour. Yeah, clowning around. People walking into doors, or slipping on floors, and I love that. I love Dumb & Dumber, I love Jim Carrey. I love real expressive comedy, where it’s a lot of body, and there’s metamorphosis body-wise, you know? That would be right up my street. And then, Bud Spencer, do you know Bud Spencer? I don’t, I’ll look him up.

He starred in Spaghetti Westerns, that was a whole new world to me. I had never seen any of them and that was really fun. And then I just said: ‘Fuck it, I’ll give it a go!’ And then as well, I think because I speak another language, I was more confident, because it was almost like.. Not a mask, but I suppose you’re almost ‘in character’. I’m not expressing myself in English, I’m a very different person when I speak in English to when I speak in Italian. Which I think is true for everyone, they speak in their own way, in a different language. It was really, really fun. I got a good response as well, which was great. That’s mad! Were you involved with the comedy in Milan for a long time? Not the way I am here. The comedy I did when I was in Italy was more, with other comedians online, or in English, ‘cause a lot of the writing I do would’ve been in English. But there it was just stand-up. It wouldn’t be great, the scene (in Milan), to be honest. And they’re kind of up their own asses when it comes to women. Like, people would say: ‘Oh you’re SO funny, for a girl.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, thank you. What a compliment.’ *Kyla laughs*

How generous of you’, yeah. Yeah, yeah. ‘Fuck off’, d’you know what I mean? But I think that was a learning curve for both myself and them. Then I was working in fashion and I had a lot of jobs and I made a lot of money. I paid off my Credit Union loan, which, as an Irish person, you know.. They were hawkin’ you for that, yeah. So yeah, I didn’t do that (comedy) much. I’m a lot more involved with this one here. Is The Comedy Clubhouse at Pub Limerick, or am I mixing things up? It used to be called Pub Limerick, that was the original name. And then it was, PCP, The Piña Colada Palace, because our Piña Colada shots are.. I don’t wanna say ‘world renowned’, but I’m gonna say ‘world renowned’. And now it’s called The Comedy Clubhouse. We were very lucky, ‘cause we had Michelle Wolf in recently, Matteo Lane… These are big, top notch comedians coming in from the States and doing open mic and practising new material, which is an absolute honour. When did you first become interested in cannabis? When I was in Ireland, I used to smoke hash. But I didn’t have any idea about the plant.

And then when I got to Italy, I started smoking weed. I would suffer with anxiety quite badly. And I was prescribed pills and medicine from a Doctor. And although I didn’t feel anxious, I didn’t feel anything.. at all. Yeah, I’ve heard that before (about anxiety medications). And for a creative person, it’s just depressing. I’d prefer to feel a little bit anxious than (feeling like) a zombie, you know? Of course. So I started experimenting with marijuana and different strains and growing when I was in Milan, for myself, just to feel better. And it just grew from there. I’m really big into nature. My grandfather was a fisherman, my dad was always outside too and I’d be with him. Plants, and flowers, and trees. I’m an absolute hippie, Richard. I love it. I love being outside, I love being around it, I love watching it blossom. I find it very fascinating. And for me it began from that. The difference when I realised marijuana is a flower, that it’s actually a flower that comes from the Earth… And it can help me in my physical form, my mental form, my emotional state, my spiritual state.

That, for me, was a very, very interesting and new way of looking at a drug. Because it’s so stigmatised at home. You know, like coke and marijuana are the same thing! And I was so afraid of it, I was so ashamed that I liked it. But then, I’ve worked in Irish pubs my whole life. And I can serve you sixteen pints till you get sick on yourself, and that’s fine. And you can come back the next day and drink again, and that’s fine. But me smoking a joint is a problem. So it’s very confusing as well, when you start to get into the drug itself. Yeah, it’s hypocrisy. It’s not even hypocrisy, it’s just absolute ignorance. And I think people are terrified of that word, ‘ignorance’, but it is. If you’re missing information, you don’t know what you’re talking about. You just don’t know. And I think that’s very, very apparent when people start the debate of ‘drink and drugs’. And ‘the drugs’, that’s what they say, you know? Marijuana, ‘the drugs’. *Kyla laughs* 

