Last night we attended the second instalment of the LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) event Stop and Search, this time focusing on Cannabis Reform and Grassroot Revolutions.
As the name suggests, last night had more of a focus on cannabis reform than the previous event.
On the panel were:
- Norman Lamb MP – Norman is a former minister in the coalition government and is a senior Lib Dem MP who has long championed evidence-based policy making – and consequently drug law reform. Currently Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, Lamb recently introduced a private member’s bill for the legalisation and taxation of cannabis, but this was sadly halted recently.
- Joe Wells – Joe is a comedian and left-leaning social commentator. Joe is firmly on the fence with regards to our drug laws. Hosting his own political podcast called Think Tank, and is a regular in the political comedy scene
- Dale Beaumont-Brown – Dale is a film producer and director who has taken a longitudinal look at cannabis in his upcoming documentary, Grassroots: The Cannabis Revolution
After Neil’s intro piece with the audience, we were treated to a preview of Dale’s new film Grassroots: The Cannabis Revolution, which has been a long time in the making, and is due out this summer. We will be writing a feature on the film and hopefully interviewing Dale for ISMOKE, so watch this space.
Norman was up first, talking in detail about his views on cannabis and the private member’s bill he introduced this year. Hearing Norman speak on the subject it is clear he has done a lot of research about the impact of a relaxation of cannabis laws in various countries across the world, and he was saying that with all the positive worldwide press it’s getting hard to ignore cannabis in the public limelight. What we need is for politicians to realise that they won’t lose votes for speaking their mind, as behind closed doors more of them agree with cannabis reform than will admit it publically.
Lamb also talked about a private member’s bill for medical cannabis that he is looking to introduce soon, and you can find an exclusive video of him discussing this on our facebook page.
Greg De Hoedt, chairman of UK Cannabis Social Clubs was also there and asked Norman Lamb if he was aware of the cannabis social club movement in the UK. Norman said he had researched the Spanish cannabis clubs but hadn’t heard of the UK movement, which is currently gaining popularity with new clubs being set up regularly across the UK.
Later on in the evening we were shown another clip from Grassroots: The Cannabis Revolution which touched on a side of prohibition that is rarely spoken about – criminal gangs search for small-time grows which they rob at just the right time to steal the plants, often then roping the grower into giving them a percentage of future batches. Neil added that these crimes go unreported, because reporting them incriminates the grower, meaning there is a whole load more crime going on than people even know about, with some organised criminals having divisions set up just to root out small-time grows and rob them.
Dale Beaumont-Brown, the director of Grassroots spoke about how he got started on the project – he is the cousin of Clark French, an MS sufferer who used to write for ISMOKE. Dale said he was initially trying to be objective with his filming, but as he was embraced by cannabis culture he found himself on the side of cannabis reform despite not being a regular cannabis user. The result is a documentary that shows the benefits of medicinal cannabis on the lives of patients, and Grassroots follows Clark out to the US who are leagues ahead of us with their medicinal cannabis system.
Comedian Joe Wells was the voice of the sceptic for the evening, and I’d say hats off to him for getting up in a room full of people who had different views and speaking his mind. Joe’s initial worries about drugs reform were that he’d seen people he knew damaged by drugs, and did not think that allowing people to use drugs was the answer. Over the course of the evening, however, as Joe learnt more and more about how prohibition causes the dangers of drugs and about the people using cannabis in particular to enhance their lives , he began to see our side of the argument, eventually coming to the conclusion that proper drugs reform along with education to reduce harms as much as possible is a sensible answer.
Joe’s change in heart was helped in part by Michelle, a cannabis grower who is currently having trouble with the police after she went public with her grow for a TV programme, which ended up on Channel 5 and got her house raided by the police the very same night. Michelle, who grows cannabis to help her MS symptoms, faces a minimum of 5 years in prison according to her solicitors. Her story highlights the ridiculousness of current drug laws and a need for cannabis reform as she is being criminalised for choosing to grow her own cannabis rather than contribute to the criminal system by purchasing it from a dealer.
In summary, there is a big issue in current drug laws in the UK with a drastic need to reduce harm, but there is also a moral issue. I want to use cannabis because I enjoy it, and it is safer than alcohol and tobacco. Why should I be criminalised for my life choice, when that life choice does not hurt anyone else (apart from the obvious harms of prohibition, criminality, the criminal system etc)?
I was pleased that through education on the subject Joe had a change of heart, as it shows that if we can educate people on the benefits of cannabis reform then they will hopefully see that it is the most sensible way forward.
Click here for the write-up about the previous Stop and Search event: Discussing Current Drugs Laws in the UK.