Smoke ‘n’ Guns

by Daniel on December 18, 2003

In an otherwise perfectly fine post on some subject or other, Jim Henley says:

“I rather suspect that there would be states in which one could grow marijuana […] and states in which one could make a machine gun, but very few states in which one could do both […] which is too bad because if someone’s of a mind to make himself a machinegun I’d like him to be nice and mellow afterwards.

It’s a not uncommon argument in the legalisation debate; that if everyone smoked nice friendly mellow pot instead of drinking horrible yobbish alcohol, various beneficial social consequences would result. To be honest, though, there’s only one country in the world which has experimented in any serious way with the combination of widely available cannabis and widely available machine guns, and the results haven’t really been what you would call a roaring success. Apparently if someone isn’t of a mood to be mellow, that’s just more or less the kind of person they are and there’s surprisingly little you can do about it pharmaceutically. One of the few things we do know about people’s behaviour on drugs is that it’s very context-dependent and influenced by their state of mind at the time of taking them. You might have thought that if you took a bunch of chilled-out Scandinavians and fed them hippy magic mushrooms, you’d get a total peace-and-love-and-social-welfare trip, but look at the Vikings …



Mikhel 12.18.03 at 2:45 pm

Your tongue-in-cheek last line reminded me of another example of how horrible the former viking states are.

It’s strange:


John Isbell 12.18.03 at 2:47 pm

As a longtime toker (no longer), I used to believe that a lot of people could really use a toke. I’ve recently found out that two of my top candidates used to smoke pot frequently. So hey.


jdsm 12.18.03 at 3:04 pm


If their mother didn’t care for them I’m not sure why we should. Anyway, it makes a change from clubbing seal cubs doesn’t it!


Ophelia Benson 12.18.03 at 3:11 pm

Oh, that’s nothing to do with Vikings. That’s just standard procedure in Zoos. There’s no alternative. Their facilities are not infinite, some animals are surplus – what else can they do? (They also use birth control, but that’s not always possible or practical.) This was a hot issue when I was a zookeeper because of the disconnect between public perceptions and the reality of zoo management. Some animals are just a drug on the market – lions, for one – and they do get culled.

5 12.18.03 at 3:40 pm

And somehow I don’t think the paranoia-inducing effect of pot and guns mix that well…
“Why are you eyeing me up like that??”


fyreflye 12.18.03 at 3:51 pm

The late Timothy Leary used to talk about “set and setting” as the factors determining one’s mood during a drug experience. Don’t forget that the professional killers who made “assassin” a generic term were named after their drug of choice, hashish.


Zizka 12.18.03 at 3:52 pm

This has been discussed in my social circles, and the consensus is that marijuana makes people more the way they already are. So people who love to study study more, fanatical housekeepers clean more, and thermonuclear game planners plan bigger and better conflagrations. Herman Kahn is the example of the third case, and people my son and I have known are examples of the first and second cases.


David Glynn 12.18.03 at 3:53 pm

Does Afghanistan also have a long history of hashish use? Their affinity for weaponry being well understood, the combination of AK-47’s and hashish doesn’t seem to have mellowed anybody there.

Greg Child’s mountaineering books relate tales of hair raising bus trips through the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan, where the driver is consistently ripped on hash the whole drive.


dop 12.18.03 at 4:00 pm

Besides, aren’t the “child soldiers” of Africa we always hear about toked up too? Ah, the magical trio — innocent children, mellowing pot, and machetes.


dsquared 12.18.03 at 4:06 pm

I swear I recall reading somewhere that Ecstasy was the drug of choice of the Bosnian Serb death squads, but the only internet references I can find are to me, saying the same thing elsewhere, so I’m not sure I didn’t make it up.


Mikhel 12.18.03 at 4:13 pm

My understanding is that many other zoos attempt to relocate baby animals to other zoos, not kill them every two years. Regardless, it’s interesting: Ophelia, do you have any (easy for you) links on this in other zoos?

I’ve never heard of this before.


Keith M Ellis 12.18.03 at 4:27 pm

…but the only internet references I can find are to me, saying the same thing elsewhere, so I’m not sure I didn’t make it up.“—Daniel

Heh. That made my morning. Is this sort of like going into your own portal? “Dsquared. Dsquared, dsquared? Dsquared.”


Harry Tuttle 12.18.03 at 4:36 pm

The mushroom used by Viking berserkers, Fly Agaric, isn’t exactly the same thing as magic hippy psilocybin mushrooms.

And, as I always say, pot doesn’t cure assholeishness. But, then again, it doesn’t agrivate the condition like coccaine or alchohol does.


Ophelia Benson 12.18.03 at 5:02 pm

Mikhel, I don’t have any links, no. But try looking for the AAZPA (American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria [no, Aquariums really]) and then hunt around there.

Of course they do try to find homes for offspring, and try to prevent animals that are in oversupply from breeding, and as I said birth control, and so on. Killing is not the first choice! That’s why I talked about oversupply – for some animals it’s just impossible to find homes, because every zoo in the country is full to the gills with that species.


spyral 12.18.03 at 5:42 pm

I have smoked more than my fair share of weed in the past, and I’ve shot a few guns (only at inanimate targets), and smoking weed is much more fun. There’s less of a chance you’re going to kill yourself or someone else (yeah, yeah – smoking kills…eventually, I know), and people on weed are generally lazy. I have a theory: Smoking weed makes you ok with being bored/unproductive. That’s the greatest danger you will face when you toke up. Personally, I think that the USA needs to look around the world for a better gun policy.


paul 12.18.03 at 6:27 pm

“Personally, I think that the USA needs to look around the world for a better gun policy.”

