WHY OUR KIDS ARE TURNING OFF DOPE
By AARON BERTRAM
THE OLD man might be president of the Nimbin HEMP Embassy, but clean-living son Jarrah ain't no dope.
A generational change of views on the drug is going around the Northern Rivers, reflecting a national trend unveiled by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC).
The report, a co-operative effort between NDARC and pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Australia, found that 30 per cent of Australians under 30 felt getting stoned was not acceptable.
Since the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Northern Rivers has been known as a hazy, fragrant epicentre of cannabis culture.
But now, even here, smoking dope ain't so cool, with young people in the area just saying no thanks, dad.
This generational shift is nowhere more clearly illustrated than with HEMP Embassy president and dope devotee Michael Balderstone and his son Jarrah, 19.
While Michael describes marijuana as an 'amazingly magical herb and a spiritual experience', son Jarrah, 19, sees it as a drag, a substance which robs people of ambition, and something he'd prefer to keep well away from.
Both agree education programs on the possible negative effects of cannabis have played a major role in the downturn of the popularity of the drug.
"Five years ago, it was huge," Jarrah said. "But young people now are more aware of the harm it can cause."
The NDARC study found young people's main concerns with the drug are its effects on mental health, as a gateway to the abuse of other drugs, the so- cial effects and, like smoking cigarettes, damage to the lungs.
Much of the mystique of marijuana was lost on Jarrah from an early age. Marijuana was always in the background when he was a youngster living on a commune in the Nimbin hills.
"I've seen too much of what it can do," he said. "I see kids I went to school with still using too many drugs, even dealing.
"They've just done nothing with their lives."
Michael agrees getting too deep into the drug scene can destroy people, but believes it is the criminalisation of what he sees as a relatively harmless pursuit which causes the problems.
"Make something illegal, and people will profit from it," he said. "Make it expensive, and people will mix it with tobacco and get hooked and make themselves sick."
Although Jarrah doesn't enjoy the psychoactive effects of marijuana, he does like a drink, as do most of his friends.
Statistics from the North Coast Area Health Service Drug and Alcohol Service show alcohol use, along with the problems it creates, far outweighs the effects of all the illicit drugs combined.
While Michael supports the right to smoke, he's proud of his son for making his own decisions.
"And at least I don't have to worry about him getting arrested," Michael said.