Apparently, Some People Smoke Weed: Grace Tame and the Normalisation of Cannabis

grace tame bong photo

This piece has been update with Grace Tame’s response below.

Somebody alert the Church elders, a young lady has been using the devil’s lettuce.

Grace Tame has, somehow, solidified her reputation as a national icon even further after a picture ’emerged’ of her, aged 19, smiling happily while holding an impressively large bong.

The ‘news’ was intended as something of a hit piece to try and tear down the former Australian of the Year after the Prime Minister’s wife, Jenny Morrison, brought up that awkward encounter with Tame at The Lodge.

“I just found a little bit disappointing, because we were welcoming her in our home,” Mrs Morrison said.

“I just wish the focus had been on all the incredible people coming in. I respect people that want to change things, stand up for their beliefs, and are strong, but I still think there are manners and respect.”

Jenny Morrison made the comments during the family’s 60 Minutes feature intended to refresh their image as normal humans who you should definitely vote for in the upcoming election.

Where did these intrepid reporters track down such a damning image of the activist? It was just sitting there on her own Instagram, posted in 2014.

The piece didn’t have quite the intended effect, instead creating a raft of renewed support for Tame on social media. Tame, for her part, responded this morning by taking another swipe at Morrison and his bizarre ukulele rendition on the same show.

“Alright, I confess, we were doing a cover of ‘April Sun in Cuba’. On the oboe,” she joked.

Beyond the mudslinging and the misogynistic demands that a woman knows her place and smile when commanded, there’s a bigger issue of cannabis normalisation here that this whole debate seems to have taken the national temperature on.

We know already that attitudes to cannabis are changing in Australia. The latest figures show that, for the first time ever, more Australians support the legalisation of cannabis than oppose it.

These changing attitudes are probably reflected in the support for Tame and her massive bong online, as the Daily Mail discovered that using cannabis is no longer the ‘gotcha’ that it once was in politics. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, however, as even non-white people who are open about their cannabis and other drug use can become President of the United States. Hell, Malcolm Turnbull came out and said he’d used cannabis in 2008 and went on to lead this country. Wait, are we noticing a pattern here?

In solidarity, many Twitter users have been posting photos of their own drug use:

Etc etc.

While it’s a funny reaction to a dumb news item, the normalisation of drug use has serious consequences. There are countless studies out there showing that when people who use drugs feel unable to speak about their issues, if they being to experience dependency, which not all or even most do, it compounds problems with addition.

This is why, in drug advocacy and non-profit support circles, there is such a push to try and de-stigmatise drugs and drug use. As a point of fact, anyone who has ever had a cup of coffee or a glass of wine is a drug user. Sectioning off certain drugs into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories has however done irreparable harm to some of the most vulnerable in society.

By coming forward, being open and honest about the things that we do in our spare time, we decrease the stigma around these “illicit substances” and make space for people with serious problems to feel able to come forward and get help. If there is anything positive to be gleaned from this whole stupid saga it’s this.

Thankfully, in Australia, things are changing. We’ve run one of the world’s first medically supervised drug consumption rooms in this country for decades and its impact has global implications.

When it comes to cannabis, the country’s most popular illegal drug, most states now have at least some level of cautionary system that does not automatically criminalise users. In fact, cannabis was even decriminalised in the ACT last year, where individuals can now hold up to 50gs of the stuff without fear of prosecution.

The numbers of Australian’s accessing medicinal cannabis continues to climb and the federal government recently announced a multi-million dollar investment in the initiation of new trials to study the efficacy of drugs like MDMA, ketamine, psilocybin, and DMT on a whole range of conditions.

Change happens slowly but instances like the now-famous bong photo can help us realise just how arcane and illogical our drug laws are — laws that we spend untold millions enforcing each year. Sharing those photos, being honest and upfront with those around you about drug use can have culturally important impacts. Maybe just don’t upload them to Instagram though if you’re not quite ready for the Daily Mail to write up a character assassination of you just yet. Or do, you could end up Australian of the Year.

Grace Tame’s Response to the ‘Controversy’

Over the weekend, February 19, Tame responded in earnest to the drama and controversy surrounding her and that picture.

In an open letter to media outlets “who sought to discredit” her with the publication of that picture, Tame said that she was “let down” by the reaction, not as an individual, but as a sexual assault survivor advocate and campaigner.

“There are survivors out there who are terrified of seeking help because they’re afraid they’ll be blamed for what has happened to them. They are afraid they’ll be chastised for their coping strategies instead of being offered support and treated for the cause of their suffering.

“And what do you think happens when they see the mainstream media deliberately brutalise survivor-advocates like me for actions I took when I was 19 and still trying to process something I didn’t understand? I’ll tell you. Their fear is magnified”.

Publicly shaming survivors, Tame continued, for their past and whatever coping mechanisms they might adopt to deal with that trauma further compounds those issues.

Tame explained that abusers use drugs or alcohol to lower their victims barriers and inhibitions, adding a layer of secrecy and guilt to their actions by later focusing in on the ‘wrongdoings’ of their victims behaviour. They hope that those they attack will not speak out because of the fear of being punished for using substances.

While Tame has been rolled in the media for this old picture, she’s been diligently getting on with the job at hand. Namely, raising funds to get the legal wording around sexual assault changed in certain districts.

To this end, her foundation has raised well over the $50,000 target and is racing towards $100,000, with two months of campaigning left to go. The Grace Tame Foundation is aiming to change the definition of child sexual abuse, as, in her case, the crime her attacker was convicted of was “maintaining a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 17.”

A “sexual relationship” is obviously not the nature of the crime here, as it implies consent and agreement from both parties. Tame’s home state of Tasmania has changed the wording around this crime to “persistent sexual abuse of a child,” however similarly problematic wording still remains in all states except for Victoria and Western Australia.

“Our foundation received a record amount of donations that day, bringing us one step closer to a future free from the sexual abuse of children and others,” Tame wrote in conclusion to her piece.

“Now that’s a story worth publishing…”

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