06 Sep Behaving Like Naughty Children, Smoking Pot In Public, Achieves Nothing

I am absolutely certain that one of the principal reasons why the laws on cannabis haven’t changed is because of the behaviour of those campaigning for reform.

In what must be the most misguided strategy that any campaign could adopt, those seeking the legalisation of cannabis have deliberately and consistently presented themselves as an “alternative” or “sub” culture. They have separated themselves from the rest of society by dressing differently, blatantly defying the law, presenting themselves as rebels, misfits, victims and renegades.

Even though attitudes have moved on and nowadays long hair and scruffy clothes are less of a handicap than they used to be, they still don’t enhance or strengthen a campaign for reform.

I honestly believe that many cannabis campaigners actually don’t want the law to change. They enjoy being outlaws. They revel in the disobedience of smoking a joint in the street, displaying outrageous examples of huge origami spliffs or making the longest, most tedious YouTube videos you’ve ever seen showing off their bongs and what huge lungfuls of smoke they can breathe at the camera.

Each to their own. I’m not criticising anyone for what they get up to in private but if we want to create change we really do have to grow up and behave like adults who want to be part of society. If we want to persuade the powers that be, then we have to do so on their terms. We’re just making it much more difficult for ourselves if we insist on being divisive and discriminatory. After all, that’s what we accuse them of doing when in fact we do exactly the same.

Things have started to improve. CLEAR introduced the idea of “Hippies In Suits” at the Cardiff Global Marijuana march in May 2011 and that seems to have stuck. Now, even if they’re showing off smoking joints, at least many protestors are better dressed than they used to be.

The whole idea of marches or demos or rallies or “smoke-ups” is something we’ve moved away from. Experience proves that they achieve nothing. They are just social events, nothing more and once again all they serve to do is to separate cannabis users from society and display examples of brazen law breaking. They inconvenience local people, do very little to explain the case for reform and the only thing they “demonstrate” is that cannabis users are different, separate, even troublemakers in many people’s eyes.

We’re not different though. Cannabis is a mainstream issue. This idea of a “cannabis culture” is another divisive, discriminatory way in which we shoot ourselves in the foot. There is no such thing!

The remarkable thing about cananbis is that it transcends culture. It is in every culture. True, there is what you might call a “stoner culture” but they are a tiny minority and most cannabis users want nothing to do with it. Unfortunately they are the caricature with which we are demonised. It is stoners who have held back this campaign for so long.

Again, I’m not criticising anyone for how they want to dress or behave. Do as you will but take my advice if you want to achieve anything.

I estimate there are a maximum of about 50,000 “stoners” in Britain. About half of them managed to sign the legalise cannabis e-petition (achieving only a quarter of the votes that were needed) and, at best, ever, only about 10% of them have managed to gather together for a march at the same time and place. Not that it would have made any difference. In recent years there have been several occasions when more than 50,000 people have marched through London for one reason or another and there has been absolutely no media coverage.

The crucial point is that there are another 2,950,000 people in Britain who are regular users of cannabis but not “stoners”. They are the people and the power we need to harness to make change happen.

To achieve real and lasting reform we have to engage fully with government, the media and the science, medical and academic communities. If we don’t win the argument on the establishment’s terms then we haven’t really won it at all. It’s no good shouting and chanting for “our rights”, however right we might be. I know it’s boring and long winded and not too exciting but that’s what war is about – long periods of boredom and just short bursts of adrenalin and victory or defeat.

In the war on prohibition we need to fight far smarter, be much better prepared and think first rather than act with bravado.

Legal regulation of cannabis is coming and it’s coming for everyone, so let’s start behaving like we’re all on the same side because in the end that’s exactly where we want to be.