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The Hempire News - May 05

UK News
Isn't it ironic that a general election brings out the worst in politicians, they are never less attractive than when they're trying to win votes. This is particularly true with the latest tactic of 'dog whistle' campaigning; pronouncements designed to attract a particular group and be missed by everyone else.

Linton Crosby, The Tories' Australian guru was supposed to have pioneered this approach but the truth is the war on drugs has long been considered a dog whistle issue. Undoubtedly calls for more toughness do make certain people pant. The mistake is to believe no one who matters cares otherwise.

Our esteemed leader certainly doesn't care about us. In a meeting with concerned parents (where else) he stated that the Lib Dems' policy was "crackers", that cannabis was not as harmless as some make out and that it led to harder drugs. He also stated his belief that the police know what to do about cannabis.

Which is interesting because the head of the Met doesn't want the law reverted and nor do many of his senior colleagues The body charged with making recommendations to the Government, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs also oppose change. One advisor said there would have to be an "awful lot" of new evidence to justify changing back, another said reviews should be based on clear hard facts and not conjecture.

A theme leading drugs charities echoed. Addaction said decisions must not be ruled by hysteria, Drugscope said changes must not be made for political reasons and Transform called for a mature and rational debate and an end to crude electioneering.

For crude electioneering is all this is. Despite the overwhelming opinion of the informed Blair will change the law back if he thinks there's votes to be won. We are the lambs Labour and the Tories sacrifice to appease the god of the Daily Mail. And I, for one, have had enough of it.
- Mr Tony Blair
- Sir Ian Blair
- the ACMD
- charities

So the rally went well. We met in a recently renewed Russell Square on a gloriously sunny day. Two thousand of us, escorted by good natured policemen and drums and cries of "free the weed", walked happily under a cloud of smoke, past astonished tourists and with the cheers of more than a few passers-by.

A crowd was waiting in Trafalgar Square. Many of whom listened intently to all that was said, despite the twin hindrances of the fountains interfering with sound and the joints interfering with concentration. There were no arrests and no reports of trouble. In fact the police knocked-off early.

Leaving us to listen to powerful speeches by Howard Marks, Shane Collins, Roger Warren Evans, Caroline Coon, Richard Parry, Tony Taylor and many others. There was a great rapper from THTC, the wonderful Granny Pat and Rob Free Cannabis eating the top of a plant live on stage.

All credit must go to Andy Cornwall who put in countless hours organising the event. Without him it simply would not have happened. Thank you Andy.
- report
- a short film of the march and rally
- my speech

We loved Rosie Boycott and Rosie Boycott loved us. Ah, those were the days. But she's changed. She's dumped us for the Daily Mail.

The headline 'Cannabis Catastrophe' wasn't a good start. The timing of the piece – right before our rally – wasn't brilliant either. But both of these pale into insignificance when compared with the utter, unadulterated, nonsense she wrote.

The main thrust of her article was that skunk is bad. Very, very, bad. She claimed it can be thirty times stronger now. She associated it with three of the most brutal attacks this country has seen in recent times and she repeated the most alarmist elements of studies which link cannabis to psychosis.

All of which grossly distort the truth. Cannabis is stronger now, but not thirty times so. The people she mentioned did use cannabis, but there is not a shred of evidence to suggest it caused their brutality – plus one of the accused had already been publicly exonerated from the attack on Abigail Witchalls. Finally, she ignored detailed findings of the studies she quoted either because she didn't read them or because they undermined her argument.

She did find people to support her but all were quoted in a way which seriously throws into doubt their expertise. The most extreme of which came from Julie Lynn-Evans, an apparently 'eminent' child psychologist.

Despite being a psychologist Ms Lynn-Evans isn't someone you could describe as a sandal wearing, tree-hugging, liberal. She thinks gangs of hoodie-wearers go round without care for ethics or morality, that these miscreants are mainly ex-public school kids who've been expelled and that skunk makes them steal, break into cars and snatch mobile phones.

And that's just the start. Incredibly Ms Lynn-Evans would rather her own daughter take heroin than skunk because heroin addiction is curable but the effects of cannabis are not.

It's jaw-dropping isn't it? A child psychologist thinks the risks of using cannabis are greater than the risks of using heroin. Now I know she doesn't have a clue but the sad fact is I'm sure she's convinced she's right and I'm sure she's not alone. How on earth do you change minds like that?
- full story here

When the Misuse of Drugs act was created there were less than 1,000 problematic drug users in Britain. Today there's something like 300,000. Another figure which continues to rise is the number of people taking hard drugs. Last year this exceeded one million – a new record – with the greatest growth recorded in cocaine.

It is fair to assume these figures are underestimates; well would you tell someone calling from the British Crime Survey the complete truth about your illegal activities? But even if they're accurate they signify a major increase in the number of people taking Class As even as an ongoing war is concentrated against them.

