The UK Cannabis Social Clubs is a people powered movement campaigning for the just decriminalisation of adult cannabis consumers alongside sensible regulation. We believe creating safer access to cannabis and cannabis products and giving people the right to grow their own at home will create a much fairer and safer society to live in.
It’s pretty hard to escape the well known fact that Amsterdam, only a 45-minute flight away from some parts of the UK, has been a destination point for many a cannabis lover for the best part of five decades. Coffee shops such as Mellow Yellow and Barney’s Farm started springing up in an act of defiance over the harsh penalties against people found in possession or toking a bit of herb. Over the years, this easy route to a short stay in freedom gave people a way to try out cannabis strains, buy seeds of the ones they liked and bring them back to the UK to grow.
In recent years, there has been a migration towards Spanish cities such as Barcelona when it comes to choosing a close to home tourist destination with access to all the mod cons of cannabis consumption.
An evolution of the coffeeshop is the cannabis social club… they have secretly existed in Spain for around 20 years, with around 1,000 in Barcelona alone.
This got people in the UK thinking… something needed to happen here.
Founded in 2011 by ordinary people who just wanted something better for the bud lovers in Britain, the grassroots organisation of the UKCSC has now grown and spread its roots to every part of the UK and has close ties with Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain, Italy, Sicily, Belgium, Germany, Australia and Ireland.
Our arguments are pretty straightforward: implement Age ID for cannabis product sales; anything containing cannabis on sale should be tested and labelled for consumers to make informed decisions; legality means people can have legitimate employment instead of risking criminalisation, or worse, prison; and, the one that has really pricked the ears of politicians, the benefits legalisation could deliver to our economy. Cannabis Social Clubs separate cannabis from the rest of the drug market so claims that cannabis is a gateway drug can be rejected; what we are doing is actually closing any possible gateway. We’re even helping people break free of addictions to socially acceptable drugs and pharmaceuticals.
At a national level the UKCSC works to lobby politicians, local authorities, police, charities and businesses to support our objectives. We create public awareness campaigns and steer the conversation into meaningful territory where new ground can be made. Currently we feel that campaigners asking for “medical cannabis” over “cannabis as a right” have lead us down a narrow and blind road and more direct action needs to be taken.
At a local level, we are private membership clubs and community groups that host social events, create awareness for our cause and help provide access to interim help for patients who have been denied a legal prescription for a serious medical condition. Oh, and we also like to have fun in the process!
You will hopefully have seen some of the clubs pushing to legalise cannabis around the UK on national TV and in mainstream newspapers. UKCSC chairman Greg de Hoedt has been on Newsnight and The Victoria Derbyshire Show debating politicians; Michael Fisher from the Teesside Cannabis Club has been a BBC favourite in recent times, including in a documentary with Professor Green which showed off the club members’ Tagged Plant Collective grow. Rob Davidson also appeared down at the other end of the country for Brighton Cannabis Club taking one presenter to a medicated meal in a gastropub-style club set up, showing that cannabis social clubs aren’t here to follow the stereotypical smoke chambers the tabloids would have little Britain outraged about.
UK Cannabis Social Clubs are standing in as a first line of defence and a first point of contact for many patients that have been denied a prescription – or even worse, can’t get their GP to refer them to a consultant specialist who is the only kind of doctor in the UK who can write one. Our clubs have been growing cannabis plants and turning them into oil that is then tested and labelled before given to the patients who are members who can’t afford the ten times price increase of Bedrocan at £1,400 for 50g!
As expensive and off-putting as it is, it can be risky and costly for patients to buy their medical cannabis oil on the black market where the seller’s first intention is to make money. Improperly made oil can contain residual solvents, plants may not have been flushed correctly and may contain harmful chemicals from the nutrients, or have mould or pesticides sprayed on them. None of these are OK if the product is grown for medical needs but no healthy person should be exposed to these issues caused by poor practices and careless selfishness.
By working to a model that looks out for people’s health and quality of life, and by creating a minimum level of self regulation, certain clubs around the UK have been able to have sensible conversations with public figures and local authorities about moving past the fear and shame based approach that prohibitive policies dictate.
Arresting cannabis consumers has not achieved much for the prohibitionists, as it has only lost respect for politicians and the police. It has made cannabis a far more risky product and gifted the largest proportion of the market to organised criminals. Since 1971 the Misuse of Drugs Act hasn’t achieved its aims of stopping the spread of drugs in society – if anything more people use cannabis than ever before.
So, taking that into consideration, who would you rather operated in the cannabis market? Everyday citizens who want to run legal businesses or the current set of gangsters that are coming to the UK from all over the world in order to continue profiting off prohibition? The sad truth is the UK is home to a child slave trade that thrives off of the government criminalising you. It is their whole profit model and it is tax free!
UKCSCs have gained some worthwhile attention and acceptability by approaching this as a social justice and human rights issue. Quite simply, we want equality. We don’t want to see our friends and family members being persecuted by the authorities who are supposed to protect us. We do not want to be denied the right to drive. We do not want to pay fines just because we use cannabis. We don’t want to have to leave our country to work in the legal cannabis industry elsewhere and we want our country to have a head start on it so Canada and the US don’t have all the fun and economic growth without us!
With recent rulings in both South African and Mexican Supreme Courts overruling prohibition specifically on human rights grounds, we feel confident that this is the right path to continue on. We aim to secure a cannabis industry that supports the rights of small producers in a similar way to craft brewers and distillers, encouraging good business practices as would be expected. Licencing should be a local arrangement with the council rather than being central to the Home Office – they seem like they have enough on their plate!
One of the most fundamental things we must all realise when we are fighting for our freedom with this plant, no matter if you hold it as something sacred, fun or lifesaving, is that we all realise, and help others to realise, that this isn’t about freeing the weed, it is about freeing the people. Cannabis is not put in prison, cannabis is not the one who has its children taken away, cannabis is not criminalised and told it cannot enter another country due to sanctions against drug convicts. All of these things happen to people. We believe we are helping to change that finally. Join us to help bring about change sooner.
This article was first published in The Quarter Leaf issue#1.