2012 has been the year the cannabis campaign really found its feet in the UK. The formation of NORML UK has brought together some of the most passionate and dedicated members of our community but by no means the only or the best. There are sure to be more of you reading this right now. If any of these plans for the next twelve months strike a chord with you please make yourself known to us and share how you would like to contribute and get involved. Here is a list of our campaigns for 2013 for you to get involved in so share the word.
Both NORML UK and United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs (UKCSC) have worked together to build a strong foundation and network across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This has also helped give birth to the much needed NORML Ireland which is well worth a mention as we intend to continue to grow our community throughout the British Isles. We have had newspaper, radio and even TV coverage in our first 7 months and could not be happier to have been accepted in the way that we have in such a short time.
Now that the campaign has achieved this level of recognition and valued support it is imperative that we use it in the most effective way we can whilst maintaining our growth in reaching out to both the cannabis consumers and the greater public – the latter of which we need onside in order to make change happen on a national scale. Once we have the mothers, fathers, GP’s, teachers and police on board the pressure on the politicians is going to become very weighted.
This Sunday (2nd December) NORML UK held a public meeting to discuss the progress made, plan out the next 12 months and decide what we hope to achieve. Many of these plans have already started and will begin to come to fruition as the next year unfolds, others are plans that we are beginning work on now, with intended end results and options to where we can take the results. Much work has been done to get these plans to the stage where they can now be implemented. A message of harm reduction/safer alternative is what we intend to promote.
We would like to express our greatest of thanks to Ex Cambridgeshire Police Chief Constable Tom Lloyd for attending and contributing some very valuable insights and experience to not just the meeting but our campaign ideas for 2013. By having this kind of support we know we are certainly heading down the right road and we hope to continue gaining more support at this level. Tom Lloyd has travelled the world visiting various different drug reform organisations and governments to discuss drug policy and law reform on a global level, including a recent visit to Uruguay who are going through the motions of legalising and regulating cannabis.
Planning For The Future.
Something that will become quite apparent to many of you now is our focus on the medicinal side of cannabis use. Whilst NORML UK continuously campaign for the right of all adults to peacefully pursue activities relating to cannabis without unwarranted interference from the police, those that need cannabis as a medicinal requirement and suffer the most because of these laws make it necessary for these campaigns to come first. The logic behind this politically and socially is on the side of the evidence. We now have nearly 20 states who have voted to stop taking legal action against those who use cannabis medicinally; two of those states have gone from medical to full legalisation with forms of regulation in just 12 years. When speaking to figures of public authority and in public servant roles they tend to understand the compassionate side of the argument with much more clarity than when asking for people who have no obvious medicinal need or neccesity for cannabis to be left alone by the law.
After 20 years of campaigning in the UK, a dozen coffee shops and many imprisoned campaigners and growers we think that following this strategy is in NORML UK and cannabis consumers’ best interest. As much as it may pain people to see, incremental steps are proven to be more successful than giant leaps when it comes to international policy change. We would also like to take the opportunity to mention the foundation of the NORML UK Medical Council who are going to be releasing their mission statement, with long and short term aims, in the coming weeks.
We believe in a harm minimalisation approach by promoting safe alternatives as medicine and in policy and using scientific, fact based education throughout all of our campaigns.
List of NORML UK’s 2013 Campaigns
Bedrocan: Schengen Hypocrisy & UK Bureaucracy: A plan has been set into action for the end of May to bring over medicinal cannabis patients from several countries in Europe who are prescribed the Government approved Dutch Pharmaceutical companies herbal cannabis. They will ‘light up’ alongside UK patients, hopefully leaving a huge dilemma for the police. Whilst the Bedrocan patients will be legally able to possess their medication, UK patients would be committing an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This was an idea originally from Jayelle Farmer who suggested it back in 2011, NORML UK are delighted to finally be in an opportunity to put Jayelle’s plan into place.
We have patients in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands who are prepared to make the journey. The best location in London is currently being decided and a dialogue has already begun with the police. The Independent have already registered interest in following this story even publishing a short article about it earlier in the year. The idea will be to gather as much public support as possible and make it an event that is picked up by other media, radio, papers and TV channels. We have are applying for funding from several organisations that have showed support for the movement both in the past and in more recent times.
Aim: To highlight the double standards of the British Government on a wider and more openly public scale. More protection is provided to foreign patients than patients with a UK residency (not just with citizenship), who would face arrest and prosecution for doing the same. Even if a UK citizen had a Dutch residency for example they would be protected by the Schengen Agreement whist travelling with prescribed herbal cannabis. The aim would be to enter into talks with the Home Office to offer UK patients in need of cannabis the same compassion and legal protection/exemption as EU patients covered under the Schengen agreement.
To highlight the medicinal cannabis laws in the UK which deter British GPs from being able to prescribe cannabis in herbal form as it is an offence under the MDA71. To allow GPs to prescribe Bedrocan and import it.
We think this is worth our time and resources because it is a direct discrimination against those that need cannabis as a matter of medical necessity and it gives us the chance to make it known on a national scale. Our own media and coverage of the protest will be made so that the campaign can live longer than the protest and be used to reach even more people after it has finished.
