The authors have interviewed approx. One hundred cannabis users, and talked to a good many more, to get an idea of what users think about their hashish smoking, and how they present it. The use of hashish and marijuana not only symbolized illegality but as much rebellion against the existing and contemporary Vietnam War. Much of this culture goes back to today’s hash smokers as well, they claim, although many of them were not born at the time the culture originated. It is marked the cannabis culture we have today, they claim. They also describe a culture of change. The most significant change impulse may come from what is called “medical marijuana” thinking. Many cannabis smokers describe cannabis as a natural drug, and Sandberg / Pedersen believes parts of the user population are about to abandon the use of marijuana as an intoxicant. Blue. Many cannabis smokers describe cannabis as a natural drug, and Sandberg / Pedersen believes parts of the user population are about to abandon the use of marijuana as an intoxicant. Blue. Many cannabis smokers describe cannabis as a natural drug, and Sandberg / Pedersen believes parts of the user population are about to abandon the use of cannabis as an intoxicant. Blue.
In the book, they present what they call a new theoretical framework, as an alternative to the usual descriptions of cannabis. Their thesis is that cannabis is linked to otherness. Cannabis culture characterizes the hash smokers, their identity, rituals, and mythology.
Three strategies often appear as a form of risk reduction:
The first involves finding other scapegoats. Here, a boundary is drawn between some stereotyped “others,” the at-risk, and “us” who are safe, and therefore, can smoke without risk.
Users often emphasize that only vulnerable individuals are not able to tolerate hashish. It does not apply to them themselves, and therefore, they can safely smoke.
A third technique is to compare with other types of risk. Comparing alcohol is one of the critical stories in cannabis culture, the authors say. It makes it easier for hash smokers to continue cannabis use despite their knowledge of the harmful effects. One technique is also to claim that it is criminalization. That is the reason why cannabis users are at higher risk of schizophrenia, for example.
In one part of the book, the authors also describe the economics of cannabis. They claim that the economy can only be understood in light of cannabis culture. New users are often introduced through friends and acquaintances, but as use increases, they must start buying in larger lots and selling themselves, to keep themselves with cannabis. It means that the economy is spread on many “small-time” who stay away from the more open criminal circles, where other drugs are also traded. But the distance is smaller in small places, the authors claim, where it is more widely known who is a hash user and who is a salesman. In recent years, a new trend has entered the economy, with more and more hashish smokers also growing their cannabis. Thus, they become more independent of smuggling and turnover from abroad.
DECRIMINALIZATION – LEGALIZATION?
The authors argue that generally, there will be no significant changes in cannabis use by decriminalization, provided that civil penalties are imposed, such as in Portugal. But Sandberg and Pedersen disagree on whether legalization would have been appropriate. They believe that the therapeutic approach to legalization can have undesirable consequences.
Cannabis culture provides a fascinating insight into the life of hash smokers in Norway. We get to know occasional users of cannabis – who often live ordinary lives – but also with cannabis growers, medical users, smugglers, and dealers. Insight into the subculture around cannabis is crucial to understanding why the drug is appealing, the authors argue. Cannabis connects very different environments: Alternative environments shape the symbolic meaning of the substance with ties dating back to the 1960s-70s. Culture embraces alternative religions and ideas of solidarity and the “organic.” It is politically left-wing, rejecting the market and barter relations. At the same time, heavy criminal actors play an essential role. The book presents original analyzes of this economy.
Cannabis culture is based on over 100 qualitative interviews with female and male hash smokers, smugglers, sellers of all levels, cannabis growers, and medical users of cannabis, aged 20-62 years. Most have ethnic Norwegian backgrounds, a majority are resourceful, and many come from the upper-middle class.