From The Beatles To Brixton, a Long, Strange Trip

From The Beatles To Brixton, a Long, Strange Trip
Posted by FoM on March 09, 2002 at 21:31:37 PT
Source: Independent UK
We have come a long way since police raided Ringo Starr's London flat in the late 1960s and emerged triumphant with one and a half ounces of cannabis. As the Beatles generation has grown up to be the leaders of today, the use of cannabis has become so normalised, its effects long now revealed to be so much less damaging than the establishment's scaremongers would have had us believe, that decriminalisation has become almost inevitable.
That, however, is not to down-play the efforts of campaigners over many years to force recalcitrant governments and police chiefs to look at the issue dispassionately. As recently as 1997, when this newspaper took what was then considered the daring step of calling for the decriminalisation of the drug, the new Labour government refused even to countenance the idea.Now we have a Home Secretary – David Blunkett – who has declared that cannabis should lose its Class B status, which was all but an admission that no casual user of the drug need fear prosecution. And with the news that a committee advising Mr Blunkett has said that an experiment in leniency in Brixton, south London, should be extended nationwide, the argument is virtually over. To all intents and purposes, use of cannabis today is no more a matter for police concern than is the smoking of ordinary tobacco.It is an extraordinary capitulation – an acknowledgement that the fears surrounding its use are largely unjustified and that, while tobacco and alcohol remain dangerous and legal, it is a nonsense that cannabis remains harmless and banned. More important, there is a widespread consensus that the law as it stands is wholly counterproductive in allowing criminals to feed off it. Above all, with an estimated one in 10 people using the drug – twice the European average – Britain's changing social mores demand a new approach."Speaking as someone who takes his main pleasure from alcohol and cigarettes, it seems to me entirely logical that all drugs should be decriminalised," the playwright Alan Bleasdale, a supporter of the original Independent on Sunday campaign, said yesterday. "If they legalised it they'd remove crime from the streets and take the money from the bank accounts of the bastards who sell drugs."So how has this radical shift in policy come about? It was around the time that the Beatles fell foul of the cannabis laws that a similar prosecution of Mick Jagger prompted the then editor of The Times, William Rees Mogg, to quote Alexander Pope's line about "breaking a butterfly on a wheel". The Times ran a short-lived campaign, and a "Legalise Pot" movement was set up. But while, over the next 30 years, cannabis use acquired increasing acceptability, the authorities never saw it that way.Any hope that New Labour might see cannabis differently was dashed when the Home Secretary in its first administration, Jack Straw, declared himself implacably opposed to decriminalisation, even as he set up the first "drugs tsar", Kenneth Hellawell. Mr Straw drew the fire of The Independent on Sunday, whose high-profile campaign supporters – from Sir Paul McCartney and Nick Hornby to Anita Roddick and Mike Leigh – helped create a public debate about cannabis use that would otherwise have been suppressed. Some 30,000 people attended a Decriminalise Cannabis march in London in early 1998, and the paper's then editor, Rosie Boycott, recalls that "we had touched a popular nerve". Central to the argument was the plight of MS sufferers, for whom cannabis provided proven relief. By 1999, even some right-wing newspapers were calling for changes in the law, and condemned Mr Straw for being too conservative on the issue.Several shadow cabinet members are now urging Iain Duncan Smith to make decriminalisation party policy as part of a more liberal approach on social issues. Mr Blunkett would therefore be responding to opinion across the political spectrum if he backed decriminalisation. Tony Blair has publicly expressed his opposition in the past. But those close to him say he has never had a "closed mind" on the issue.Meanwhile, the police know the reality on the ground. As more pressing priorities have crowded in, prosecutions have fallen away. According to the most recent figures available, there were still 120,000 cases of cannabis use dealt with by police in 1999. Anomalies persist, and how "offenders" are dealt with depends largely on where they live. In 2000 we highlighted the case of MS sufferer Lezley Gibson, who was put through a four-day trial at Carlisle Crown Court after police raided her home and found her in possession of eight grammes of cannabis. Only then was she found not guilty. In other parts of the country, she would have received a warning.No less a figure than the novelist P D James – Baroness James of Holland Park – said yesterday: "I'm in agreement with the proposal to legalise it for personal use. I think it's extremely important that it's available for patients in need of it for medical reasons."Ms Boycott said yesterday: "It's very good that the Government is rethinking its drugs policy. This marks an important step. I'm delighted that our campaign has borne such fruit."Note: It seemed so daring when 'The Independent on Sunday' began its campaign to decriminalise cannabis. Simon O'Hagan reflects on how public and political opposition went up in smoke.Complete Article: From The Beatles To Brixton, What a Long, Strange Trip It's BeenSource: Independent (UK)Published: March 10, 2002Copyright: 2002 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.Contact: letters Related Articles & Web Site:Drugscope it Was Secretive, People Were Violent is Now Just a Signature Away Dems Vote To Legalise Cannabis Cannabis Legal Now
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Comment #5 posted by freddybigbee on March 11, 2002 at 09:06:39 PT:
The wall is crumbling, but...
don't underestimate the greed that fuels prohibition in the U.S. The corporations that finance our congressional incumbents' re-election campaigns are not going to look kindly on the possibility of legal cannabis threatening profit margins in the established drug, energy, prison, food, fiber and other industries.If you think popular preferences impact federal legislation to any significant extent, you've been living in a different country than I.Keep educating and resisting, but don't expect it to get any easier. Momentum is building; they'll try to legislate away web-sites like this next, since before the web they had the media locked down.
