In a landmark event, the British public has demanded that the government review the effectiveness of current drug laws. Having launched the petition over a year ago, it seemed that we’d fall short of our target of 100,000 signatures, but this past week saw a push from a number of activists, coupled with well-timed media articles. Having taken almost 12 months to amass 30,000 signatures, the numbers jumped to 110,000 (at the time of writing this article) in a little over four days.
This is a wonderful achievement, which should be regarded as demonstrating that yes, our voices will be heard, and yes, other people agree with us. Not just in theory. Not just if the topic happens to come up in general conversation. But rather, when it comes time to walk the walk and get involved. We’ve always had the numbers on our side, but it’s one thing to have support, and quite another for supporters to take the time and effort to back us in writing.
It would be easy for us to sit back and accept this as the first sign of an inevitable chain of events which have been set in motion, but I would implore all readers to instead draw from this the encouragement that they can make a difference, and that there are mechanisms around which allow us to make positive changes, no matter how cynical we may be about government or ‘the system’. Rather than seeing said system as an enemy or constant barrier to getting what we want, it’s worth attempting to use the system to our advantage. While there may be some inherent unfairness in the way our views are ultimately stifled or dismissed by politicians, I see this as it simply requiring us to push harder and rise to the challenge. Fortunately, time and energy are two of the most universal things we have, so we should be buoyed by this fact, and relish the opportunity.
What Happens Next?
Having reached the 100,000 mark, the petition is then passed on to the Backbench Business Committee, who will analyse the content and evaluate whether the topic is suitable for debate. While this may sound like it has potential for them to fob us off, it’s a reasonable step, as a given petition may be of the ‘let’s deport Bieber’ ilk, which isn’t really a meaningful or valid topic for debate. So I’m fine with this process, and expect it to reach stage 4 without much fuss, especially given the backing of Caroline Lucas MP, who represents the key requirement of having a Member of Parliament vouch for the proposal. The entire process is detailed neatly in a diagram produced by the government.
As I’m sure is the case with most readers, I’ve been thoroughly dissatisfied by the government’s response to numerous expert reports detailing precisely how cannabis prohibition has been a failure. We’ve seen everyone from the Home Affairs Select Committee, to respected House of Lords peers, to even the British Medical Association, all coming out with very lengthy, well-researched pieces on the need to reform laws which relate to the use of illicit substances. Whether you are on the left, or on the right, prohibition has clearly failed.
I’ve previously talked about the ethos of being an activist, and trying to bring change, but enough of talk – let’s plan some action. Public opinion polls suggest that we’re in the majority, so this is certainly an idea whose time has come. Beyond cannabis, we can be part of stimulating change with respect to other drug laws, the ethos of criminal punishment, and increased personal liberty for all. We must remember that these grand ideas are natural consequences of us standing up and realising our place in history. Future generations will see this as a key epoch in our civilisation, and we all have the chance to play our part.
Source: Ipsos/MORI Poll (Feb 2013, UK)
We Have To Believe
Everything starts with belief. We have to not only believe that we can change things, but encourage this belief in others. While it may sound like a rather large task, we have every reason to be optimistic. These past 12 months have been the most radical since the war on drug users began; with successes ranging from medical allowance in nations and states, to complete legalisation in Washington and Colorado, and even state-sponsored sales and regulation in Uruguay.
Are we not as worthy as these places? Are we less passionate? Do the people we need to convince come from a completely alien culture? Of course not. These happenings serve as notice to prohibitionists throughout the world – things are changing and your lies are being exposed. However, it’s not enough to now simply expect everything to fall into place. We need to see this opportunity as an open invitation for us to push the envelope, and step up a campaign of pressure and public visibility. Now, more than ever, should we be invigorated and bold of heart.
Unrelenting Pressure On Politicians
We have access to our politicians via a range of methods, from online petitions right through to (e)mail correspondence and even face-to-face meetings. You can contact your local MP here, and I plan to organise campaigns of correspondence by presenting template e-mails for activists to send, so it will actually be a very easy copy and paste job each week. Upon receiving feedback I invite participants to present the answers they’ve received, and we can look at formulating perfect responses together, and begin the next round of negotiation. Done on such a large scale, on a consistent basis, and with defensible points, this could force MPs to cave in to public pressure. We want them to know that this is a meaningful issue, and that ignoring our voices will see them left behind in the polls.
On top of this weekly e-mail campaign, I’d encourage everyone to also contact some key figures at the Home Office. Please copy the following list of e-mails into the BCC field in your browser and send the same arguments you provided for your local MP:
I’m going to be looking for volunteers who live locally to take it upon themselves to guarantee we a large number of MPs covered. Hopefully the UK Cannabis Social Club guys will be able to help us reach far and wide across the land, if they feel this is a good strategy. With the electronic action out of the way, we can progress to face-to-face meetings with MPs. Hopefully, after a few exchanges they will consider us more memorable, so we have more fluid meetings, where we know what to prepare (i.e. which are their biggest areas of ignorance). The key thing is to establish a personal rapport/relationship, and show them how good, pleasant people are simply making reasonable requests for the common good.
Things are moving in the right direction, which means now is the time to fight with all the passion and intensity you can muster. Don’t leave it to others to decide your future or try on your behalf. Be the person you think our movement needs, and never lose hope. Victories have been few and far between, but today we celebrate the start of something truly special. Here’s to everyone who has campaigned so hard for change – be it on the streets or from their keyboard. This one’s for you.