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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Cannabis Community and Solidarity

I think we are all reasonably comfortable with the idea that there is a significant correlation between mental health and cannabis. The argument that remains is in the nature of that correlation. Most (if not all) of us are in little doubt that people who suffer from a variety of mental health problems find that cannabis helps them. Consumption of cannabis, in this case, is effective self-medication.

If you accept this premise, then logically one can conclude that in a wide community of cannabis consumers and moreover a community of cannabis activists/campaigners will inevitably contain a high proportion of people who suffer from mental health problems.  Add to that those that live with chronic physical problems plus all those who have been treated unfairly, vilified, persecuted, threatened, insulted, arrested, abused, supressed and generally made to feel “pushed to the fringes” for what adds up to a personal choice, then is it any wonder then that our community contains so many personalities, egos, agendas, angles, experiences, attitudes, approaches and beliefs?

That is a lot of angry, frustrated, sensitive and irritable people in one community. It is also not surprising that many within the community take their part in the cause deeply personally and can feel threatened by challenges, criticisms and/or alternatives. As a result things boil over too frequently, too loudly, too personally and most unfortunately too publicly. People act like people do, then other people get offended and over reach their response and you have a perfectly vicious little circle. There’s conspiracy and paranoia, suspicion and accusation. Not surprising, perhaps, given all the above, however it damages us all and when I see it, I can’t help but feel disappointed and a little deflated. 

We are all flawed characters; none of us are perfect (most of us, far from it – and yes, I am speaking for myself!) and isn’t one of the things that we are all passionately fighting about; being judged without reason, truth, whole truth, nothing but the truth and yet we do it to each other.  I’m not saying that challenges should not be made or that inappropriate behaviour should not be called out, but as people, I would have hoped that we could all show rather more empathy and be more supportive of each other and as a group we need a professional and credible public face to be effective and there is no way that this is going to happen whilst ever we can be seen to be focused on attacking each other.

There is one thing that ALL of us agree on. It is the single thing that has brought us together to fight for something that we all passionately believe in – the reasons why are interesting but ultimately unimportant.  The effectiveness of each of our individual methods is up for (respectful) debate, but ultimately isn’t it the goal that counts?

“Legal access to Cannabis for Adults, Medicinal Cannabis for all”

So, next time someone from within our community does something/says something/produces something (or reacts to something) and you don’t like it, before you make a judgement, try to remember how YOU would like to be judged by our criminal justice system and apply the same criteria to your own judgement AND before you publicly (re)react, stop for a minute and with compassion, think about whether, for our common goals, your anger, energy and resources are best directed at an ally in our fight or at our common enemy? If you chose the former over the latter, then aren't you running the risk of being part of the problem rather than the solution?



  1. "Medicinal cannabis on prescription and regulated access for adults" is the goal that most UK cannabis law reform advocates are signed up to.

    I agree with the general thrust of your piece. It is very sad and destructive for the campaign when people pursue personal grudges and disagreements. However, when groups pursue campaign strategies that are damaging in themselves, such as gratutitous public law breaking as a form of protest, it is vital to stand against such destructive behaviour. Only by pursuing responsible and measured strategies will we ever be taken seriously. This is evidenced beyond doubt by the fact that the only UK cannabis law reform groups to have been taken seriously in the corridors of power are CLEAR and UPA, both of which follow constructive and responsible approaches.

  2. As you know, I disagree strongly, but the point remains the same in any case: Aren't your energies better spent aimed at the common enemy? That is vital! I think you missed the point whilst, ironically, making mine!

    1. My and my colleagues' energy is focused exclusively on ending the prohibition of cannabis most urgently for those who need it as medicine and, as you know, we are great admirers of the work that UPA has done on public meetings. Therefore, whenever we see such good work being undermined by foolish, irresponsible protests which achieve exactly the opposite, we will speak out against them.

      We are not in the business of speaking against individuals or whatever lifestyles people may choose to pursue but when destructive ideas, behaviour or tactics damage the campaign we will say so.

