20 Jan The Politics Of CannabisOriginally published 5th February 2011
Cannabis is a political issue. Make no mistake about it. The scientific, moral, medical and health arguments have all been won. What we need to do now is find a way to make change happen.
It’s in the prohibitionists’ interests to keep debating all the ins and outs and going through the evidence because it diverts from the imperative for change. We have to keep repeating the truth. We have to cut through their deception and scaremongering but above all, we have to demand action.
In the US, they’ve gone way, way past the silly and irrelevant arguments about cannabis being dangerous or harmful. We like to think that we’re smarter, a more mature democracy but so many Brits are still suckers for a Daily Mail scare story. The propaganda and bigotry still prevails here. In America they simply accept that if you abuse or misuse something it may cause you harm. They rarely even mention the psychosis theory. Even after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting and the stories of Jared Loughner’s marijuana use, his friends were quick to step forward and say he’d stopped some time ago and actually seemed worse and more unstable without self-medicating on cannabis. More importantly than that, the US media reported what his friends said rather than hushing it up because it wasn’t sensational enough.
Peter Hitchens, the Mail On Sunday columnist wrote a disgusting rant about the shooting, blaming it all on cannabis and having nothing to do with the truth at all. Now the US media are ridiculing him about Britain’s Reefer Madness. He really is an example of the very worst in journalism. The truth means nothing to him. He is a liar and a mendacious frightener of the vulnerable, the elderly, of children and their parents. You will be interested to know that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has drawn a line in the sand. We will no longer let such nonsense go unchallenged. A formal complaint is being made in the LCA’s name to the Press Complaints Commission. It will be the first of many. We will no longer allow the British media to distribute lies without calling them to account.
Prohibition is fundamentally immoral. It is nothing less than the unjustified oppression of a section of society. It is as pernicious and evil as racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of prejudice. It says that, irrespective of facts, evidence, science or justice, just because we disagree with you, we will make your activity illegal. We will criminalise you, imprison you, ruin your career, endanger your family, smear you with unjustified innuendo and suspicion. We will cause you far more harm than the activity you choose ever will.
It is pretty well accepted now, worldwide, that Nixon’s war on drugs can never be won. It makes Vietnam or Afghanistan look like a little skirmish in some backwater. It has been responsible for far more death, misery and destruction than any war since Nixon first declared it. There are still those who cling to its ambitions, like our favourite preppy, baby face minister James Brokenshire But he is rather like one of those Japanese soldiers, found on some remote Pacific island, thirty years after his Emperor surrendered – still dangerous, still committed to his cause but hopelessly out of touch, in need of re-education, a very, very sad case.
The war on prohibition is now in full flow and this is a campaign that can and must be won. It is a war that has right and justice and common sense on its side. It is time that we marshall our forces, determine our strategy, plan our tactics and hold fast to our courage as we advance on the enemy. I believe that this year or next marijuana will be legalised in at least one state in America. Once the dam is broken, progress will begin to roll out all over the world.
I believe that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance is the standard around which we should rally. We are responsible, respectable, reasonable citizens and we need to unite to fight the war on prohibition.
What is vital is that the LCA communicates its messages effectively to the right people. It seems to me that one of, if not the most important audience is members of parliament. They, after all, are the only people who can actually change the law. We therefore have to play their game by their rules.
In the documentary “In Pot We Trust”, Aaron of the Marijuana Policy Project says that one man in short hair and a suit, lobbying congressmen can achieve more than hundreds marching in the street. I think he’s right.
The LCA must re-launch its campaign. We must overhaul our image, update the logo and the website. We must become conscious of our communications, control and deliver our messages with ruthless effect, use all the spin doctor tricks and techniques, just as any other political party or pressure group.
I will put on a suit and tie for the LCA because that’s what is needed to make progress with politicians, through the media and, most importantly, with the great God of public opinion.
I think we also have to consider our name. Not throw it out for the sake of something new but recognise that “Legalise” is a word that frightens people. They think it means an uncontrolled free for all, whereas what we argue for is fact and evidence based regulation. We also need to consider the word cannabis. People are frightened to have it on their Facebook profile and concerned that it may come up in a Google search when they’re applying for a new job. We have to consider these things. I would argue that instead of saying “Legalise Cannabis”, we might say “End Prohibition”.
So we do need to become much more professional about our communications and image. Anything put out in our name needs to be “on message” in every sense of the phrase – look, feel, content, style, etc. Each target audience needs to be addressed on its terms. We need an analysis and a plan for each individual MP and constituency. We need a rota of pro-active media communications. We need to enlist the help of celebrities who support our cause. This needs to be done consistently and repeatedly. We need a team of people all over the country working together with a plan to succeed.
I also believe that we should re-register as a political party and field candidates in every byelection. In fact, I would propose that we field the same candidate in every byelection and we build.the campaign and awareness over time. I don’t expect us to win a seat in parliament but I do expect us to start being taken seriously. I want to see us on Newsnight and on Question Time. When Debra Bell is asked for a quote or is interviewed about a cannabis story, I want us to be quoted as well and to be on the other side of the TV sofa facing down her mischief and misinformation.
Cannabis is a political issue. If we get our act together and get serious about the war on prohibition, get serious about achieving results, explain the facts, expose the lies, then we can prevail. We can see the truth revealed. We can win!