04 Nov The Current State And Future Of Cannabis In The UK

By Max Fernandez By Max Fernandez

These past few months have indeed been active ones for the UK cannabis law reform movement. Hundreds of articles have been written by various media outlets that have reported on ‘cannabis busts’, both for personal use as well as for operations intended for distribution. Although on the surface this may appear to be a bad thing; one key positive of this mass reporting is that it maintains our struggle as part of the national conversation, and keeps the topic of cannabis legalisation relevant. Many of these articles have received the attention of the CLEAR Media Team, which attempts to correct misinformation regarding cannabis. This writer is extremely proud to be a part of the organisation.

The ever increasing number of cannabis ‘smoke out’ protests occurring up and down our country has also attracted the stare of many different media groups. Although our movement is somewhat divided as to the impact of these gatherings, it is impossible to deny that this type of exposure has given us a huge opportunity to effectively engage with members of the public, who would otherwise remain clueless as to our campaign, especially regarding medical cannabis. The Cannabis Hypocrisy Protest in October this year helped to highlight a key contradiction in our legal system, which allows for foreign citizens from the EU to use their medically prescribed cannabis in our country, whilst UK residents attempting to use the same medicine would likely be prosecuted.

According to the cannabis pressure group NORML UK, which organised the protest outside The Houses of Parliament, the gathering provided an opportunity for members of various cannabis legalisation factions, including CLEAR members, to directly lobby a large number of MPs from all parties. It also provided the opportunity to hand out dozens of leaflets informing the public as to the need to legally regulate medicinal cannabis.

The biggest news regarding the cannabis legalisation effort in the UK this year has been the cabinet reshuffle, which saw a Mr. Norman Baker take the position of Minister of State for Crime Prevention. This in itself is a potentially massive step forward for us, as Mr. Baker has previously spoken in a much more liberal manner regarding cannabis compared to his predecessor, Mr. Jeremy Browne. It would be impossible for any rational campaigner to assume massive changes will happen in the near future because of this, but nonetheless, this political change represents major progress. It will be up to all members of all cannabis groups to express their opinions to Mr. Baker, so that he realises support for our cause is at an all time high.

The upcoming November vote in Portland, Oregon, will no doubt dominate much of the press associated with our global campaign over in the US until it is over. This vote follows the success of two initiatives in Colorado and Washington State back in November 2012. If Portland voters choose to see cannabis legalised for possession (but not distribution), then this will mark yet another step forward for our cause, not least because it gives us a stronger prediction as to national (and international) feelings on the subject. US opinion polls suggest that for the first time since prohibition began, cannabis legalisation is favoured by a clear majority of Americans. Because of this massive support, it is inevitable in this writer’s view that yet more States will choose to legalise cannabis for both medicinal and recreational uses. Maine, California and Rhode Island are just a few examples of the States that will legalise and regulate cannabis in the near future, for both recreation and medicine.

As I have previously mentioned, our campaign is a global and international one. This means that all victories across the world in regard to cannabis legalisation are interlinked; a victory for medical cannabis patients in Illinois for example, takes us one step closer to seeing our goals materialise. Success in these States is impossible for our politicians at home to ignore, and even harder for the general public and mainstream media to ignore. Where ever cannabis has been legalised, tax has been raised, police resources have been allowed to focus on real crime, such as murder and rape cases, and there have been far fewer people sent to prison, especially young black males.

Uruguay is also on the cusp of achieving greatness, by becoming the first country to officially legalise the growth, possession and sale of cannabis. The Uruguayan Lower House recently voted in favour of the policy, leaving the vote to the Uruguayan Senate. The Senate is expected to vote massively in favour of the legislation. In this writer’s opinion, this will unleash a wave of South and Central American countries choosing to do the same.

The upcoming 2015 UK General Election will no doubt occupy much time from all sides of the UK legalisation movement, as the election of yet more MPs who sympathise with our goals will mean it will become ever more likely and quickly our campaign will progress. All members of our various groups should take around 15 minutes to read up on the positions of the people they will be voting for in regards to cannabis. It must also be remembered that the power of writing an email or letter to our MPs must never be disregarded. This is the most effective type of lobbying in this writer’s view.

The most recent major opinion poll taken in the UK by Ipsos MORI, asking its citizens what they thought to the UK’s current cannabis laws, and what they would do to change them (if at all), found that 53% of the British public would like to see cannabis legalised and regulated. This statistic has proven to be a massive boost for our campaign in the last few months, with more official debates taking place up and down the country in a variety of universities, as well as an ever increasing number of cannabis documentaries being shown at peak times on popular television channels, including Colorado’s Stoned Kids.

In this writer’s view, the key to our victory is on the medical front; as once cannabis is able to be legally prescribed by doctors to their patients (many of whom are extremely sick, and some dying), the general public will quickly realise they have been lied to by the establishment regarding cannabis use. They will see the wonders cannabis has on their relatives with conditions such MS, Cancer and Crohn’s Disease, and understand that cannabis is not the poison they have been told it is. We should explain to the public that under EU law, a number of EU countries’ citizens can be prescribed medical cannabis. The Irish parliament is debating this issue on November the 5th.

In regards to the upcoming election, CLEAR merchandise will play a crucial role. Stickers have the ability to convey a message to hundreds of people if placed correctly (and legally). These stickers are extremely cheap, and incredibly easy to carry around. The raising of funds is critical for any lobbying group, including CLEAR, and so even a small purchase from members will mean yet more progress for our cause. The CLEAR leaflets also allow for information to be posted into potential voters’ doors, allowing us to spread our message to yet more people.

In conclusion, this writer believes that cannabis could be legalised and regulated in the UK by the end of 2015 if our advocates remain organised and disciplined, and our mainstream media acknowledges the inevitable. However, it is much more likely to happen around October-December of 2016. Our next key focus should be to strengthen our online presence. This will mean commenting on online cannabis related articles, to ensure that our pro legalisation voices are heard. The CLEAR Media Team is always looking to recruit keen, hardworking people who have the ability to express themselves effectively through the written word.