06 May Stoners Can’t Stop Reinforcing Negative Stereotypes

Cardiff, 3rd May 2014

Cardiff, 3rd May 2014

Buenos Aires, 4th May 2014

Buenos Aires, 3rd May 2014

It’s been another embarrassing weekend for the cannabis campaign with a couple of hundred stoners tramping through Cardiff to exile in the wastelands of Hamadryad Park, about as far away from the general public as you can get in the capital of Wales.

This laughable occasion purports to be part of the worldwide Global Cannabis March. It may take place on the same weekend as other marches but it is nothing but bad news for the cause of cannabis in Britain. If this turnout is the best the organisers can manage, then why do they bother? To any impartial observer it would suggest that there is no demand for cannabis law reform in Britain. It’s just the same few scruffy stoners in another muddy field with amateur graphics, tumbledown tents and tumbleweed the most stimulating foilage on display.

Marches, demos, ‘smoke outs’, ‘smoke ups’ and ‘smoke ins’ don’t work. They reinforce all the negative stereotypes that put the public right off. We should be grateful that there weren’t any of the unseemly scuffles with police as in Hyde Park a fortnight ago. Cardiff police do seem to have taken a more intelligent approach, avoiding confrontation and herding the marchers off into a wilderness where they can’t bother anyone and become just completely irrelevant.

All that such events do is polarise opinion. They don’t persuade, which is what we should be doing, they are designed to confront, to demand change by gratuitous and blatant law breaking for its own sake.

In Britain, they don’t even manage that anymore. In Buenos Aires, 150,000 people came out this weekend. Even I might be persuaded if there was any prospect of that sort of public support in the UK. Even in obscure cities in Argentina, which most haven’t heard of, there were 15,000 showing up in Cordoba, 11,000 in Rosario and 7,000 in Mendoza (Source).

In Britain it’s only the stoners who take to the streets and let’s be honest, there are very few of them. Out of the 5% of the population that uses cannabis regularly, that’s three million people, there are perhaps 50,000 maximum that even care what ‘420’ means, still wear tie dye t-shirts and think that ‘free the weed’ is an effective slogan. Stoners think they’re the centre of some ‘cannabis culture’ but they’re not. They’re an esoteric and dwindling group of angry protestors, ironically in contrast to the original hippy aim of ‘peace and love’.

We are a first world country after all and it takes rather more sophisticated and intelligent tactics to drive reform. Unlike South America, the average man or woman doesn’t take to the street to express his or her opinion. To create change in 21st century Britain requires focused, consistent and patient work through legitimate channels. Just as CLEAR is doing, the way forward is along the corridors of power not down the park with an illegal PA system and some soggy joints.

The idea that such events have had anything to with reform in the US is a myth. Medical marijuana in 21 states and full legalisation in Colorado and Washington have been achieved despite, not because of such behaviour. The pointless, worthless and futile ambition to use cannabis in public remains banned even in these two most progressive locations.

Those who have the time and energy and want to make a real contribution to the UK campaign should join CLEAR – go to this link: http://clearmembers-uk.org/. Then, get in touch with your MP. You need to meet your MP, ask for a meeting with a minister and keep at it. If you’re a medicinal user you need to get your doctor onside or find a new doctor who will support you.

These are not easy steps. They take time, patience and determination. Unlike marches they can’t be combined with getting stoned with your mates but they do work. It is this sort of campaigning that will, soon, bring the change in Britain that is long overdue.