In America the tide is turning. Legalized cannabis consumption for recreational purposes is now a reality in two states. Okay, that is only two out of fifty, but it’s a pretty good start. So far the federal Justice Department of the United States isn’t making some kind of obvious move to stop this from happening, although they aren’t throwing their support behind it either. This example alone does a good job of showing the complete disconnect between the public and our elected officials. This situation also highlights some of the advantages of the American republic system compared to the Parliamentary system used in nations like Britain and Canada.
As you probably know, or are about to find out, cannabis found its new status in Colorado and Washington state through voter-sponsored ballot initiatives during the last election. It’s a simple process to start up such an initiative in some states. You simply go around and collect enough signatures, then submit it to the proper authorities and it is placed on the ballot in the next election. The people of that state then get to decide democratically if they approve or disapprove of the change to the law that is proposed. It is kind of like a referendum in a country with a Parliamentary system, except it doesn’t require the assent of sitting elected officials to move forward.
This is the key difference. Voters in a republic system get to skirt the obstruction of their government to achieve things which the public feels are important. This isn’t always a good thing, but it can be. I’m not endorsing the American system on the whole here. I think there are many things about that system that are completely dysfunctional, as can be seen in their current downward spiral towards imperial ruin. This process is however why progress towards legalized cannabis consumption is happening in America, but not in much of the rest of the “free world”.
In Britain, or Canada, or Australia, you would have to obtain the assent of the sitting government to hold a referendum which may ratify the desires of the public. This means you have to vote in a government that is pro-cannabis to even decide on the questions surrounding cannabis and its status under the law. That’s problematic, because voters aren’t going to vote solely on the issue of cannabis. There is a lot going on these days, so for many people, the majority of people, cannabis just takes a back seat to poverty, social stagnation and public security issues.
While people favor legalization, they don’t favor it so much that it overrides all other concerns. That brings us to the impasse we are at now.
In recent years many professionals from many relevant fields have come forward to declare that cannabis use is at the very least as safe as any number of other things we allow people to do in modern society. Alcohol, gambling, prescription drugs, joblessness and underemployment: All of these things do more damage to society than cannabis. To take the position that cannabis is just too dangerous and to allow public consumption would end in the destruction of modern western civilization is just not a fact-based viewpoint. If it were not for the number of people being arrested and imprisoned because of cannabis, then it would likely have almost no noticeable impact on society at all.
The government in the nations I have mentioned remain obstinate on the subject, however, and that is where we’ve hit the wall. People like David Cameron and Stephen Harper are standing on the age-old propaganda that cannabis is dangerous. This misnomer has been quite completely debunked at this point. Even major peer-reviewed scientific journals are filling up with studies on the benefits of cannabis. If you were forced to present the idea that cannabis is dangerous in a criminal court, the “evidence” available to that end wouldn’t meet the standard burden of proof. Scientific proof is far more rigorous than legal proof, and that standard has pretty much been met as well.
We have a real problem here. Lobbying our governments isn’t working. It is clear that in Britain in particular the sitting coalition government is either oblivious or just completely apathetic towards public opinion on many subjects. Facts play less of a role in their decision making process than ideology, so their stated position on cannabis is no less perplexing then their attitudes towards poverty and employment. They have their own crazy, isolated, spoiled-child viewpoint of the world and they aren’t letting it go.
This is where the public needs to be informed. We don’t just need to outline that these private-school brats who presume to represent us are lying about cannabis. They are clearly disconnected from any established fact set on damn near every subject imaginable. When you look at the totality of their political philosophy, it is clear they will lie about anything to push their own ideologically motivated agenda. The time has come to expose not just lies about cannabis, but an overwhelming policy of disinformation and untruth, so that people can see that what their elected officials tell them about cannabis is a giant pile of manure.
It’s an endlessly uphill battle. I’ve seen activists in America criticize activists in the UK and Canada for not making as much progress as they have, clearly failing to understand the complex differences in our legal systems. The fight is bigger in a Parliamentary system than it is in a Republic. In the former it is all-or-nothing. There is no piecework system to change laws one by one on the basis of public opinion. You only get that one chance to vote every few years, and that vote is for everything.
In short, if you want weed in your pipe you’re going to have to get the frat boys out of your Parliament. It’s a pretty tall order to fill, but it seems to be the only route to victory. These coddled children in expensive suits are used to getting their way, and they aren’t about to capitulate to inconvenient facts just because an overwhelming standard of proof has been met.