Do you have a preferred way to consume cannabis? I love the art of rolling a joint. I absolutely love it. I love being able to roll, I think it’s really cool being able to roll. I know it’s a very basic thing, but for me it’s flex. I think I look cool when I roll a joint. And as well, in Ireland, because we come from such windy places and everyone’s smoking outside, we can roll in any conditions. We’re made for it like. Right, you’re like a hardened joint roller. This is it! Rain or shine, Easterly winds, let me know and I’m gonna fuckin’ get this doobie done, you know? Yeah. What I started doing recently, since I opened Guru, is smoking with a sorrel mix. And it’s actually (supplied by) lads from Dublin, Herbernia they’re called. They sent me over a mix, they’re brilliant. They’re beautiful. I opened it in the club last night and I smoked it with Lemon Kush and Lemon Zkittle. So, anything (with) D-limonene will really stimulate your creativity, and having that lemony taste with the Purple… I can’t remember the name of it. It’s got CBD in it as well though, the tobacco mix. It’s fucking amazing. It’s a really lovely smoke. And it gets rid of the tobacco buzz too, which is always a plus, you know?

Do you see the cannabis debate developing in Ireland much over the next few years? To be honest, I haven’t been following the cannabis debate, because I do think that the divide in Ireland at this point of the marijuana journey in the Western World and in America.. I mean, you cannot sit there and be angry about it. People are so unwilling to listen. I’ve been asked to come on and talk online for activists in Ireland, and I’m like: ‘With all the love and respect in the world, I’m in a place now where it’s progressive and I’m doing something with it.’ But to sit and try and convince Biddy, who’s 55, that a joint isn’t gonna do any harm, it’s just.. I dunno, I haven’t been following it. But I know the stigma. You could have vodka (and) Red Bull for the whole night, right? You could drink shots of vodka and get so, so sick and be so hungover. And you’ll go back to it the weekend after. But people, unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to marijuana, they have one whitey, one time where they feel sick or paranoid when they smoke… They never go back to it, and they have this horrible idea of it that terrifies them.

Instead of trying to fight that stigma, over here, I take another approach. I make sure that whatever I’m giving to people, whatever I’m putting in that they’re consuming, I know exactly what’s in it. And I know why everyone has been like that, and I know what it’s gonna do for your brain and your body and what high you’re gonna get from it. I don’t know how it’s going in Ireland but I do think, personally, that once America does it, we’ll all do it. Can you fucking imagine Ireland with coffee shops? It would be incredible, and it would change our society for the better. Because, let’s face it, we’ve had our issues with drinking. In so many families… Alcoholism has destroyed so many of us, and it has caused so many problems. And I’m like, ‘Why can you sit there and this be socially acceptable for you, because you’re used to it, yet be so closed off to the idea that something comes from the ground. A flower that grows from the ground causes all these problems?

It’s causing problems because the shit that you’re buying off streets and putting into your body now isn’t regulated. We don’t know where it’s being grown, we don’t know what strains are in it. We don’t know if it’s Indica or Sativa, what cannabinoids, what terpenes.. There’s just nothing, there’s no information there. And they’re so angry about it. And I don’t follow it because it annoys me. Prohibitionists will go on all day about all the harms, and the danger it has for our children and communities. But the whole reason it’s like that is because it’s prohibited to begin with. Of course, even decriminalise it! I’m not saying legalise it, just fucking decriminalise it, it is a plant! When I see people getting shitty with me about it, or they try to open dialogue about it, like: ‘Yes, well my nephew smoked weed and then he had schizophrenia!’, I’m like, ‘Do you think if your nephew, who suffered from mental health issues, drank sixteen vodkas, or went out on an Irish night out (and you know what they’re like), or an Irish wedding, you think that wouldn’t have happened?’ The more you demonise it and put it as The Boogeyman, the scarier it becomes. You know what I mean? It’s so frustrating.

