“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” — Harry J. Anslinger, 1937

After writing the previous post (RE:EFER MADNESS) I’ve come into contact with a whole bunch of interesting people – including the fine folks at Clear and UKCIA — all of whom share the desire to see cannabis legalised. I’ve had a couple of ideas for tactics with this goal in mind; I wouldn’t want to say that these are necessarily good ideas or workable tactics but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share them just in case anyone thinks they may possess merit.

1) Prohibition forces a certain cowardice onto most of us: if admitting to consuming cannabis could well have the police intruding forcefully, catastrophically even, into your life; could see you losing your job; then the respectable-responsible cannabis user learns to keep his/her head down and Just Say No in public if not in private. I wonder if it might be worth coming up with some sort of symbol – I’m thinking of the red AIDS-awareness ribbon, something like that – which people could wear to promote this particular cause, to identify themselves with it by way of a constant, public reminder of the issue, allowing everyone who so desires to make a small but vital “stand up and be counted” gesture while offering deniability: “Cannabis? Me? Heavens, no! Drugs are bad, and our nation’s laws are ordained by the Queen who is God’s figurehead on Earth. However… However I’m wearing this because I do feel that the matter of what substances to consume and what states of awareness to explore is best left to the informed individual not the State… And I do think that in times of economic hardship it is incumbent upon the authorities to not just make cuts but also to seek new means of generating revenue… And of course there are proven medical benefits to this drug, this wicked drug that some damnable heathen cultures actually regard as not a wicked drug but a holy sacrament! …While most of the fears and supposed dangers of cannabis are demonstrably untrue, statistically insignificant and/or founded on junk science… And don’t our brave policemen have more important things to be doing with their time? …Because Prohibition does cause actual crime and sickness by leaving the manufacture and sale of a product to gangsters who we can be sure will act as gangsters do and who furthermore will not be overly concerned about the quality and purity of their goods… And isn’t criminalising Nature just a little bit weird and paranoid maybe? …And if the opposite of getting high is staying low then who but Puritans would protest? …And anyway the “War On Some Drugs” is an American export, it owes a hell of a lot to Richard Nixon – the greatest of all US Presidents to be sure – but really dates back to the early years of the 20th century when assorted big-shot shit-heads, seeing that cannabis use was a feature of black and Hispanic cultures but that it was virtually unheard of in white circles, realised that by criminalising this plant they could railroad members of ethnic minorities into prisons where the conditions of Slavery could be recreated… And… And…” 

A green ribbon? Something like that, pinned to your top? The marijuana leaf is unfortunately too much associated with teenagers’ T-shirts for it to work here, I suspect. Something like that…

[Only after writing this did I think to google “green ribbon,” at which point I found out that this has already been used as a “legalise cannabis” awareness symbol! Oh, okay. Still: i) I never heard of it so it can’t have been all that big or loud a campaign; and ii) the green ribbon has also been used by about twenty other groups and movements too. So maybe something new and unique and loud-mouthed is needed?]

 2) Civil Disobedience is so passé. How about a campaign of mass civil obedience? Instead of opposing these bullshit laws, or hiding from them, why not – and I really doubt the authorities have a contingency-plan in place to deal with this – meet those laws and their twisted logic head-on?  If we are criminals then let us be criminals: in my imagination I see hordes of righteous pot-heads descending on our local police-stations, declaring our depravity and simply refusing to budge until we are punished under The Full Force Of The Law. Of course there’s no “plausible deniability” here, and while it’s very easy for me to suggest such an idea, I have no regular job to risk losing, no family to support: those who do will naturally, sensibly, be less inclined to play with fire. On the other hand, if such a campaign could be coordinated and carried out on a large enough scale to make it impossible to ignore, and impossible that everyone involved could realistically be punished, the risks would soon be negated: if people were prepared to make this gesture and, if necessary, to keep on week after week for as long as it takes, ensuring that momentum is maintained and if possible increased, how could the final result be anything other than victory? 


…Any thoughts? Any better ideas?


