The levers of democracy – cannabis activism in the UK

th (1)Since the Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) sat down with the Home Secretary to have cannabis downgraded to a Class C drug in 2004, the movement has struggled with what to do in making a change. There has been factionalism and no clear leadership (no matter what certain groups believe). Those who choose the liberal, non egocentric approach are working on a variety of different fronts to achieve the same aim – liberalisation of cannabis laws. Over this blog we will examine the various ways of harnessing what some term “democracy” in Britain.

Politicians in the UK are supposed to lead but they in fact follow. Most of them, even in the cannabis movement, are empty husks with no firm idea of what they want except to be on TV or radio where possible. Those in the major parties take their ideas from the newspapers – their leaders augment that with opinion polls which is an expensive way of asking “what do people think after reading the newspaper?” 

Sativa cannabis

The fact is there is so much bias the citizens of the UK are deluded rather than informed. Politicians talk so much rubbish and are frequently so incoherent you wonder what was actually in their teacakes when they sat down to elevenses in the Commons café…

Being confused and morally empty, they are vulnerable too – as any nutcase is on a psychiatric ward. Since they are vulnerable, this leaves them open to influence. One wonders who Theresa May hangs out with when she blatantly banned the legal sale of Qat and handed its supply to drug dealers?

Where one cannot be certain that May spends her summer holidays in a Colombian mansion, if she did this would show how lobbying and activism can work. If we look at something that has certainly happened – the government going soft on alcohol policy. The science is clear that price is linked to alcohol abuse. The NHS could save £1billion a year by pricing people vulnerable to alcoholism off the cheap booze. However, booze suppliers would lose several £ billions in income from fewer people becoming alcoholics.  They lobbied the government with lots of free booze and false science to show that being pissed eases plebs’ lives when their benefits are cut. The government backed away from minimum pricing.

You’re reading this, asking how in hell you would get half the Cabinet stoned on teacakes and to convince them plebs can feel better when stoned about their benefits being cut by Atos? The cannabis movement has to start at the grassroots. On the 20th July UK Uncut have turned a number of HSBC bank branches into food banks. Groups of them went into the branches and offered customers interest free cat food and baked beans to highlight the tax practices of the bank in question.

UK Uncut have seized the global political agenda by doing something similar. In 2010 they went into over 50 Vodafone shops and prevented them from trading. Until that day tax avoidance was a nonentity on the UK news agenda. Since then the G20 has announced a system to shut tax loopholes and one day, may succeed in making major multinationals pay what they owe in host countries. Not bad for a bunch of smelly students sitting in a mobile phone shop!

Stunts in short, work. I argued above that most government policy comes from politicians reading newspapers. If you give newspapers something to write about? Politicians read about you. There are a number of events that have happened – 10 000 cannabis activists in Hyde Park earlier this year, and an upcoming cannabis picnic in Reading. Even the Daily Mail wrote about the Hyde Park event.

Lobbying doesn’t have to be civil disobedience or protest. Some of the most exciting legal changes are coming in law courts. The Courts have almost the same amount of power as Parliament. The Cannabis campaign NORML wrote about Michelle X who hopes the Courts will give her an unconditional discharge for her medical cannabis use. If they do? There will be a de facto medical cannabis law in the UK. As is, she told me that the police didn’t want to raid her home and only did when some lowlife made allegations that kids were in her home and she was dealing.

The police don’t want to bust stoners as it is a waste of time and resources. Tom Lloyd, speaking to the NORML AGM, referred to his former colleagues thinking of cannabis busts as “cleaning sewers” – no matter what you do, more sewage will come through. This opens the door to direct lobbying at a low level. NORML wrote to most of the police commissioner candidates in the UK to get their opinions on cannabis use. Their survey gave an idea of who thought it a low priority and who was a Daily Heil reading monster. The next phase should have been for local NORML volunteers to sit with those identified as waiverers – people who might be bent toward a soft touch on cannabis – and those who are already taking the view that cannabis is a low priority.

In sitting with them and forming a relationship, so you have started low level lobbying. Police Commissioners are all politicians. To be a politician? You have to be an empty husk who likes to be on TV. Making a popular decision will get TV time!

Low level, regional work may well be the way forward. The US has a lot more democracy than we do and at a local level have won many a battle. We all know about the warfare between the Feds and states in the US don’t we? Why not use the local levers of power in the UK?