And you know what, there’s so many fuckin’ people (and I’m) like, ‘You need to fucking smoke. You need to have an edible and you need to fucking chill.’ *Laughter* You need to calm down. You just need to chill, you need to take it a step back, you know? What resources and supports were available in Barcelona to help set up Club Guru? It wasn’t easy at all. It was probably one of the most difficult things. Now, if you go to Italy, or Spain, anywhere in mainland Europe that’s not an island, the bureaucracy side of things is a fucking shit show. I remember applying for my Passport in Ireland, and after every page they would say, ‘Well done! Next page.’ And I was like, ‘This is so lovely.’ *Laughter* ‘This is so nice, being talked to nicely.’ But here, it’s just an absolute fucking shit show. It was very difficult, very time consuming, it was very expensive for the licenses and stuff. But I think it’s the best thing that’s ever happened (to me).

To be able to experience marijuana the way I’m experiencing it now, in such a calm and tranquil environment, is such a different smoke. You get high differently. Yeah. You’re with people who love it, you have these insane conversations. And of course, there’s a bit of stupidity there, because it’s still a drug, it’s still fun. But it’s been great, it’s been so worth it. Did you ever hike up to a hill and it’s a cloudy day and the view is cloudy and you’re like, ‘Fuck this’? *Kyla laughs* Well, it was the opposite of that. At times, it was like: ‘Fuck this hike’. I don’t know how to put it into words, but sometimes I know when something is gonna work. I have a good business mind and I thought: ‘This is gonna work. This is gonna change my life, and I know it is.’ Which is a gift. I’m beyond grateful, it’s something else. I had a group of people yesterday that were trying the non-tobacco Herbernia stuff. I was reading some of your blog posts for people and they were shocked at the things you have to discuss on it, because of the idea in Ireland of marijuana.

I was like, ‘Yeah, these are writers who have to dance around something, dance with the Devil, hide their names.’ It’s fucking insane. And they were shook from it, it’s such bullshit. They were like, ‘Irish people are so fun though!’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ We ARE, but.. It is odd, ‘cause we are a fun-loving people, but we’re just so afraid to embrace weed. I remember the last time I was home before the pandemic, and I met another Instagrammer, she’s a really famous blogger. And I was at about 20k (followers), and she was like: ‘I’m gonna give you some advice. You’re doing really well on Instagram, but you need to stop talking about weed.’ And I said, ‘I absolutely won’t. It’s helped me so much on my journey in life. It’s really, really changed my life and I won’t not talk about it.’ And then the same night, we were out, and she asked: ‘D’you want a line?’ And I was like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? You’re gonna sit there on your high horse and give me fucking advice and you’re shoving that shit up your nose that’s been smuggled in in someone’s ass? Fuck you.’ It’s such hypocrisy, such bullshit. 

Can you give our readers an outline of how a typical Cannabis Social Club works? You come into the reception to become a member. You have to be recommended, you can’t just walk in. You give me your ID and I put in your ID details. You top up there, so you give a donation to the social club. We’ll say it’s €12 or €15 a gram for the good weed, and you’ve got, whatever, €30 on your membership. And then you’ll say, ‘I’d like to collect four grams of Lemon Haze.’ And then I’m like, ‘That’s absolutely fine, thank you for your donation.’ But it’s all non-profit. You have to say ‘collect’, and ‘receive’, and ‘donate’. There’s no buying, there’s no selling, etc. Why do you think Catalunya, and Spain in general, has a more tolerant, open-minded attitude about weed? In Ireland, there’s about 4.5 million people. And about 2 million are in (Greater) Dublin. So, the rest, there’s no one. We’re living in a place here where there’s shitloads of people. When you have that many people, no one gives a shit if you want to smoke a joint or not smoke a joint, once you’re not causing any distress to anyone.

I think that it’s just, having the amount of people that are in the city, and having that diversity. I’m sitting in the club now and Kobe Smith is from Hawaii, and Matthew Murtha is from Ohio, and there’s another comedian downstairs from Berlin. John (Allis) is from New Zealand. There’s just other shit to do! So it’s not just any old comedy club there, it’s an awesome place! Oh no, no, we are the crème de la crème of European comedy. And I know what you’re thinking: ‘You’re sitting there, licking your own nipples.’ I’m not, this is what other people have said. *Kyla laughs* I love Ireland to the ends of the earth and back again, I really do, it’s my soul. But, in Ireland there’s this thing a lot of the time where we talk about other people, a gossip culture. Whereas here, people just have their own lives, and they’re fulfilled in their lives, and you talk about stuff. About different things. And I know that sounds silly, but I think this society’s way of being and their relationship to marijuana is very hand-in-hand. And the fact that no one gives a fuck. It’s a different thing, it’s just a completely different relationship to the drug.

