This Thursday sees another chance for us to exercise our democratic right and vote for who we’d like to represent us in Europe. While this isn’t the general election, it’s a means of sending a message to the other parties about the policies we support. More than that, it’s in fact a particularly good time for even those who’ve never voted to take advantage of a unique situation.
Given the usual indifference shown by much of the public when it comes to European elections (just 34.7% of people turned-out in 2009), it’s a huge opportunity for us to capitalise and really make our mark. With some 46 million UK citizens eligible to take part, the total number of votes last election period came in at a mere 15 million. Once you realise that 12 million adults are estimated to have taken illegal drugs, with several million using just in the past year, suddenly making a big impact on politics doesn’t sound too far-fetched. Don’t forget, it’s not just consumers who are in favour of drug law reform, so the pool of potential voters is much larger still.
With that in mind, the key question is to whom do we pledge our vote? The excellent politics blog Another Angry Voice has done a stellar job of detailing the differences between the main parties, both in terms of specific policies (see above), and as shown below, the general ethos and ideology of each. It’s quite clear that the Green Party not only represents our specific wishes on cannabis, but they also provide a genuine alternative to the status quo. Slight aside, but it’s worth noticing how UKIP, the purported ‘shake up the system’ alternative vote, is actually not just more of the same, but an even worse version of the same. They are neoliberals on steroids. Racist, bigoted steroids.
Armed with the above information, I hope and believe you will arrive at the same political decision as me. But if not, that’s perfectly fine; one of the few beauties of our democracy is that we are allowed to vote how we please, and I wouldn’t want to unfairly coerce anybody. If you consider drugs and more progressive, evidence-based approaches to policy to be a key component, then I think there’s only one choice for you and I.
The next step is to actually motivate ourselves and others to vote. I don’t mean that just in a cannabis stereotype-challenging way, but also with regard to the disillusion felt by many, who believe their vote won’t count, or even that the Greens can’t win. Your vote can count, and the votes of our entire community can send shockwaves throughout politics. Not just for the European elections, but when it comes to the general election in 2015. A surge in Green support would increase their profile, attract funding from donors, and even drag some of the old guard towards their ideas. As we’ve seen with the much-maligned UKIP, offering populist ideas has seen the likes of the Tories alter their stance in order to appeal to the electorate. We’d be fools to think that the ultimate goal for many politicians is anything but remaining in power, and overwhelming public support for evidence-based policies will force them to reconsider their stance. We need them to see that the status quo isn’t a safe option, and sticking to it will endanger their chances of regaining power.
If you’re feeling particularly energised, why not take the time to encourage friends and family to vote? As I mentioned at the start of the article, we can take advantage of an apathetic electorate if we really come out in our droves. Feel free to link others to this page to highlight how their wants and ideas are suited to the Greens, or for something more detailed you can point them towards the AAV Euro Election Scorecard, which breaks down each and every area of discussion. Why not organise a social meeting which includes a visit to the polling station? Information on venues and the process can be found here, with ballots typically being cast locally; meaning you and friends/family can vote and be back home within just 15 minutes.
Beyond this, I’d love to see the United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs really hit home the idea to their members. If we mobilise with a clear strategy, we’re a force to be reckoned with. Millions united can form a lobby group to compete with any, but we must believe, and we must take a stand at opportune moments such as this. Success in boosting support for our chosen candidates will inspire us and others to be even more involved when the general elections come around next year, so this really is a great and meaningful chance to help us move further along the arc towards justice. Will you get involved?