Sativex Prescriptions & Primary Care Trusts: The PCTs decide how much money is spent on medicines and what medicines are available in different areas of the UK. In 2011 only 1,420 patients were prescribed Sativex. It was originally intended for MS patients of which there are 100,000 in the UK. Obviously not enough patients have access to the cannabis medicine they should be able to get from their GP. In 2011 Freedom of Information requests with 8 questions were sent out to every PCT of which 90% replied. From this we are going to produce a NORML Map of the UK displaying to patients which parts of the country they are able to be prescribed Sativex.
Aim: This will allow us to provide the right support and procedure to the patients in areas that will prescribe them Sativex, whilst increasing the numbers benefitting from the right medicine. In our experience, those patients with Sativex prescriptions that have been arrested for growing their own have had charges dropped or not been prosecuted. In some cases the police are fully aware of cannabis use or cultivation in a property where a Sativex patient lives, and they are left completely alone. The reason patients still grow their own when they are prescribed Sativex is because it just isn’t as effective as the real herbal thing. This will work in conjunction with our PCC campaign. If we can increase the number of patients receiving Sativex we can apply pressure to the Home Office and NICE to officially approve Sativex as a medicine as it currently only has a marketing licence. This will ultimately mean the rescheduling of cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug (meaning it has no medicinal benefit). This will mean the Governments official line on cannabis – that it has no medicinal benefit – will have to change, and this will be sure to gain attention from the press. These two actions are already in the pipeline so it is important for us to push them forward in any way we can.
Police & Crime Commisioners: Alongside UKCSC, NORML UK has sent letters to every new PCC in the country. This is a new position in policing and bridges politics and policing more than it previously has in the UK. As the new PPCs have control over budget we have urged them to stop prosecuting medicinal cannabis users and growers. Many of them have approval from their doctors and healthcare specialists and do so without causing disturbance to their community. In fact they have consciously made the decision to remove themselves from the anti-social chain of the criminal market where a completely unhygienic product is being sold.
Aim: We know that the new PPCs are not going to give into our requests straight away. This does give us a chance to build up rapport and develop a dialogue which we can take as it comes and learn more about the process it is going to take to achieve ‘de facto decriminalisation’ for medicinal cannabis users/growers. If we can establish the PCTs that allow prescription for sativex we can pressure those PCCs to instruct their constables and officers not to use the force of the law to prosecute patients growing.
Soap Storyline: A large proportion of the public that we need to reach either have no idea about the wide range in benefits of medicinal cannabis or are even anti-cannabis and even believe the governments’ standard line on how dangerous it is. It would be ideal to get a story about medicinal cannabis in the one of the many soaps that take up much of the nation’s attention most nights of the week. Because there is rivalry and competition between the different channels and soap ratings it gives us an opportunity to approach more than one and the chances are that if one does choose to pick it up and run with it another one might copy and so might another. There generally seems to be a lack of creativity in these kinds of shows that are criticised for repeating the same story lines over and over or copying one another. This is a work in progress from now as we aim to establish relationships with TV networks, production companies and script writers. If you work for any of these or are a script writer yourself, please get in contact with us or share your thoughts and ideas. We will be assembling a team to take on this project in January.
Aim: To bring up the increasingly public issue of medicinal cannabis use among a population that aren’t plugged in to social media in the same way many of our supporters are. To give people the planted seed to possibly search the use of medicinal cannabis for themselves or a family member. If this is brought up on a soap it will likely reach the soap magazines, the chat magazines, the tabloids and will hopefully lead to more real patients sitting on couches of daytime TV shows.
Most of the opportunities for these campaigns have already come along or have been acted upon. As they are presenting themselves to us now we are taking the reigns and moving steadily ahead. We have the tides of change on our side. As we look to our American counterparts and drug policy campaigners that have played a part in the revolution happening over there we see there is still a lot to learn and take on board. Not only is Sativex likely to be scheduled it is also likely to gain FDA approval. NORML UK are very adamant that we want access to cannabis as a medicine not just the medicalization of cannabis which is what will happen if we let it just unfold on the governments terms. We are faced with blatant governmental contradiction in the form of GW Pharmaceuticals who produce Sativex here in the UK. They should not be able to profit on patents for the use of cannabis for certain illnesses and diseases while others suffer and are prosecuted.
Whilst it may seem that NORML UK is not paying enough attention to the discrimination of all people in the cannabis community this most certainly is not the case. We believe everyone has the right to partake in this herb and the lifestyle that comes with it. We believe that through raising awareness in 2013 of the medicinal use of cannabis it will open up the debate on a much broader spectrum as we have seen in so many other parts of the world. Once the wider public see that cannabis is not only a medicine but doesn’t have the harmful side effects of other prescription drugs and even other recreational drugs social stigma will start to break down.
NORML UK is predominantly run by activists who have serious medical conditions that that without cannabis would not be able to make any of these campaigns happen. Illness does take its toll sometimes and this is why we need more dedicated recreational and spiritual consumers on board with the campaign team. Our time and resources are limited but there is always room for more campaigns to teach people about the benefits of cannabis for non-medicinal purposes and the use of cannabis as a lifestyle choice. We are waiting for you to reach out to us or the UKCSC to see where you can get involved. We will be developing surveys and hopefully working with an online survey organisation to help collect anonymous data about cannabis consumption in the UK so please keep your eyes out and be ready to help us collect as much information as we can.
We would like to express our greatest of thanks to all the members that have joined in the first 7 months and we look forward to meeting many of you at our AGM to be held at the start of March.