Norwich used to smell like chocolate but now it smells of cannabis smoke

Today, people are brazen with their blazing, says Stacia Briggs. (Picture: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos

Today, people are brazen with their blazing, says Stacia Briggs. (Picture: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos) - Credit: PA

Norwich used to smell like chocolate but now it smells of cannabis smoke like really often, man. When did we become daring enough to smoke weed in public?

When Bob Dylan introduced The Beatles to cannabis they stuffed towels under the door and pulled the curtains tight: the other day I passed the Forum and there was a group of three boys smoking a joint round the back, you know, opposite the police station.

You don't have to be Bill Clinton to recognise the sickly-sweet scent of cannabis drifting across Norwich streets: it's a rare day when I don't smell it either in the city centre or on the streets near to where I live - either these smokers have balls of steel or they realise that (probably) nothing is going to happen to them if they light up.

Let me be straight here: I am not starting a debate about the legalisation of cannabis I am merely mentioning the fact that regardless of legalisation, the smell of the stuff is everywhere and no one is blinking an eyelid, possibly because their eyelids are too droopy after all that second-hand smoke.

Back in my day, if there was anything illicit to be smoked the last place you'd be choosing for a session with the Devil's lettuce would be a public place - for a start, the fear of instant imprisonment was real and present, secondly your mum's neighbour might 'grass' you up to her, thirdly people might be able to see you weren't inhaling properly in daylight.

Today, people are brazen with their blazing: there's something quite admirable about not giving a hoot when you have a toot, although even I draw the line when met by clouds of distinctive smoke at one of the entrances to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, especially when you walk the smell into a ward and people eye you narrowly in case you're about to start dancing or chanting or putting on a live performance of beat poetry.

My husband has never smoked in his life - admirable - but if he walks home from work through one of Norwich's parks (which has a long and noble history of being a place where the young 'uns enjoy the odd jazz cigarette on the benches) sometimes when he comes home he's almost ready to open up a door of perception or shop online for a sitar.

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When I think back to the way Norwich used to smell - chocolate, diesel, The Body Shop's Dewberry perfume - I'm not quite sure that this is progress - the other day, I was in the slipstream of a group of schoolchildren who were smoking cannabis at 8am: on the plus side, both of us had enjoyed one of our five a day by 8.05am.

None of this is a criticism of the police, who have enough on their plates without having to act as blood hounds or dope monitors, it's merely an observation that it used to turn my head if I smelled cannabis in a public space, now I'm just grateful that it's not a cloud of bubblegum scented e-cigarette vapour, which is even worse

Plenty of people use cannabis as a perfectly valid way of treating a range of medical problems and I am completely on their side (my Dad smoked it to alleviate his Multiple Sclerosis symptoms and because it meant the interminable jazz he listened to sounded better, or that's my theory, anyway) but if I'd suggested to him popping to Costessey Park for a quick smoke I think he'd have assumed I was the one with the neurological issue.

Whether it's medicinal or recreational, I think I prefer the olden days when people stayed home to self-soothe because I already have to fight the desire to snack without the added help of tetrahydrocannabinol, the fast food industry's secret helper, on my daily commute or while I'm out shopping.

These days, if I turn on, tune in and drop out, it means I've fallen asleep during Antiques Roadshow. I doubt The Beatles would write a song about that.