What a dumb idea! If we don’t currently make the best guns in the world, why would we want to look elsewhere? So we can encourage someone else by buying theirs? It’s just another case of shipping high-skilled r&d, design and manufacturing jobs overseas. I’m sure that traditional American know how will triumph when combined with that good ol’ can-do, take no prisoners mentality.


Jim 12.18.03 at 7:31 pm

In some of the subSaharan Africa death states like Liberia, young men high on pot enjoy machine-gunning people to death. The idea that pot is to be enjoyed in a mellow, hippie-culture way is a cultural construction, not a pharmacological reality.


Jack 12.18.03 at 8:10 pm

Are you really saying that it doesn’t make a difference if someone gets off their head with, say, tamazepam rather than amphetamines? Or just that an aggressive SOB on drugs is likely still agressive?
I think Jamaica has problems with turf warfare between criminal gangs of smugglers making money that is illicit mainly because the drugs trafficed are illicit. I also imagine that crack is the biggest moneyspinner nowadays and that beer and rum are consumed in significant quantities too.


ja man 12.18.03 at 9:19 pm

Jamaica is NOT a good analogy. It’s cocaine that has these guys shooting each other, not ganja. IMO, cocaine has nearly ruined that wonderful island.

That and the horrible fact that the police are responsible for 50% (at least that was true 5 years ago) in Jamaica.

shoot,if weed was legal…can you imagine stopping at the airport gift shops to bring home a souvineer lb. of weed? Jamaica would be pulled right out of poverty.


John Isbell 12.19.03 at 12:31 am

“And I have to throw away –
My little herb stalk.”
Bob Marley, Rebel Music. You have to take a toke before you may visit Bob Marley’s tomb in Nine Mile. And take your shoes off.


Nabakov 12.19.03 at 5:27 am

Zizka, Herman Kahn was a pothead? T’would certainly explain his 44 rung escalation ladder…and his weight.

And in a stoned aside, I once saw a T-Shirt that said “Why are more Americans killed by guns than anywhere else? Because we’re better shots.”


dsquared 12.19.03 at 9:17 am

I don’t agree that cocaine “ruined a wonderful island”. Becoming a secondary theatre of the crack wars is clearly the biggest factor in the really scary violence, but Jamaica has always been a very violent place; check out any biography of Bob Marley.


dsquared 12.19.03 at 9:19 am

Or for that matter, check out what an extraordinarily high proportion of 50s ska records are about violence. Pleas to Jamaican youth to stop killing each other are practically a subgenre.


serial catowner 12.19.03 at 3:14 pm

Choosing Afghanistan as a place to learn anything is just plain weird. What’s next, Colombia as an example of what happens where pot is legal? Reality flash- Dutch cabbies would like to see alcohol sales restricted on holidays, because drunks act like dangerous morons. What about pot? “We never have any trouble with the marijuana smokers.”

Set and setting- it’s not just for use in the home.


snoey 12.19.03 at 4:00 pm

The Euro 2000 soccer tournament may be one valid test. The Belgians let the beer flow and got the usual rioting from the English louts. In Eindhoven, the Dutch served extra week “festival” beer but let the coffeeshops run wide open and had a peaceful match day.


John Isbell 12.19.03 at 5:26 pm

On a related note, there were stoned players on the field during the 1991 European Ultimate Frisbee Championships (which I admit is not a surprise), whereas the game collapses if you’re drunk: it’s all dropped catches and laughing. Playing stoned IMO clears the mind of clutter and lets your hand just make the catch, as it wants to. You also get a vivid sense of where your teammates are on the field. It’s the zone.
This thread conflates various different drugs, such as the LSD Leary referred to, as pot, which does not really further the discussion.


Snot Rocket 12.19.03 at 5:43 pm

Does Afghanistan also have a long history of hashish use? Their affinity for weaponry being well understood, the combination of AK-47’s and hashish doesn’t seem to have mellowed anybody there.

Well, I think there are other circumstances that might apply. Such as, “Jesus fucking Christ, this is a really unpleasant place. Why are all you paranoid nutcases so hot to run all over it? Leave us the fuck alone already!”


Zizka 12.20.03 at 4:31 pm

A snowboarder lost his medal at a recent winter Olympics because of marijuana use. Does that mean that marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug?


Ophelia Benson 12.20.03 at 7:49 pm

Well of course he did, and went stumbling around the snowy fields mumbling to himself, ‘I just had it, a minute ago, I think, or was it an hour, or yesterday…’

Performance-enhancing? Hm. Depends on what kind of performance you have in mind.


scarshapedstar 12.20.03 at 10:09 pm

“The idea that pot is to be enjoyed in a mellow, hippie-culture way is a cultural construction, not a pharmacological reality.”

Umm, okay, maybe I’ll be inclined to believe you when you actually smoke pot. Here’s my reality:

When you smoke pot, you want to sit down and watch Winamp visualizers, and eat oreos.

Not kill somebody.

Jesus christ, it’s really that simple.


If you’re going to blame all of Afghanistan’s drug problems on hash, well, what about all the OPIUM? That just might have something to do with the killings.

Also, maybe some African rebel kids toke up, but it’s the whole thing about cutting their foreheads and rubbing cocaine into it that really causes problems. Not pot.

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