And people have been around it longer, and they’ve seen the long term effects and realise that it’s nothing. If you have a boyfriend or a girlfriend of a life partner that is a stoner, you are guaranteed they won’t do the dirt. And not because they’re some amazing human being, but because they couldn’t be fucked. It’s a different buzz, you know what I mean? It really, really is. So I don’t think it’s tolerance, I think it’s just not giving a fuck. I think they just have bigger fish to fry than a plant that grows out of the ground. What do you think the Irish government can learn from the Spanish system of Cannabis Social Clubs? I think the Irish government can learn that you can have it in your society and amongst the general population, without it being in your face. Here, it all has to be under recommendation, you have to know someone in the club. So, if you don’t want to have this Amsterdam vibe, where everyone goes to get high, you can do it in a smart way. You can do it in a discreet way, which is fine.

The other day, I was in the club and this guy came in. Fucking ride, gorgeous. He’s a Doctor. But an actual medical Doctor, not a fuckin’ voodoo guy, an actual Doctor. He works in Germany as a GP and they’ve legalised medical marijuana. So, he comes in and he’s telling me about all this stuff. And as I’ve said, when I’ve suffered with anxiety, weed has gotten… Like, I would never say now, ‘I have anxiety’. Or, ‘I’m anxious.’ Nah. I just have this little thing that I can fix with a flower the Earth gives me. That, in itself, is incredible. If we just legalised it for medical reasons, it would be amazing. It would. And I think the only reason that we’re not is ‘cause the big pharmaceutical companies would be out of business, because it would just be so much easier to manage, and so much cheaper to heal people from what Mother Nature gives us. Rather than producing things in labs and putting pills into our bodies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete hippie. I know that medicine is great and thank God for it.

What I put into my body on a daily basis is so important, because (cannabis) is my medicine. It’s the same with food, drugs, liquids. I think that’s just how it has to be. Everything in balance, in moderation. I can’t imagine going home and having that stigma on me, not being able to talk about weed. Being with my family and not being able to go for a smoke. It just seems so silly to me now, you know what I mean? It’s fucked up, but fair play to you for doing what you’re doing. You can talk about it, but many people seem indifferent unless they smoke. People often don’t seem to want to learn more about it. It’s not on their radar. It’s strange to me. I think, if they did know more about it, they’d be all about it then! They’d love it! Me and my mom used to argue over weed all the time. When I first started doing Instagram, and I used to post things about weed, she was like: ‘You’re not gonna get a job, you’re not gonna get an agency, you’re not gonna get a brand.’

And I said: ‘I don’t wanna work for someone who doesn’t believe in what I believe in.’ Yeah. I can make money, I’m a hard worker. I don’t need to make money quick and give up who I am and what I think and what I stand for, for a little bit of extra cash. I’m not willing to do that, you know what I mean? Yeah. And I think that that could be a big reason why Ireland isn’t progressive (with cannabis). Because we are very, keeping up appearances sometimes, ‘cause we’re a small place. If you go on to the gossip websites, about me, ‘cause obviously now I’m a big Instagram guy, (they say) ‘Oh yeah.. Yer one, the slut, with her waccy tobaccy!*Richard giggles* Sex and weed! They’re not insults! The fact that I have good sex and I smoke good weed, that’s not an insult.. You’re not getting it! *Laughter* Thank you so much, Ms. Cobbler! My pleasure! Thanks for everything. I wish you all the best with Club Guru and indeed your comedy career! Thank you so much, bye!

Debating the Drug War: Race, Politics, and the Media | Review

Michael L. Rosino is the Assistant Professor of Sociology at Molloy College in New York State. In his book, Debating the Drug War: Race, Politics, and the Media, he explores the following areas of debate on the War on Drugs: ‘the history of the relationship between racism and drug policies, the role of the media as a place where people debate these policies, how the debate reflects popular ideas about race, crime, and politics and even commonly held ideals like justice, equality, and freedom, and how people construct and reinforce identities through their participation in these debates and what that means for society’.