Cocaine is flooding into Britain and despite the number of users going up its price is coming down. How can this be? How can a growing market be oversupplied? It's not like we didn't know the flood was coming – experts have been predicting it for years. The only conclusion we can draw is that despite forewarning, focus and finance, efforts to stop cocaine coming into the country have failed.

Now drug warlords didn't get where they are today by having lots of unused cocaine sitting in warehouses. They don't employ lots of pretty girls handing out free samples in nightclubs, they don't take adverts in the yellow pages and they don't have outlets marked by swinging signs. Drugs aren't pushed, they're pulled. Which means efforts to stop people wanting cocaine have failed too.

Prohibition has been a cocaine marketer's wet dream. People want to use it because it's seen as glamorous, taken only by the rich and the famous. If cocaine didn't have the image it has, an image prohibition is directly responsible for creating, would so many people would want to use what is in fact a pretty horrible drug?
- full story here

Medical News
I've a question for you. You are in serious and continual pain. You've tried all the drugs doctors have to offer but many of them have intolerable side-effects and none of them truly work. Cannabis does work, transformationally so. Do you feel it necessary to break the law in order to continue using it?

Well you're not an Appeals Court judge then. Three of whom have just ruled against the defence of 'necessity' when using cannabis for medicinal reasons. Or in other words they would prefer you to abide by the law but remain in agony rather than break the law and gain some relief.

The reason the judges would not allow this defence is because they believe anyone and everyone would use it. They wanted to prevent recreational users from being found innocent and so have declared medical users guilty without trial. Drugs really mess up the minds of prohibitionists don't they.
- the judgement
- a doctor writes

A few days before this ruling the Medical Research Council announced the funding of a three-year study into the effects of cannabis on MS. Given what we already know there's reason to believe the findings will be positive. Which will help people a few years on, it's just the ones now who have to suffer.
- full story here

International News
Our drug warriors like to set themselves ambitious targets. All of Keith Hellawell's failed and the United Nations said 2008 would be the year when we see a 'drug free world'. Now Kerala has joined in with a promise to eradicate every bit of cannabis on its border with Tamil Nadu within one short year. I wonder if they know how easily this weed grows?
- full story here

The Swiss want to move away from a drug policy based on moral judgements onto one of pragmatism. There wont be a division between legal and illegal drugs, instead all intoxicants will be dealt with by a four-pillar approach of prevention, therapy, harm reduction and law-enforcement.

Which is what campaigners have been arguing for years. See alcohol and tobacco as drugs and the problem of illegal drugs comes into perspective. The solution becomes pretty damn clear too.
- full story here

Leigh Schapelle Corby, the Australian accused of importing four kilos of cannabis into Bali, was sentenced to twenty years in jail last Friday. Her case attracted great sympathy amongst Australians who believe Indonesia used her to send a message about how tough they are on drugs.

The only way countries can deal with drugs under a system of prohibition is through viciousness and injustice. They want to scare us into submission and will resort to whatever means necessary. Schapelle Corby is just one of their victims.
- full story here

Another is Shanmugam Murugesu, a Singaporean hanged after he was caught with just over a kilo of cannabis. According to Amnesty, the Singapore government imposes capital punishment on a greater percentage of it's citizens than anywhere else in the world, an action they defend on the basis it has prevented drug gangs from establishing themselves there. How long before some Tory MP suggests the same thing here?
- full story here

Further draconian measures can be found in, of course, America. If proposed legislation passes anyone who witnesses or learns about any form of illegal drug activity will be conscripted into their prohibitionist army.

People must report any such activity to police within 24 hours of discovering it. In order to ensure a conviction family members could be forced to wear a wire and spy on each other Refuse and you're looking at a mandatory minimum two years in jail. And this is the country the Tories look to for advice on prosecuting the war on drugs.
- full story here

Better news from Berlin, where the city's government is about to decriminalise personal possession of up to 15 grams. The thrust for change comes from a feeling it is none of the government's business and that the police can't deal with the sheer number of people who smoke openly everywhere.

So civil disobedience works then.
- full story here

Miscellaneous News
A new book apparently contains a clue about where a $18m stash can be found. Scottish gangster Roddy McLean is supposed to have dumped a load off the Azores ready for a collection he could never make (he was jailed and then died in mysterious circumstances). So dust off that parrot, pull on that eye patch and strap on that wooden leg. There's treasure to be had me hearties.
- full story here

Police auctions are renowned for their bargains. You can pick up all kinds of equipment seized from drug dealers there, fast cars, speedboats, heavy gold chains. However, the police of West Yorkshire should perhaps have been more circumspect about auctioning equipment used for growing cannabis. Perhaps they thought it would subsequently be used for growing tomatoes?
- full story here