05 Jul Promoting ‘Growing Your Own’ Has No Place In The Campaign For Medicinal Cannabis.
Face it, the image above is exactly how too many people in Britain see medicinal cannabis users. It’s not true. It’s not fair. It’s unjust. Almost everything about it is wrong. The one thing that’s right – is that it’s a stereotype some keep on reinforcing.
So we have to educate and inform those who have the power to change the law. We also have to adjust our aims and our expectations to be realistic in the eyes of those we need to persuade. It’s a big enough leap to convince people that cannabis can be a safe and effective medicine. In the UK, the idea that we are going to convince politicians and medical policymakers that we “grow our own medicine” is fantasy. It is not going to happen.
Of course, many people have to grow their own at present because they have no choice. Particularly now that NICE have recommended against Sativex there is, for most people, no other option.
Effective campaigning is about focus, ruthless focus on a precise target. For medicinal cannabis, wider issues of human rights, individuality, ecology, lifestyle, – these are irrelevant. Do those some other time. Real and effective campaigning is like a job interview. You behave and dress in a way you believe will win you credit with your your prospective employer. That’s what we must do if we want to persuade people and change minds.
So the image of medicinal cannabis users we present is crucial. When government ministers see that we are ordinary, decent, hardworking people with families, careers, homes, pets, elderly relatives that we care about – and all we are trying to do is improve our health – that’s what makes the difference.
Believe me, I have seen it with my own eyes. When we first met Norman Baker when he was the Home Office drugs minister in 2013, he was far from convinced about medicinal cannabis. He was pretty dubious about it in fact, as are many. He said initially there was only “limited evidence”. Only when he met some people and listened to their stories did he become open to considering the evidence that we offered. I swear, I actually watched his mind changing, particularly as he listened to Lara Smith explain how she copes with constant pain and bringing up three young children.
Later, Norman told me that when he spoke to Theresa May about it, she simply didn’t understand. She couldn’t conceive that these ‘scumbag potheads and druggies’ have anything to do with the consumption of a therapeutic and beneficial plant.
It is a step too far to try and include GYO in the campaign for medicinal cannabis. We are simply laughed at. No one suggests growing opium poppies or willow trees or deadly nightshade to use as medicine. It undermines all the effort to provide good scientific evidence and a responsible, coherent argument. GYO cannot provide the standards of quality, consistency, safety (free from mould, fertiliser and pesticide residues, etc) that other medicines have to comply with.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for GYO but I’m a weirdo, one of those eccentrics who also grows his own tomatoes, potatoes and other vegetables. Most people prefer to buy them in Sainsbury’s and that’s exactly how it will be when cannabis is finally legalised. Most people will prefer it in a nice plastic tray with a film wrapper and a label telling them exactly what they are getting.
GYO must wait for wider decriminalisation or legalisation. Bringing it into the argument for permitting medicinal use is the cannabis campaign shooting itself in the foot – yet again!