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Comment #4 posted by Rev Bookburn on March 10, 2002 at 12:30:36 PT:
beware of exported hysteria
The Beatles' generation also came of age in the US. However, the culture of lies and hysteria has saturated the public with propaganda about 'new strains' of hemp as well as the absurd attempt to link the war on drugs to the war against other peoples' terrorism. But this is not only a US problem. Many policies here, however stupid, are often imposed on other cultures. Political pressure has prompted other nations to comform to US dictates regarding corporate/ world bank interests, abortion rights/ reproductive health, the 'drug war,' and other issues. Hopefully, a culture of tolerance will continue to thrive in the UK. But it is necessary to remain vigilant and alert to the politics of hysteria, whether it is internal or exported from the US. And while the US continues such policies, it has Sir Paul and other famous musicians kissing the arses of the sickest and bloodiest leaders (Bush, Guiliani, etc). It sure is a long, strange trip.Rev Bookburn
Rev Bookburn- Radio Volta
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Comment #3 posted by goneposthole on March 10, 2002 at 07:12:39 PT
Jolly Old England
I am happy for the English.Those British blokes sure are lucky.Their leaders must have real heads on their shoulders instead of cabbage heads. Ours have cabbage heads.It's still a long, strange trip here.They have a 'Home Secretary'. We have 'Homeland Security'. I would feel more secure with David Blunkett as Home Secretary. 
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Comment #2 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on March 10, 2002 at 06:37:39 PT
What took this wall so bloody LONG???
  Marijuana Law Reform is an issue whose time has come... and stayed, and stayed, and sat there waiting to be noticed already, we'd like to get on with it. PLEASE. In 1972, the Consumer's Union Guide to Licit and Illicit Drugs reccomended the US go Dutch, with legal regulated cannabis. 1972!! And that's just one of numerous examples from the period. Locking people up for smoking something didn't work in 1969, but we must have thought in 1989 that it wasn't working because we weren't arresting enough people for it. Or something. I mean, I know there's a lot of established institutions which will suffer or just plain disappear if the war on marijuana ends. There will be no need for The Whizzinator, or the Clean Teas, or the like. The power company (and gasoline company for those of you using generators) may lose revenue as people are no longer forced to duplicate the sun indoors. Many prescription medications would no longer be in demand. The prison employee population would have to drop if the prison inmate population drops. Law Enforcement would lose a profitable stream of revenue. But can there really be this many vested interests who can possibly control so many people to cage their fellow humans? Can 11% of the people really keep the other 89% bent to their whims, however twisted? Maybe for a while - maybe longer than any of us would ever think possible - but forever?  And now, some inspirational words from Abbie Hoffman:  "When I appear in the Chicago courtroom, I want to be tried not because I support the National Liberation Front -- which I do -- but because I have long hair. Not because I support the Black Liberation Movement, but because I smoke dope... Finally, I want to be tried for having a good time and not for being serious. I'm not angry over Vietnam and racism and imperialism. Naturally, I'm against all that sh** but I'm really p***ed cause my friends and I are in prison for dope and cops stop me on the street cause I have long hair. I'm guilty of a conspiracy, all right. Guilty of creating liberated land in which we can do whatever the f*** we decide. Guilty of helping to bring the WOODSTOCK NATION to the whole earth. Guilty of trying to overthrow the motherf****n senile government of the U.S. of A. I just thought you ought to know where my head was at, PIG NATION. Just thought I'd let you know what I mean when I say, 'I'm just doin my thing.'
  Enough of this bullsh**! Light up your joint, inhale and proceed to the next song."
  -- Woodstock Nation, 1969
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on March 10, 2002 at 05:58:06 PT
This will make the prohibitionists squirm funny.
This is going to make American prohibitionist squirm funny. They will loose sleep and may even start to fire shots into a crowd at random.  They are going to feel jealous, resentment, and anxiety. They are going to want to hurt people. They will ask of the evil master for more to inflict upon the innocent. Their instincts will tell them to steal more, cage and oppress more and they will turn from love more in their effort to condemn, harm and take from others. The great benefactors, are presently the worst of our country, and must be asked to cease their deceit. But this wall, this wall may topple and it may do it very soon. If the most ignorant of American society are not careful, it will crumble on their pointed little heads. That thief in office, will look like a murderer of the innocent. He already does, but it will be readily apparent to all. Can you imagine his teenage daughters, in conversation, with others, speaking as though, yeah, he’s president but he is void of this elementary issue.
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