By Caroline Allen, Green Party candidate for the European Parliament elections on May 25th
Yesterday I spoke at the 420 event in London’s Hyde Park. The pro-cannabis rally run by NORML-UK and UK Cannabis Social Clubs was well attended in spite of the truly awful weather and relentless rain.
The UK Greens are the only mainstream party with a long term commitment to decriminalisation of cannabis. For years we have stood against tabloid led hysteria about cannabis and our elected representatives have pushed the agenda forward.
In my speech I highlighted the hypocrisy of governments that take a tough line on drugs while refusing to do the slightest things to upset their friends in the alcohol and food industries -who are doing a lot more harm to people’s health.
After years being treated like pariahs it does now feel that the tide may be starting to head our way.
In the US, the very home of the failed war on drugs, two states are blazing a trail. Colorado raised 1 million dollars in taxes on cannabis in the first month of decriminalisation. That money would certainly come in handy now.
But more importantly we simply do not believe people should be criminalised for recreational use of a drug that is no more harmful than alcohol and tobacco.
We believe people should be able to safely buy cannabis through a safe supply chain, one that doesn’t involve drug dealers and enriching the black market.
At the rally we heard from numerous people who had benefited medically from using cannabis. The Government refuses to admit any evidence exists for a medical benefit, yet a pharmaceutical derivative has been licensed to relieve symptoms of MS, yet some people suffering from MS have been denied it by their Doctors/ Primary Care Trusts.
More widely Greens are calling for a different approach to all drugs.
Green MP Caroline Lucas has achieved the support of more than 100,000 people signing her petition to ensure that her call for an independent assessment of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act will be debated in Parliament.
This is a broken law, there has never been any assessment of its impact.
And the cost of this war on drugs are enormous. In England and Wales alone, an estimated £3 billion a year is spent fighting it, to little effect.
And over half of the 85,000 people in prison are thought to have serious drug problems.
As Greens we believe this law does more harm than good and this petition is hopefully just the start of an evidence based policy on drugs.
Other countries are showing that alternatives work.
In 2001, Portugal adopted a new policy whereby drug possession was changed from a criminal offence to an administrative offence, following which there was a reduction in new HIV diagnoses and in drug-related deaths.
In Switzerland, a series of new policies focusing attention on drug use from a public health perspective, led to a decline in crime rates.
An investigation by Release looked at 21 areas that had adopted some form of decriminalisation of drug possession. Overwhelmingly, it found that such an approach does not lead to an increase in drug use but does improve outcomes for users – in terms of employment, relationships and likelihood of staying out of prison.
Its time for the UK to change it’s approach to drugs and Greens will continue to push for this common sense agenda.
Sadly the Police and park authorities didn’t get in the spirit of things.Republish