Quercus Publishing (2013), 346 pages
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Hash, The Secret and Chilling Story Behind Drug’s Deadly Underworld tells the story of the hash trade, from its production in the mountains of Morocco to the streets of Europe. Clarkson’s book is constructed using interviews he conducted with the various participants; the poorly paid producers in Morocco, the drug mules, the criminal gangs who manage the transport of the hash into Spain, top dealers who earn millions, and the police who attempt to stem the flow of the drug. What Clarkson makes clear is that the trade in hash is every bit as brutal the trade in Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Clarkson identifies a strain of cold brutality that is necessary to survive in the game. If somebody tries to cheat you, loses drugs, or has drugs confiscated by the police, you have no choice but to pay back your loss. A failure to pay back a loss, even of a relatively low value, can result in a death sentence. All of Clarkson’s interviewees at the top end of the game show no compunction about ordering killings to insure that they hold onto their power.
Hash‘s format is fairly simple. Clarkson doesn’t go into any detailed analysis and doesn’t attempt to offer any detailed solutions. Clarkson also makes clear, that despite being a lower class drug (which makes it attractive to criminals as although the rewards are lower so are the prison sentences), hash is potentially addictive. Although I don’t use drugs myself I know two people who had addiction issues with hash. As one person told me he began to realise he was having addiction issues when he wouldn’t go out at night with his girlfriend unless he could be sure he would end up some place where he could smoke hash. Many of the hash smokers I know would consider themselves politically left of centre but would have no qualms about using a substance which is supplied by brutal gangsters whose supply routes are also used for arms and human trafficking. Of course their argument would be that they have no choice where they get their hash from as its use is illegal in most of the world. And legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco cause exponentially more deaths in Ireland. It will be interesting to see how legalisation of cannabis goes in Uruguay and Colorado. The experiment in the Netherlands helped turn the country into a hub for hash and a range of other illegal drugs and services. Legalising consumption of hash is only half the battle, arguably the greater violence comes from its supply. Trying to control only one half of the supply and demand chain has never worked.
If hash was to be legalised in Ireland then it should also be produced in Ireland. In order to smoke hash legally you would have to be resident in Ireland (to reduce drugs tourism) and you would have to buy an annual license and attend a day course explaining the pros and cons of hash usage. Then you would need to show your license whenever you buy hash at a licensed premises. The hash could be sold in barcoded bags and it would be an offence to carry your hash unless it was in a barcoded bag. For this to work the price couldn’t be much higher than the current price of hash on the street although most people would probably be willing to pay a very small premium for quality controlled hash that was being taxed for the benefit of the economy in general. There could then be an argument for introducing tougher sentencing for those found dealing in illegal hash in the country. What is clear from Clarkson’s book is that millions of euro are spent each year trying to stop the flow of hash and, judging by its availability, this expenditure spent is mostly wasted. Clarkson’s book, although lacking in detailed analysis, is a useful insight into the brutality that lies behind a drug that’s used as a relaxant by millions of Europeans on a weekly basis.