Is Tasmania going to pot? 5



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I’ve always had a soft spot for Tasmania and, over the years, locals have shown a remarkable ingenuity and perseverance in pursuing ideas that, if implemented, would give The Apple Isle a distinct advantage.

So it was with an open mind and even with pre-disposed sympathy, I considered an idea advanced by local “teaching artist” Leon Ewing that school children should be given marijuana to stimulate their imaginations and creativity.

Mr Ewing is part of the rich tapestry of alterative art in all of its forms that is embraced by Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and its annual winter “Dark Mofo” festival of ideas which will be held later this month. One aim of this festival which features alternative bands and creative, free-wheeling activities such as the “Nude Solstice Swim” is to improve Tasmania’s lamentably low education levels.

MONA creative director Leigh Carmichael defends Mr Ewing’s proposal in the interests of improving the State’s education outcomes. Maybe, just maybe, Tasmania’s precious little tykes could produce some truly revolutionary art, literature and everything else if they got stoned in the classroom.

“We don’t necessarily agree with this idea, but we love that it is brave and creative, and in order for seismic change, we’ll need to think big and be open to provocative ideas,” Mr Carmichael said.

According to Mr Ewing,” We already prescribe amphetamine-like medications to our children for focus and docility. What if we medicated for creativity? Educational marijuana, if you will.”

He has cited a history of the use of mind-altering substances by artists to “broaden their consciousness” and asked, “What genius could be nurtured, if not unleashed, in such circumstances? And he adds, “What a transformational experience.”

Mr Ewing is not just a cutting-edge artist – although what he has produced apart from this idea has eluded me – he cares about kiddies. His plan would include recruiting a “voluntary control group, screened for robust mental health” and customised vaporisers would be used to deliver the drug. I wonder if they would be customised blue for boys and pink for girls and I am glad – relieved even – that Mr Ewing is not suggesting that the kiddies smoke pot – smoking isn’t good for you, after all.

He also suggests that this specially chosen group of kiddies should work with MONA artists, in residence, to unleash their creativity.

I don’t want to be overly critical of course and deride and sneer at ideas which could improve educational outcomes and all of that but I wonder if he has given the slightest thought to the legality of his proposal. For example: What age in Tasmania is the legal age of consent? How would the law there treat parents who “volunteered” their under-age children to go and take drugs with, and live with, “creative artists”?

“Dark Mofo” is officially supported by the Tasmanian Government via its Events Tasmania tourism promotion outfit and while the Liberal Government there has yet to express a view about Mr Ewing’s idea, I’m game to bet that they will not just reject it out of hand but vigorously condemn it.

Don’t run away with any false notion that the Tasmanian Liberal Government is deeply mired in 19th century thinking about drugs. It was only in January when it gave the green light to cannabis farming to produce the drug for medicinal use – the first State to do so – and it is collaborating with clinical trials underway in NSW to test a derivative of the drug to treat such conditions as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory diseases.

Already, the Tasmanian Government has announced that police would not seek to prosecute terminally ill users of medicinal cannabis or even those who comment on its benefits. Health Minister Michael Ferguson has classed CBD – which has no psychotropic properties unlike standard-use cannabis and is one of 85 active cannabinoids found in the plant – as a prescription-only medicine from 1 June.

Sadly for Mr Ewing, it seems that a perceived lack of creativity among children is not actually recognised as a condition requiring treatment by cannabis.

The latest research on the possible effects of cannabis on creativity was published last October in the journal “Psychopharmacology” which concluded, “The findings suggest that cannabis with low potency does not have an effect on creativity, while highly potent cannabis actually impairs divergent thinking”.

Certainly any drug can impair brain function and induce hallucinations – once, but only once – I imagined very creatively that the prettiest little thing in the disco was utterly besotted with me after I had ingested about 27 pots of the amber nectar.

When I awoke the next morning, alone and dishevelled, I realised that my excursion into released creativity was, sadly, a monumental self-delusion.

Mr Ewing should take note.



What do you think about this? Share your thoughts below.

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. That plan seems rather flawed, since studies have shown that it doesn’t aid creativity – rather the reverse. Users just perceive themselves as more creative.

  2. What of the link between marihuana and mental illness in a small section of the community with a predisposition to it. Has this been disproven? I would think meditation, and clearing the mind of clutter would be less dangerous. One of my favourite poems was written by a poet during an opiate induced experience should we suggest kids try that too. No if they have talent it will surface.

  3. R. Mr. Ewing is the perfect example why marijuana should not be used by children or anyone for that matter. What a ridiculous idea! Anyone who thinks marijuana is harmless should come to a hospital and see the results of years of usage. It, like alcohol, is a slow destroyer. So subtle that it is not noticed by the user; only by the sober onlookers, which are usually close family or friends. Not a pretty sight, not even resembling human at times, and all at the taxpayer’s expense. Don’t dance with death and expect any good to come of it!

  4. 1. Teachers can’t hand over a Panadol without legal ramifications nowadays.
    2. Ever driven behind someone who is stoned and they ‘think’ they are driving really well? The artist is just having a brain fart.
    3. M. users become socially isolated people. What kind of childhood is that?

  5. well imho, the guy who constantly topped the head of the class in our undergraduate science group chain-smoked marijuana! so who knows.. I was glad that they were going to rigorously test participants for robust mental health as that is the only aspect that seriously concerns me, the affect on those with pre-disposed/mental conditions

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