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Derek
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 14:07:05

    Nice idea Scrap, but it’s been tried – over 10 years ago now we used to organise “turn yourself in” days.

    Sorry, back to the drawing board.

    I do have another suggestion though, but I’m not sure you’ll like it. Basically the prohibs are telling us that cannabis has mutated into this evil monster that’s 50,000 times stronger than it was only last week and that this leathal skunk stuff is what’s being pushed onto the kids in the playground. Basically, they’re telling us cannabis has changed and is making loads of young people mad.

    Our natural reaction is to point to the truth and all the reasearch out there which sort of indicates the above isn’t entirely true, but no-one in the media is interested in guff like the truth when there’s a panic to be spread.

    What I’m thinking is we should help spread the panic. Just like in Judo where you use the enemy’s wieght and strength against them, so we should do with the prohibition lot.

    So, lets assume they’re right and cannabis has mutated into the killer weed they claim – clearly something must be done! But what can we do about it? As this change has only happened in the past few decades and never happened in the 5000 years of recorded history before prohibition it’s not hard to prove prohibition caused the change.

    The only way to address this problem of deadly skunk they warn us about is to strongly control the trade and the only way to do that is to legalise the trade.

    They’ve wrapped the noose around their own necks and are begging us to pull it. All we have to do is campaign for proper, workable, enforcable laws aimed at solving the problem they have identified… call their bluff basically.

    Well, you wanted an idea



  2. Jason Pilley
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 16:55:06

    I’m… not convinced, Derek! “It’s not hard to prove prohibition caused the change” – but “proving” a thing does imply some sort of rational-logical process, an argument based to some extent upon reason… i.e. “guff.” “Clearly something must be done! But what can we do about it?” Well for a start we can upgrade the dreaded evil skunkweed to Class A status, we can reintroduce the death sentence just for dealers, we can have mandatory piss-tests every morning from infant school through to the retirement home plus 24-hour surveillance for those considered most likely to succumb to the Jolly Green Menace i.e. everyone, we can preemptively lock up those deemed to be at particular risk of future experimentation – for their own good you understand – and hey we can replace every school subject with Drug Education all the way down to kindergarten, we could try beaming highly radioactive propaganda into the brains of developing foetuses, yeah there’s a whole lot we can do; just ask Singapore, ask the United Arab Emirates

    And in terms of communicating not with politicians but with those rare members of the public who have no personal experience of cannabis and who believe what they read about it in the papers, putting forwards the argument: “This stuff actually is really really REALLY bad for you and that’s why we should legalise it” could… conceivably… backfire.

    (PS I hate it when the past steals my ideas.)


  3. Derek
    Jun 29, 2011 @ 18:45:52

    Well, yes, but hard line prohibition is where we’re heading and is the ultimate goal of the people we’re up against.

    The big mistake the law reform movement made a few years ago was to claim cannabis was “the harmless herb” – nothing, but nothing is “Harmless”. It was used against us with dramatic effect.

    The mental health thing is a classic example of an issue which people are scared of, so it’s very easy to whip up alarmist stories about it. The one thing the prohibs simply haven’t planned for is the law reform movement being willing to accept the basis of their claims – even as a possibility. They assumed – correctly – that our response would just be to deny it all, which is what we did on the whole. We were therefore painted as delusioned, not willing to face the truth etc etc.

    We don’t have to agree with their claims, just accept the possiblity that they might be right. If they were right, ask yourself, what would you like to see happen?


  4. Jason Pilley
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 10:07:58

    “hard line prohibition is where we’re heading” – it’s possible, but personally I don’t think so, I find it easier to imagine the present shoddy situation lasting forever and ever; nobody getting quite what they want, everyone shamed and debased but shambling on, having the same arguments over and over, it’s the perfect stagnant state of affairs for a stagnating West.

