Government response to cannabis petitions proves they are a waste of time.

Government response to cannabis petitions proves they are a waste of time.

By Chris Bovey

We’ve all seen them pop up on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, yet another cannabis petition. You’ve probably signed one, I have, and will likely sign another since it only takes a few seconds.

That does not mean I’m under any illusion signing a cannabis petition will do any good whatsoever. They don’t.

Both the Feed The Birds and NORML UK Facebook pages get regular requests to share cannabis petitions. Sometimes we do, but we’ve both concluded they are a total waste of time.

This upset some people, who sent some hilarious and even abusive messages to us; it’s ok, we are big boys and girls, we can handle them.

Downing Street petitions

In particular, on Downing Street petitions website there are numerous petitions asking to end cannabis prohibition and another asking for a referendum on cannabis in the UK.

The Downing Street petitions website is nothing more than a con to maintain the illusion of democracy. If a petition achieves over 10,000 responses it will get a dismissive response from the government if they don’t agree with you, which they won’t if it is in favour of cannabis law reform. If 100,000 signatures are achieved then it is the case that MPs will debate it.

Caroline Lucas, the UK’s sole Green Member of Parliament, started a drugs-related petition back in 2013. This was heavily promoted and passed the 100k threshold to force MPs to consider debating it in the House of Commons, so it doesn’t even get into the main debating chamber for MPs.

The petition stated:

“Drug related harms and the costs to society remain high in Britain, with a growing consensus that the current enforcement led approach is not working. In recent months the independent UK Drugs Policy Commission has highlighted the fact that Government is spending around £3 billion a year on a policy that is often self-defeating; and the Home Affairs Select Committee has concluded Government action is needed “now, more than ever” to consider all the alternatives to our failing drug laws and learn from countries that have adopted a more evidence based approach.”

This petition was worth promoting as it was started by such a prominent and respected British politician. MPs did debate it, the first time drugs had been debated properly for over a decade in the UK. MPs even agreed current drugs policies were not working, only for the Home Office to issue a statement the following day they had no intention of liberalising the UK’s drug laws.

Since then, if you search for drugs or cannabis, you can see a number of petitions asking the same or similar. Most are rejected, very few pass the 10,000 required to get a bullshit response from the government and to date, only Ms Lucas’ petition passed the 200k threshold to force MPs to debate the issue. The only thing that petition achieved was some positive media coverage, no change in the laws.

Petition on the official government petitions website asking for a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis.

Another useless cannabis petition.

Last year, a petition was started asking for a referendum on cannabis legalisation. It did actually pass the required 10k signatures to get a response from the government, which was of course bullshit. A similar petition was then restarted, we were asked to promote it and said no, because it’s pointless, which the petition creator and his friends did not take too kindly too. They sent a stream of insults to our inbox. Referenda are very rare in the UK and the Brexit vote was only given by the pig fucker because he thought he would win and wanted to stop all the racist vote syphoning off from the Conservatives to UKIP

I am not advocating that you don’t sign any cannabis or drugs petition you see, after all, it only takes a few seconds, but choose your battles wisely. Even though it wouldn’t achieve any change in the law, it would not be a bad thing for MPs again to be forced to debate drugs policy, but not a referendum on cannabis legalisation which this government or even a future Labour government would never agree to in a month of Sundays.

Real cannabis activism

Signing petitions is not activism. Real activism is getting yourself arrested outside Parliament, as Jeff Ditchfield did last year at the request of UK lawmaker, Paul Flynn MP. When told by Magistrates to plead guilty or face much more severe punishment in the Crown Court. Jeff opted for a trial by Crown Court and all charges were dropped at his first appearance at Southwark Crown Court, after the CPS said there was not a realistic chance of a prosecution.

If you really want the law changed then if every person who was offered a cannabis caution or light penalty at a Magistrates Court asked to be tried at a Crown Court, I’m confident cannabis prohibition would soon end in the UK, given there are over two million regular consumers on this island. The already overstretched Courts would soon be piling massive pressure on the government to change the law, as it would bring the Courts to a standstill, as well as waste countless man hours of the police who have already had their numbers cut by the Tories by 20,000 in the name of austerity.


Chris Bovey, writer and musician.

Chris Bovey is a businessman, writer, musician and practical joker. He lives in Devon with his partner, two children and cat.

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