  3. That is only your opinion, Peter, and one I and many others happen to disagree with. I do not believe that a little civil obedience does any harm and throughout history has been a significant part of many serious and effective protesting and campaigning. You're welcome to post this in your own forums and see if your forums share your point of view?

    1. Well yes, it is my opinion but also the carefully considered, discussed and resolved policy of CLEAR. In the age of the internet and professional political communications, civil disobedience of the sort that we have seen the cannabis campaign engage in, is not just ineffective, it actually works against us.

      I fully understand the instinctive desire to protest, to demonstrate and rail against the huge injustice that is cannabis prohibition but it has never worked and never will. It gives government exactly the excuse it needs to reject, stigmatise and stereotype cannabis users.

      In fact, civil disobedience has only ever worked for causes which concern fundamental human rights for a very large group of people which, eventually, will attract sympathy across the whole of society. Medicinal use of cannabis starts to approach that but gets nowhere near and general legalisation is in a different universe. Getting a couple of hundred people outside Parliament just shows what a minority issue it is. Hundreds of thousands marching against the Iraq war did nothing because it too was a minority view (at the time).

      I don't blame the individuals who march or protest against the oppression they face but I do blame those that lead them with flawed ideas and strategy.

      CLEAR, and in the past year UPA, have demonstrated that it is engagement and persuasion that works and now, more than ever with the new Tory government, that is the only practical, realistic and effective strategy to pursue.

      I shared this article on CLEAR Facebook and Twitter earlier today and it is now in today's Daily News on our website. I did so because I recognise the validity of the points you make. I engage with you on the subject in the same spirit. We all share the same goal.

  4. Hi Jonathon

    I would suggest the issue is not quite as straight forward as you suggest. You define the basic aim as:

    “Legal access to Cannabis for Adults, Medicinal Cannabis for all”

    Firstly there are two distinct issues here, medicinal and recreational use. I suggest the campaign for medicinal use should carry the rider “under the direction of a doctor” and isn't best served by people campaigning for the right to use cannabis recreationally. In saying that I don’t mean to denigrate the recreational issue, indeed it is perhaps more important than the medicinal issue, because ending the prohibition of general use – even in a highly restricted way – opens the door to medicinal use by default and incidentally to everything else the plant has to offer.

    Most importantly it isn’t only cannabis consumers who want to see change and often they are not the best suited to promoting the argument.

    The problem with the recreational use campaign is there are two very distinct and almost polar opposite reasons for wanting an end of prohibition. One is the desire for access as you suggest, the other is to control and limit the trade so as to reduce use to a minimum and thus to cause the least harm.

    Both of these motivations for ending prohibition end up in the same place – a regime of legal access, although one seeks to popularise cannabis use while the other seeks to reduce it to as low as possible. The problem is one approach is an anathema to the opposing camp. Those who support harm reduction, control and regulation are absolutely alienated by events like 420, likewise those who support 420 often reject the idea of a regulated trade.
    The big gains in the fight for law reform are being made by the argument in favour of controlling the trade, ending the black market, protecting kids and so on. “Free the weed” really isn't on any serious agenda.

    As a campaign I believe we need to acknowledge the fact that the law reform effort needs to concentrate not so much on promoting the use of cannabis, but on the destructive effects of prohibition thereby appealing to vastly more people than it does at present.
    If we could do that all sorts of issues would doubtless arise – the issue of smoking with tobacco is one which caused ructions for years because it was apparently “against the freedom of choice”, indeed it still gets peoples backs up. But we must be willing to embrace all these discussions, sure in the knowledge that a legal regime will allow them to be addressed, which prohibition simply cannot. In other words, we mustn't go into this with a list of demands, everything is up for debate.

    One other point. I do believe there has been a campaign of disruption within the activists for some time. This may have come about in the way you suggest or it may have had very different roots. The point is that just because people evangelise about cannabis doesn’t mean they really support law reform, or are willing to seriously work toward it.