    “If they were right, ask yourself, what would you like to see happen?” – if cannabis actually destroyed people’s minds and morals then I would like to see it stamped out of existence; fortunately it doesn’t. I can see how “the harmless herb” was a dreadful mistake, but I would think the best idea is to keep on banging on about how *relatively* safe it is when compared to, say, alcohol, or, say, peanuts. I honestly can’t follow the logic that leads from “accepting the possiblity that they might be right” to legalisation.


  5. Derek
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 10:47:31

    “If they were right, ask yourself, what would you like to see happen?” – if cannabis actually destroyed people’s minds and morals then I would like to see it stamped out of existence; fortunately it doesn’t. I can see how “the harmless herb” was a dreadful mistake, but I would think the best idea is to keep on banging on about how *relatively* safe it is when compared to, say, alcohol, or, say, peanuts. I honestly can’t follow the logic that leads from “accepting the possiblity that they might be right” to legalisation.
    Just talking around this, so don’t take it as any kind of “policy” on my part – but seeing as you asked for a debate this is valuable :)

    The problem the prohibs have is they have tried to “stamp it out” – the stated aim of the UN used to be “a drug free world, we can do it”. The goal was to achieve that drug free world by 2008 but you might have noticed it didn’t work! They’ve now droped the whole stupid idea, “stamping out” cannabis is not possible, it’s simply not an option and they know it.

    So, if you buy into the idea that cannabis is dangerous and you can’t erradicate it, what options are left? Add to that a growing lobby that argues illegal drugs are not controlled drugs and that the “unintended consequences” of prohibition are fuelling organised crime and terrorism, death and destruction, the only option is to take control of the trade. That is the one thing prohibition will not allow them to do, the only way it can happen is through leglaisation.

    It’s been another of those mistakes by us to allow the prohibs to equate leglaisation with liberalisation, it could mean something very different. Leglaisation can mean workable and properly enforced laws.

    The logic of “accepting they might be right” is simple – they’re spending a lot of time, effort and money promoting that argument. By opposing it we’re playing along with their plans and making ourselves look just like they want us to look, as irresponsible deniers.

    For the past 10 years cnanabis has hardly been off the news, yet the law reform cmapaign has been almost toally ignored – or worse, treated as a joke. That has to change.

    Of course, there’s no reason why we can’t point out that without prohibition – cannabis is indeed a very safe substance (it certainly always used to be as even the prohibs acknowledge), but under the twisted regime of the war on drugs it seems even something like cannabis can be made dangerous.


  6. Jason Pilley
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 15:38:28

    Okay; after I wrote my last reply I figured I could have mocked your idea by caricaturing it as “Giving ammunition to our enemies in the hope that they’ll use it on themselves,” but looking at what you wrote here I’ve a better idea of what you mean – “If the one serious argument you’ve got is that the ridiculously high THC-levels in new strains of weed is causing all sorts of problems, then let’s adopt the only system that allows us to control the amount of THC in weed.” Yep, fair enough – but where I think I still disagree with you is that you seem to be suggesting really emphasising this point, “help spread the panic” etc. I reckon this would backfire: e.g. I’m sure the spokesmen for Coca Cola know what to say when the subject of tooth decay comes up but I don’t think any of them would ever think of raising it themselves. There are so many positive arguments available to us, from the fact that Getting High is no small thing in a mean and often joyless world like this one here, through medical marijuana and the tax revenues available and the matter of individual liberty and the fact that the whole “War on Drugs” scam is a built-to-break-us American invention emerging from the brains of demonstrably racist and anti-sex rednecks… I just can’t see the point in dwelling on the negatives except to counter them whenever the other side brings them up, “Certainly there are risks, sure, just like there are risks to every single other thing you could be doing, *but* if the one serious argument you’ve got is that the ridiculously high THC-levels in new strains of weed is causing all sorts of problems, then blah blah blah…”

    Perhaps you’d argue though that that’s what we’ve been doing, to no great effect? I dunno, I still think we should be looking for ways to increase the volume at which we’re speaking rather than change what we’re saying…


  7. Derek
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 16:52:15

    Ah, the dangers of typing as you think and not proof reading!

    but where I think I still disagree with you is that you seem to be suggesting really emphasising this point, “help spread the panic” etc.