In order to get a clear breakdown of the views held by people in this debate across the media, he ‘conducted a content analysis of over 30 years of US newspaper content that focuses on the War on Drugs, including 394 op-eds, letters to the editor, and news articles.’ He also examined ‘3,145 comments on the internet’, gathering them from the comments sections of relevant online news articles, published from 2009 to 2014. Including the Introduction and Conclusion, there are six chapters, which include questions for academics to discuss, as well as additional notes. To emphasise the ongoing legacy of systemic racism in the United States, Rosino begins the Introduction by detailing the fatal police shooting of unarmed eighteen-year-old African-American, Ramarley Graham, in 2012. He mentions that this was only one of three killings of black men that week by the New York Police Department.

A plain clothes NYPD Officer shot Graham in the bathroom of his home, which he shared with his grandmother and six-year-old brother, after the cops involved broke down both the back door and the bathroom door. Graham was trying to flush a small amount of newly-bought cannabis down the toilet. The officers involved had seen his purchase through street cameras and had decided to follow him home, entering without a warrant. Before the young man’s home was breached, Officer Richard Haste announced that Graham had a firearm, ‘perhaps misrecognising the young man adjusting the waistband of his pants’. A gun was never found at the site. This gives readers a sample of the racist police violence that is so prevalent across the US. Rosino covers the racist origins of American drug prohibition, which relied on the creation of moral panics, exaggeratedly defining activities, events or people as ‘a threat to societal values and interests’.

The powerful would manufacture such hysteria, linking minority ethnic groups to the supply of drugs and the corruption of the innocence of white moral values. The author begins by outlining the suppression of Chinese opium dens in the 1870s, eventually leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the first law excluding an entire ethnic group from entering the United States. Anti-Catholic sentiment and growing antisemitism against Jewish immigrants in the alcohol trade, by groups like the Ku Klux Klan, led to a demand for alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. Popular and influential media depicted European migrants who identified with these religions as threatening to the dominance of white Protestants in America. Mexicans, blacks and Native Americans were all presented by the Temperance movements as engaging in criminal and immoral activities, particularly when using alcohol. Rosino provides examples of how historical prohibition has had a lasting effect on racial discrimination in policing and the legal and criminal justice systems.

One study from 2006 stated that, ‘although a majority of drug transactions involving the five serious drugs under consideration here involve a white drug dealer, 64 percent of those arrested for drug delivery in Seattle from January 1999 to April 2001 were black.’ A 2016 study said: ‘Overall, in comparison to blacks, whites receive shorter prison sentences for the same drug crimes in the United States.’ A 2007 study into the effects of felony convictions on employment, found that white applicants who had felony convictions received more callbacks than blacks who had no criminal record at all. A groundbreaking sociological study of crime carried out by W.E.B Du Bois in 1889 gets a mention too, where he showed that ‘racial differences in crime rates were a product of residential segregation, disproportionate policing and surveillance, the impact of slavery, racial discrimination, lack of economic opportunities, and lack of government investment in black communities.’

Rosino mentions two response tiers which began to emerge for problem opiate drug use in America during the 2010s. One of harm reduction, treatment and empathy, and one of surveillance, punishment and incarceration. Statistically, the former tends to be the approach for white people with drug issues, while the latter is how black people with the same issues are dealt with. Although the Obama government began moving away from severely punitive drug laws, former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of the Trump administration re-introduced regressive drug laws and narratives, positing that cannabis use is linked to violence and that it is addictive and dangerous. Rosino discusses media agenda-setting, via frames, which present coherent narratives of a complicated War on Drugs. By examining digital copies of local, regional, and national newspapers containing the term ‘War on Drugs’, from the ’80s onwards, the author was able to break down exactly how arguments have been framed in the media over the years.

