Building Political Momentum For Cannabis Decriminalisation

By Phil James, Wrexham Social Cannabis Club

During the summer of 2018, the subject of cannabis was often in the headlines. More than ever before, this season has exposed how the politicians and the establishment are hopelessly ignorant on almost every aspect of cannabis.

We saw numerous cases of mothers with children suffering from pharmaceutical resistant epilepsy being denied access to medicinal cannabis products by the UK government. Like a sick game of chicken, the politicians tried their luck at a zero-tolerance approach in full view of the British media.

This time their over-confidence backfired because these children had already responded well to cannabis in other countries that are progressive enough to at least have legalised medicinal use. This left the media unable to spin it in the government’s favour because the whole country was witnessing the denial of what could now clearly be seen as genuine medicine.

Instead of the usual tabloid propaganda designed to get the public to fear cannabis with already debunked stories such as “Skunk psychosis”, the media were forced to actually analyse why these parents had turned to cannabis where the pharmaceutical industry had expectedly failed them.

All the aging corporate right-wing talking points like “there is mounting evidence that cannabis causes psychosis” or “Cannabis has no medicinal benefits” were, at last, failing to stick as the Home Office ran out of credibility the longer it was putting these children’s lives at risk.

For myself as a brain cancer survivor thanks to using “skunk” during radiotherapy, I was convinced that rather than me spending out on travel fees to London to “protest” in some form, I could instead achieve better gains against prohibition by adopting the same model that cleaned the Labour party of a corporate neoliberal leadership via the pressure group Momentum which helped see Jeremy Corbyn win two leadership challenges.

Momentum did this by running campaigns where the establishment always neglects, which is at the grassroots, the local community level. The same thing happened in the US where the corporate Democrats saw the working class as “fly over states” not worth campaigning in, leaving Trump to campaign there unchallenged lying to poor communities that he would “clean out the swamp”.

On a hot sunny day in Rhyl, I went along to a small Momentum meeting of local activists to pitch my campaign to include cannabis legalisation in the progressive agenda that Momentum is keeping the Labour party on track with after years of corrupt neoliberalism from Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

What I loved about meeting these people from the start was how these normal looking locals were the very people that make the liberal elites like James O’Brian or right-wing barons like Paul Dacre quake that communism is coming back exactly as it was under Stalin, leading them to cry “they’re Marxists!” without actually knowing what Marxism means, which is the simple analysis that capitalism isn’t working for everyone.

It brings me the hope that these unforced errors that modern “intellectuals” are prone to make in an era where facts are more than ever accessible over the internet and of course mostly utilised by younger generations that have always known a life with the internet. Many of these pundits would never actually dream of going on Question Time and saying that capitalism should never be critiqued under any circumstances and that the very act of doing so would be communism, yet they still gag on the term “Marxism” as if that’s the case.

Sadly in the UK, even the independent media is dwarfed by their US counterparts like TYT, Humanist report, Secular Talk and The Jimmy Dore show. The UK independent media scene is almost entirely left to one man called Gordon Dimmack to cover the recent cannabis related stories that Novara Media consistently fail to analyse even when the mainstream media is covering it.

For me this is a shame because Novara Media was originally explained to me as the UK’s answer to YouTube giant TYT which has no problem telling the truth about cannabis while the US prohibition lobby loses its grip on the States whose councils have a more logical understanding than the federal government that being beholden to big pharma lobbyists is against their own biological interests on the subject of cannabis.

I digress. My pitch to North Wales Momentum was met with no resistance beyond simple scientific questions to discover the truth behind the years of prohibition dogma that has misguided the UK perception of cannabis.

For me, it’s quite an easy process to educate people that have never heard anything different because I am effectively a walking testimonial of cannabis saving a human life.

The pressure is in my own realisation that cannabis isn’t just medicine, but that it’s in everyone’s human interest to catch up on this and put their health before the profits of a minority of pharmaceutical lobbyists and shareholders.

As confident as I am that they are indeed a minority, I’m always aware that those of us that owe our lives to cannabis are a minority in the sense that we don’t yet have any real political representation backing us. I have seen groups like the UPA draw hundreds of fellow patients across the country to turn out to show support at our political capital but also seen their soft approach to changing the law get continually filibustered out of parliament.

I have been re-educated on the internal politics within the UK cannabis community which is, to say the least, confusing and often petty.

For example, we have UPA events that invite patients but ban the groups that have been on the medical cannabis front line for the past few decades. As much as I respect the UPA for their pragmatic approach to the political establishment, seeing the barring of other activists from these events is seen by many as petty and unhelpfully divisive.

To me, it’s important to make sure those with the most experience on the frontline against prohibition are all at the same table speaking truth to power with all of them punching up, never down. When disputes between such groups or figures occur, it does little but confuse a population of already oppressed patients that have endured years of lies from their own State.

I consider the need for a genuinely unified cannabis community not just important for organisation against a well-funded and established opposition with the prohibition lobby but how obvious the enemies are within the cannabis community, such as the cash crop scammers in the criminals who are desperate to target newly diagnosed patients to take advantage of their situation with fake oils or overpriced low-quality cash crop junk.

These criminal leeches are an enemy to both patients and cannabis community groups that are pushing for legalisation. They actually oppose legalisation because their nefarious business models are strengthened by the conditions of prohibition and likely incompatible with a regulated market that provides clarity as to where to get quality cannabis.

For Momentum, there is a carrot and stick situation where in order to support a campaign to get legalisation to be a major Labour policy, they need more members and who better than progressive cannabis activists?

The cannabis community is not known for being very politically active because there has never been a political force that is fighting for them. That could now change if this campaign is successful because there are mutual interests that are both progressive and, call me a Marxist, compatible with something better than the crony capitalism that prohibition is a side effect of.

I was invited to speak at a second momentum meeting about this campaign a few weeks back and again found unanimous support but this time from a different set of members. Some of these people that the right-wing media are scared to death of are of pension age, yet still show an ability to understand the truth about cannabis better than a gammon faced Tommy Lennon supporter.

Looking ahead, I’m going to use the money I saved turning up to another parliament filibuster to attend Green Pride in Brighton to help support the guys from Wrexham who are looking to get on the UKCSC success list. As for the campaign, I am fast learning that getting so many people that support the UKCSC and Momentum together in one building on the same date at the same time is proving more of a challenge than I thought.

Hopefully, soon I will have the date Arfon Jones and Greg de Hoedt are both able to attend this summit so that the cannabis community and its supporters can help launch a policy drive to the top of Britain’s largest progressive party via the grassroots with Momentum.

If you would like to help with this campaign nationwide; please look up your closest Momentum group and join up so that you are there to vote yes as such a policy does the rounds. I guarantee they will have other policies you will want to be there for. For too long UK politics has failed to grasp the importance of ending prohibition.

Momentum provides a platform to change that in a way that has already ended corporate neoliberalism in the Labour leadership. For too long the general UK population have been misguided about cannabis until they have to understand it for health reasons.

The UKCSC provides a platform to change people’s minds in our towns and cities that are too often blighted with alcohol-related violence, with no resources or institutions to learn the truth about cannabis.

We have recently seen some big wins from the government having to backtrack on their zero tolerance and ignorant approach to cannabis, to our very own Greg getting those truth bombs aired at the end of his appearance on the Victoria Derbyshire show.

Momentum and the UKCSC have the best models to bring about change in our politics, laws and public perception. It’s time to make the most of both…

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