    No, not what I meant exactly. What I mean is to ride on the back of the publicity they are giving to the subject. In order to do that though we do have to take their claims seriously and not simply try to diss them. All we have to do is enter the debate willing to accept the possiblitiy they could be right and then pose the question “in that case, what to do about it?”

    Thing is, if they are right in what they’re claiming, they are wrong in their conclusions as to what to do about it anf that’s where we argue with them. That way we can take the moral high ground – which in all honesty is ours to take. We then become the supporters of law and order, they are the promoters of anarchy and violnece. We promote knowledge, understanding, protection of minorities yadayada.

    I’m not a betting man but if I was i would bet you that if we took the issue of mental health as our own and turned it into an argment for law reform as we could do very, very easily, they would drop it like a hot potato!


  8. Jason Pilley
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 07:44:02

    Ah, you could be right – alcohol poisoning was a particularly virulent problem during the period of alcohol prohibition and there were only two solutions to that problem, one involving the total extermination of booze drinkers, the other somewhat more sensible, etc. – and I suppose it’s worth a try in a “what have we got to lose?” sort of way, but my reservations are:

    1) We’ve got a whole lot to lose. If we concede this point to the politicians and then, as you say, pose the question “In that case, what to do about it?” their answer will of course be different from ours, so we’ll argue with them just as we’re arguing now, we’ll occupy the moral high ground just as we occupy it now, we’ll have facts and figures to prove our position just as we have now, and we’re ever so likely to find ourselves in exactly the same position as now *except* the “cannabis = psychosis” meme has gained a whole lot of publicity and is further settled in the minds of the people, ah the blessed people!

    2) Furthermore, a problem I can see with “taking their claims seriously and not simply trying to diss them” is that so often their claims are too absurd to do anything other than diss. That BMJ study I wrote my essay about, its methodology was so corrupt and its medical-profession baseline assumptions so degrading that I think that although it *might* be politic to take such things seriously and use their assumptions and supposed findings for our ends, it could just as well be a fatal case of us surrendering *far* too much ground – and sense – and pride.

    3) When heroin was legal there were vastly fewer heroin addicts, they were able to lead some sort of life within the law and there was virtually no heroin-related crime. If, following your argument here, you are asked whether you’d also like to legalise heroin and crack, aren’t you committed by your logic to answering yes? Which – regardless of the actual merits of that position – would be a PR disaster, no?

    Still… Might be worth a try… What have we got to lose… Etc… Although I think that in an age where *everyone* wants to be part of an oppressed minority we’re not doing enough to point out that pot-heads actually *are* an oppressed minority…


  9. Derek
    Jul 01, 2011 @ 15:51:45

    Yeah well, I’m not sure we do have much to lose really though. The cannabis makes you mad idea is pretty well established now, there really isn’t much point in trying to prove it’s all hype. But, like I say, we can show what has caused the harm. The option is hardline prohibition, a massive increase in jail terms and simply more confrontation and all with no proven track record of success and a lot to show failure. I say call their bluff.

    As for the legalise heroin argument, yeah, no problem with that. Again, you see, it depends what you means by “legalise”. If legalise means selling in sweetshops (like we do with tobacco!) then no, I wouldn’t promote that. But if legalisation means making heroin avaiable to addicts via properly regulated clinics, then yes. Legalisation can mean a whole rainbow of things, prohibition can only be one thing. Actually, the irony is I would argue that it’s more important to legalise heroin than cannabis because heroin is far more dangerous than cannabis and therfore needs to be controlled far more than cannabis does. JJust think how few heroin junkies there are really and how much harm they do. A “junky” BTW is a heroin addict under prohibition – always looking for a fix, never able to stabalise his habbit…

    Remember, legalisation means tighter control. It’s not an argment that goes down well with the free the weed types.