He presented four primary frames: Fiscal, Freedom and Justice, Functionalism and Racial Unfairness, each of which was further broken down into sub-frames. They were given percentages based on the frequency they appeared. The frame of Racial Unfairness was the least common to appear, at almost 9%. Additional frames were included in the author’s breakdown of internet comments, such as Racialized Victim Blaming, which had sub-frames like Denial of racism. Racial Unfairness was acknowledged nearly 12% of the time by commenters. According to Psychologist and Sociologist, William J. Ryan, victim blaming involves ‘justifying inequality by finding defects in the victims of inequality.’ Racialized Victim Blaming took place when commenters ‘interpreted racial disparities in arrest or mass incarceration as a natural or legitimate outcome of inherent differences in traits between whites and blacks.’ Such comment authors ‘saw clear evidence of systemic oppression as instead serving as evidence of moral inferiority or social deviance.’

For me, chapters four and five were the most eye-opening sections of the book, as they covered important terms like racial silence, coded language and identity construction. Racial silence involves the implicit silence of whites (including white-dominated media) regarding the ongoing legacy of systemic racism, which is a central issue of the discriminatory War on Drugs. Because whites are dominant in positions of power and influence, their perceptions of themselves, other ethnic groups, and so-called cultural norms in behaviour and thought are imposed on society, promoting their interests as being legitimate, natural, or common sense. Coded language is explained by the author as ‘enabling claim makers to construct racialized subject-positions while maintaining surface-level racial silence.’ Code words for ethnic minorities range from crack babies and welfare recipients to terrorists, cartels and thugs. Words such as these are used to ‘conjure racial imagery, yet avoid the direct evocation of racial categories.’

In this way, age-old myths about an intrinsic superiority of whites compared to other ethnic groups who are threatening, dysfunctional, and morally-inferior are reinforced to some degree in the public psyche. Rosino states that identity construction and reinforcement are an integral part of responding to, understanding and debating a given issue, such as the War on Drugs. People are inclined to identify themselves as being part of a particular group, while excluding others via symbolic boundaries. The categorising of racial groups, dominant traits associated with them, and differences between them, are just some symbolic boundaries. Such notions are highly influenced by those with the most power and influence in society. Michael L. Rosino’sDebating the Drug War..‘ is more informative and enlightening than this review can truly communicate. It’s packed with sociological and racial concepts and data which underline the urgency for drastic racial justice and drug reform in America (and by extension, the Western world and beyond).

Many uncomfortable truths of systemic racism are laid bare in this book. Often, those truths are ignored, undermined or denied in the media and in public discourse. It seems that a significant amount of white Americans prefer to imagine that their society is fundamentally fair and equal and that those complaining about social inequities have simply failed in life through poor personal choices, or were born into an inherently inferior culture with lesser moral values. The reality is that this is nonsense. No ethnic groups are less morally sound or more naturally prone to dysfunction, violence and crime.

* The Green Lens would like to thank Michael L. Rosino for providing us with a review copy of this book.

No Country for Auld Smokers (Part II)

Nicholas revisits the Keogh’s Crisps case and delves into more cases of arrests concerning cannabis seizures amongst older demographics.

As the Keogh’s Crisps case comes to a close, a number of arrests have been made for those not commonly associated with news stories of cannabis seizures.  Anthony Keogh, aged 64, the former Keogh’s Crisps director who grew cannabis as a ‘gardening experiment’ for medicinal purposes, can finally prepare for some decorum as he’ll have his sentence of eight months imprisonment deferred to October 4th, as stated by Judge Melanie Greally. The case has brought months of unrest to Mr Keogh and now there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel, but this isn’t the case for many people who found themselves in the same boat, growing cannabis for personal use.[1]

Evelyn Corrigan, aged 68, pleaded guilty to the possession of 325.7 grams of cannabis on the 11th of December 2017.  She argued that she had no intent to sell or supply and that the plant was simply utilised to treat her glaucoma and emphysema. In his closing statement, defendant James Dwyer SC, asked the court: “Is it suggested she was walking up and down the Square in Tallaght to sell it? Is this ‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘The Golden Girls’?” The jury returned with a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict concerning the charge of possession of cannabis for sale or supply, as Judge Pauline Codd dismissed the charge of drugs possession under The Probation Act.

