Support has grown for the petition of Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, which calls for the government to formally asses the impact of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. This act is largely responsible for the legal classification of drugs in the United Kingdom; and we haven’t properly analysed how effective it has proved in minimising the harms associated with drug abuse, or whether it causes more problems in how it treats users. Last year, I attended the HASC inquiry into drugs, where the committee concluded that a proper investigation must be launched, although this was quickly dismissed by the government. This new petition reads:
Drug related harms and the costs to society remain high in Britain, with a growing consensus that the current enforcement led approach is not working. In recent months the independent UK Drugs Policy Commission has highlighted the fact that Government is spending around £3 billion a year on a policy that is often self-defeating; and the Home Affairs Select Committee has concluded Government action is needed “now, more than ever” to consider all the alternatives to our failing drug laws and learn from countries that have adopted a more evidence based approach. We are concerned that, in this age of austerity, nobody is checking whether Britain’s current approach is value for money – or money wasted. We therefore call on the Government to commission an authoritative and independent cost-benefit analysis and impact assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 within the next 12 months, in order to provide the evidence for Parliament to pursue a more effective drugs policy in the future.
The government says that in order for a petition to be considered ripe for debate in Parliament, we must hit the target of 100,000 signatures, which seems perfectly feasible when we consider that roughly 35% of the population have used an illegal drug during their lifetime. There are petitions out there with close to a million supporters, based on issues which don’t affect even a fraction of the number affected by poor drug laws.
The number of signatures currently sits at just over 47,000, but I believe we in the cannabis community aren’t doing as much as we could to get more signatures, and more support for our cause in general. Close to 3 million UK citizens are cannabis users, and we haven’t even reached 5% of that number, if social media support is representative.
I’d like to see UK activist groups and cannabis social clubs organising not just sustained electronic communication campaigns, but taking to the streets and searching out support in their town centre, along with asking targeted local businesses if they will allow for a poster/flyer in support. This could be doubled to not just promote the petition, but also the campaign group.
It would be simple enough for somebody more graphically talented than myself to mock-up some eye-catching promotional material, and then this could be printed out by anybody interested in helping. In fact, we could even offer prizes to those who managed to get the most posters in shop windows, sign-up petitioners, or any number of things. Heck, I have some spare vaporisers myself, but I’m sure a seed company or kind private individual could help create suitable rewards for participants (message me if you’d like to contribute on that front).
Grass roots action can take many forms, and the above is just one example. I’d love to see a pop-up operation from a cannabis activism group on Oxford Street in London, or perhaps Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester. As the weather is improving it could make for a pleasant day out if a number of people treat it as an excuse for a social meet. Although the aforementioned places are the busiest, we could certainly hope to gain a lot of support in the likes of Camden Town and Brick Lane; not just on the street, but in many local shops too.
Sharing the e-petition via social media and internet forums is a quick and easy way to reach people. Even those who don’t use any sort of illicit substance have reasons to support changes in the law, so there’s a very good chance that it will be well-received.
It may seem a little difficult or alien at first, but when you feel yourself being a force for change you will find such things invigorating and thirst for more. The most frustrating thing about campaigning for good is knowing that it’s tantalisingly close, but blocked by some unjust force. Rather than be defeated by fear, or lulled into a false sense of comfort with laws as they stand, let’s strike hard and meaningful. Let’s take to the streets to connect with others and win the argument. We need to show that we want it.