  10. Jason Pilley
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 15:28:36

    Oh I totally agree with you on the heroin issue, but the thing is it’s such an easy position to skew: the second you say such a thing the journalists and demagogues out to discredit you have got their headline, they’re unlikely to have the courtesy to hang around to hear that no you’re not advocating selling this stuff in every corner-shop, au contraire: “CrackPOT-heads want CRACK for sale in our sweetshops now!!!!?”

    You said you tried the “hand-yourself-in” thing already, what happened with that? Did it backfire, was it a damp squib, did everyone talk about it then not actually do it or did they do it and get nowhere except In Trouble, did anyone notice, was it well-publicised, is there the possibility that such an idea could be much better publicised in the Facebook era, are people more up for protest now than they were then, or not? Etc etc… I dunno, the two ideas with which I started this particular conversation – both of which turned out to be unoriginal and both of which fell flat – were really hovering around the core notion of offering a certain empowering responsibility to all the very many quite normal people who just happen to enjoy cannabis. How many postmen do I know who smoke/eat weed and hash, how many teachers? How many civil-servants, builders, shopkeepers, youth-workers, how many devoted parents? Lots. But these people aren’t free to say so and consequently the other side gets to frame the discourse; I really think that although your ideas about the psychosis scare-mongering may be right, or certainly partly right, more important would be to offer people ways to sidestep it entirely, to break the guilt/submission reflex: “I’m not crazy and I’m not sick and I’m not interested in hearing snide insinuations to the contrary; I’m not a criminal nor some layabout waster and I refuse to be told that I am.”

    I’m not sure if I have enough faith in human beings to really believe that most adults aren’t guilty children at heart, I’m not sure how many witches finally would protest their being burnt when after all it’s easier just to keep your head down and not make a fuss, but, yeah, I suppose I’d have to say that this argument *isn’t* going to be won by arguments, we’ve always had the best of those, however even if you can demonstrate conclusively that the psychosis fears are remedied only by legalisation – which you can – they’ll just find something else to say.

    A “stand up and be counted” movement is the only thing that counts, that might move things forwards, I reckon. I don’t want to dismiss your ideas but I think their value lies in convincing not politicians but the public; politicians will only act sensibly in this matter when… if… there is a vocal and indefatigable demand that they do so.


  11. Derek
    Jul 02, 2011 @ 17:24:18

    What happened since the last turn yourself in campaign was the government got nasty and started busting people, no-one wants that so understandable everyone’s keeping their heads down – which I agree is just the wrong approach but…

    Something important to know about me: I don’t use cannabis – not any more, haven’t for years now although I used to. So from my POV I can’t really engage in any form of direct action of the sort you suggest.

    I run UKCIA because I genuinely feel prohibition is simply wrong for all the reasons we know so well. I think what we need is more people like me – people who don’t use cannabis – to be calling for change. Now, the question is how to appeal to non-users?

    Keep at it though Jason, you do a good blog and you’re a good writer. That’s a very powerful skill and you can be very influential through the use of a keyboard.



  12. Jason Pilley
    Jul 03, 2011 @ 13:15:35

    Christ, why is it that the loudest calls for legalisation seem to invariably come from non-users? Christopher Hitchens, for one, takes every opportunity to sneer at people who use drugs other than alcohol and every opportunity to decry the “War on Drugs”; the arch-conservative William F. Buckley Jr. opposed the whole thing on the grounds that given a choice between tolerating vice and tolerating violence a sane society should have no trouble deciding… Of course, as you say, it’s the fear of getting busted that keeps people quiet, but it’s kind of weird and dispiriting to see a War being declared and one side basically opting to lose. Furthermore I think that being open and honest about this offers the best and maybe the only true answer to your question “How to appeal to non-users?” For as long as the multitudes of well-mannered middle-class cannabis users keep their heads down cannabis can and will be portrayed as a substance used exclusively by psychotics, snarling teens in hoodies, irresponsible rock-stars, and Otto from “The Simpsons”; those members of “the general public” who might resonate with the arguments for legalisation if they came from saner voices simply don’t get to hear those saner voices.

    Ah well… Keep up the good work, ey!


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