“International trends suggest that [medicinal cannabis] may change. It is people like Ms. Corrigan who are spearheading it. It’s been recognised as having significant health benefits.  She allowed me to make admissions so we could get to the point of this trial: the bizarre, frankly, suggestion that my client is a drug dealer.”

– James Dwyer SC. 

On behalf of the defence, Dwyer offered the jury “an apology that your precious time has been wasted on a ridiculous case like this”.[2]  Randolf Bruin, aged 52, found himself in a similar situation, having cultivated €16,000 worth of cannabis.  Unaware of how serious the situation had become, Mr Bruin’s lawyer said that Bruin, a father of one, was “trying things out, more or less”. Having cooperated with Gardaí during the initial search and following investigation, the court heard that Mr Bruin intended to use cannabis in his tea, cookies and to smoke it but there was no evidence of intent to sell. Mr Bruin had his charges struck out on the condition that he donate €1,000 to the Laura Lynn Foundation.[3]

Michael Curtis, aged 70, had over €1,000 worth of cannabis in his home when a detection dog discovered it during an investigation carried out by members of the Cork West Divisional Drugs Unit, under a search warrant at Mr Curtis’ property.  As we’ve seen in previous cases, there was no evidence that Mr Curtis had plans to supply the drug to anybody and that it was simply for personal consumption.  Judge Colm Roberts remarked, “It’s a lot to have for yourself, for a 70-year-old man.” As solicitor, Eamonn Fleming contended his client was not dealing in drugs. Judge Roberts responded, “My concern is there is a lifestyle choice here that believes he is above the law.”  This wasn’t the first time Mr Curtis had found himself in front of a judge. 

In 2017, he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service for cultivation.  A ruling that had no effect on a man that was trying “very hard” to give up drugs as stated by his solicitor, Mr Fleming. “I see no progress,” the judge retorted.[4]  The type of progress Judge Roberts expects from someone battling cannabis dependency is distilled in ignorance.  Does the referral of a General Practitioner not factor in when these sentences are handed out? Or is consuming cannabis simply a criminal’s activity? Given the empathy shown by these judges, I assume the latter.

While these are the stories that reach us, we don’t hear about the countless others that suffer the same fate.  The majority, if not all smokers over 40 are usually partaking in cannabis consumption as it provides a litany of benefits for aches, pains, and psychological issues commonly experienced as we mature in age.  Growing cannabis for personal use is becoming more prevalent in the wake of the blunder that is the Medicinal Cannabis Access Programme.  As we covered in a previous article, the programme was welcomed by many and in theory, stood to help thousands of people but in practice, has demonstrated that actions speak louder than words. 

Many would rather go through the appropriate channels to alleviate their ailments, but the programme has been such a farce that it leaves people to source cannabis themselves.  Recently, out of the twenty-four neurologists currently working in Ireland, nine have written to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, voicing alarm over the products likely to be offered. Regarding the treatment of epilepsy patients, they have stated they will shun the programme over concerns of, “inappropriate and potentially harmful” products being made available under it. [5] 

The handling of medicinal cannabis in this country has been a disaster and has subsequently pushed people to either source from the unregulated black market or harvest the plant themselves.  This has resulted in more cases of varying ages and backgrounds being placed under arrest for attempting to care for themselves privately. But in cases of more mature demographics being arrested comes a new perspective for their peers who always assumed cannabis was a young person’s drug.  That cannabis prohibition only affected the generations untied to them politically and/or spiritually.  The dissemination of these cases only serves to provide those uninterested in the plight of the young person, a chance to acknowledge that cannabis prohibition affects everyone even if they don’t know it. With more pensioners likely to appear in the news from cannabis seizures, the awareness of archaic laws governing cannabis consumption will begin to turn the tide on the discussion of reform.  We can only hope….


References:

[1] https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/courtandcrime/arid-40337237.html

[2] https://www.thejournal.ie/pensioner-acquitted-of-possession-of-cannabis-for-sale-or-supply-after-plants-grow-too-big-5506624-Jul2021/

[3] https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/cannabis-growing-father-52planned-to-use-drug-in-tea-and-cookies-40571252.html

[4] https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/courtandcrime/arid-40282184.html

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/some-doctors-say-they-will-shun-state-s-medicinal-cannabis-programme-1.4643103