24 May General Election Aftermath – Have The Lights Gone Out All Over The Country?
Oh dear, the Tories won the general election with a working majority, lights are going out all over the country, we are doomed.
London following the general election of 2015 (from pinhost)
Or something like that.
Throughout the last Parliament progress was being made, at least with regard to CLEAR’s very focused campaign to allow herbal cannabis in the form of Bedrocan to be made available to ill people via a doctor’s prescription. CLEAR made representations to the Home Affairs Select Committee and the then Drugs Minister LibDem Norman Baker we were able to present a strong case for this common sense move and Mr Baker even went as far as making this view public in August last year.
However, as always, even this development was instantly ruled out by the Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May.
At the same time a Home office report – instigated by the LibDems – showed the ineffectiveness of prohibition in controlling drug use. Once again though the head in the sand attitude of no change was maintained. The evidence was irrelevant, the government believes its policy is working and so there can be no change and there will be no change.
So we eventually arrived at the general election, but the choice for those who wanted to see drug law reform was limited. Of the national parties:
Labour had made it clear they didn’t want drug law supporters to vote for them, with Ed Milliband certain in his belief that cannabis must remain illegal.
The Greens had a good drugs policy but seemed reluctant to talk about it, the one highly respected MP they had (and still have) Caroline Lucas almost being sidelined by a leader who couldn’t remember their policy in radio interviews.
The LibDems drugs policy at least seemed to acknowledge the need for change and given the support they had shown for CLEAR’s medicinal cannabis requests we went public in supporting them.
In the event Labour failed to connect with the electorate, the Greens were also-runs (apart from Caroline Lucas in Brighton) and Nick Clegg’s U turn over student loans and his support for the previous coalition government cost them almost all their MP’s.
The nationalist SNP swept the board in Scotland, but drug law reform doesn’t seem to be a priority for them.
Anyway, that’s all history, what we have now is a Conservative government, albeit with a small majority, but with a fractured and probably demoralised opposition and very few of the politicians who were supportive of drug law reform left. The Tories, who have shown themselves to be immune to evidence about the need for drug law reform are now fully in charge and have appointed Mike Penning MP, a hard line prohibitionist.
So now the dust has settled from the general election of 2015 it’s time to look around and ask where the cannabis campaign goes from here.
There have been the predictable calls to man the barricades and to fight the Tory oppressors with massive street demos from the usual sources. Even if this were a good idea, it isn’t going to happen and anyway, it’s not what CLEAR does.
The reality is we have to deal with the Conservative government and to do so on their terms. They may not want to even consider the idea of drug law reform in any way shape or form but we know there is a real world outside of the Westminster village with some very pressing issues. What we need to do is to frame these issues in ways they can understand.
The medicinal campaign is still intact and it’s important to keep it focused on the issues and the goal we’ve been promoting; the prescribing of herbal cannabis in the form of Bedrocan. The important reason to pursue this aim – apart from the demonstrable need on the part of ill people – is because it challenges one of the pillars of cannabis prohibition; that there is no medicinal value in herbal cannabis. We have the evidence to fight this and we have the demonstrable need. But of course, because it does challenge this central point of prohibition policy, this government is going to fight it tooth and nail.
Hence it is vital that we keep this narrow, focused campaign separate from the recreational campaign and especially we must distance it from the “smoke-in” 420 type demos. Frankly people getting stoned in a park does not convince this government about the merits of a serious medicinal cannabis campaign.
So is the recreational campaign dead and buried? well, no, the issue of recreational cannabis use is not going away. The government may like to pretend its drugs policy is working, but in fact cannabis prohibition is causing an ever growing series of problems that will, eventually, have to be addressed.
Legal Highs – SCRAs
Not least of these growing problems is the development of “legal highs”, in particular the “Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists” or SCRA chemicals – sometimes called “synthetic cannabis”, which are in fact nothing to do with cannabis at all. The prohibition mindset of the government, encouraged by the Local Government Association, is to deal with the problem by banning all psycho active substances – but with a few exceptions such as Alcohol, Tobacco, Tea, Coffee etc. Of course, as we know banning substances is a such good way to bring them under control, what could possibly go wrong?
SCRA drugs are dangerous, man made chemicals never tested on humans, manufactured with little or no quality control and sold with no idea of doses. Trouble is the media now warning of the dangers is the same media which lied about cannabis. As Nick Clegg found in the last general election, if you lose their trust people never believe you again and the danger is many people simply will not believe the warnings about SCRAs because of the lies told about cannabis.
The truth is these substances have only become popular because cannabis is illegal, they are a product of prohibition pure and simple. Banning SCRAs will take them out of the headshops, but isn’t going to make them unavailable because the internet will still be providing a supply to unlicensed dealers. The only way to beat SCRAs is by being honest about cannabis and ending the prohibition with a regime that sets out to minimise whatever dangers do exist from its use.
The cynics amongst us will argue that the Tories don’t care about being believed, authoritarian regimes never care about such things after all. That may or may not be be true but even the most arrogant of ignorant Home Secretaries will eventually have to face up to the fact that an increasing number of people are dying because of the workings of the drugs policy. This isn’t an issue confined to SCRAs, it’s also true of club drugs with dangerous chemicals being sold as ecstasy.
America and cannabis law reform
The other reality they face is the hitherto leader of the prohibition regime, America, is changing at least as far as cannabis is concerned. The prohibition mantra is now being promoted by regimes around the world we generally don’t like to associate ourselves with. If history is anything to go by it’s unlikely the UK would want to be seen as opposing developments in the US in support of regimes such as Russia or China. Not only is recreational cannabis legalisation gathering pace, but the acknowledged medicinal uses for the plant are growing. The official US federal position is still that cannabis has no medicinal value, but this is a position that simply cannot be maintained for much longer.
Austerity and the lack of money
As they constantly tell us this country faces huge cuts in public services and that includes to the police while at the same time serious issues compete for enforcement resources. Does it really make sense to alienate large sections of society when we face serious social issues fueled by social division? After 10 years of a concerted police campaign against criminal growing operations we are no closer to preventing them. All the other issues relating to the illegal supplyside also still apply. If there is any truth in the ‘skunk’ scare of high THC strains, then clearly cannabis grows should be properly regulated. As with the problems of ‘legal highs’ it is prohibition that caused the so-called ‘skunk’ growing industry which brings with it all the other issues – people smuggling, fires, destruction of property, funding of organised crime and so on. The list is huge and can only be solved by law reform.
These real world pressures are not going to reduce and argue very strongly for cannabis law reform. Put simply it’s a financial case as much as anything, prohibition of cannabis is a massive drain on resources and simply can’t be afforded.
So we have an agenda. We have the arguments. All is far from lost despite the election result.