29 Apr 420 Day, Kids, Cannabis, Tobacco And The Future Of The Campaign
I admit I'm very much in two minds about the 420 day and similar events. I do accept that disobeying a bad law is a valid form of demonstration and protests like this have their place in the cannabis law reform campaign – anyway I've been on enough "Smokey Bears Picnics" and "Cannabis Carnivals" myself so no way am I slagging off the spirit of the recent 420 day in Hyde Park when I say what follows, hell no, it's keeping a good tradition of defiance alive.
Ten Years After – Ganja Day 2003, Brixton
Now I should make it clear that I didn't go to 420 day, partly because it was so far away from where I live but mostly because, as someone who no longer uses cannabis, events like this aren't really my thing any more. But going by the many photos, videos and reports I've seen, two things did bother me and in my opinion they are important issues.
One was the number of rather young people there, quite a few were under 18 by the look of things. As the event was oganised on Facebook that's not really a surprise, but it really doesn't do the campaign any great favours and gives the prohibition lobby a highly emotive weapon to use against us. Any law reform we might see for cannabis will surely involve age limits and change will come about at least in part because of the perceived need to protect kids from the cannabis trade. Organising an event like this which can be presented (unfairly maybe) as promoting cannabis use amongst kids is playing right into the Daily Mail's hands. I'm sure that wasn't the intention of the organisers, of course it wasn't, but it did look that way.
The other thing I found really unfortunate was that – again from looking at the pictures and videos – pretty much everyone was smoking tobacco filled joints. Now for heaven's sake we really shouldn't still be having this debate. Any organisation putting on a 420 type event really should be encouraging people not to mix their cannabis with such a nasty carcinogenic, addictive drug as tobacco, a drug which is regarded as a pariah by most adults now. Let me make it plain what I'm saying here; I don't mean that anyone skinning up a tobacco filled fattie should be frog marched off the demo, but that a part of the pre-demo publicity should have promoted the idea of tobacco free smoking, something along the lines of the TOKEpure campaign, perhaps with banners and leaflets on the day. I think some CLEAR TOKEpure leaflets were given out, but the London Cannabis Club didn't do anything I know of.
What 420 day did, unfortunately, was to show lots of young people smoking tobacco. I'm afraid that is wrong on so many levels and again, it does the campaign no favours. Organisers of this sort of event do need to be aware of these things and to treat them as real issues when planning the demo because they are issues the public is concerned about. Anyway, tobacco is by far the biggest health risk cannabis users face: tobacco kills, pure cannabis doesn't, it's as simple and real as that.
As I say, I don't think any of this was intentional and I hope people will learn from the experience for next year. But as regards the age issue, yes, this campaign does need to be a aimed at adults. As far as the 420 day goes this is criticism well meant which should be taken seriously. The decision CLEAR has taken to restrict its Facebook page and website to over 18s is the right one. The reason we are doing this is simple, we don't want to involve children in our campaign to change the cannabis laws. Probably the most important component of cannabis law reform is to enable age restrictions on sale of cannabis. It is no part of our campaign to appeal to or to involve children.