Obama on pot

By Deej Sullivan

President Barack Obama made a potentially significant move yesterday by declaring in an interview that cannabis is ‘less dangerous than alcohol’.

This may seem like a fairly innocuous statement to make – it is, after all, pretty much common sense at this point. But nonetheless it was a bold move. Cannabis is still a schedule 1 controlled substance in the USA, meaning (according to the Federal Government) that it has a high potential for abuse and no medical use. For context, this is the same scheduling enjoyed by such delightful substances as Heroin and GHB, but not cocaine, which is schedule 2.

As well as this Obama, who was speaking in an interview with the New Yorker editor David Remnick, said that “we should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”

Barack Obama on pot

Obama on pot

Make no mistake – this is big news. For the President to publicly declare that criminalising cannabis users is something we should not be doing sends a strong message to the rest of the world. Is this the beginning of the end for prohibition? It certainly feels like it could be.

It’s worth remembering of course that Obama has made statements like this before. He has openly admitted smoking cannabis in his youth and, when he became President, he vowed not to use Federal resources to raid state-legal medical dispensaries. As it turned out this ended up being untrue. In actual fact he spent more money even than his predecessor George W Bush, despite his promises.

Despite this, Obama’s newest statement is exciting news for drug law reform activists everywhere; coming as it does less than a month after Colorado formally legalised sales of cannabis for recreational use. So far there have been no raids on these new ‘pot shops’, and media coverage has been largely positive (other than the predictable howls of rage from Fox News and the like).

In the wake of this it seems to me that we have a great opportunity here in the UK to put pressure on our own Government to change their outdated and immoral drug laws.

In many ways David Cameron’s evolving opinion on cannabis has followed a similar trajectory to that of his American counterpart. Like Obama, Cameron has admitted to using cannabis in the past and, also like Obama, he made many comments early on in his political career that suggested he was in favour of reform. He even went as far as saying that the UN should consider legalising drugs back when he was attempting to become Tory leader.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on pot.

David Cameron changed his views on pot.

When he came to power, however, his views suddenly and drastically changed. He has clashed with Professor David Nutt on the issue and reportedly refused to even read the HASC report which recommended having a Royal Commission to look at decriminalisation and legalisation. Unlike Obama his position has not yet softened and, right now, he still seems unlikely to support changes to the law. However, now that the ‘leader of the free world’ has spoken so frankly and openly on the subject, perhaps now could be an opportune time to up the pressure on our own dear leader.

To this end, NORML are launching a campaign to get this issue raised in Parliament. Love it or loathe it, writing to politicians has always been a fundamental part of any law reform movement. It is our belief that if enough people write to their local MP’s on this issue, asking them whether they agree with Barack Obama’s view, then the issue of law reform is bound to become more prominent in their minds. If we can then keep the pressure up and challenge MP’s to ask David Cameron his opinions during PMQ’s, then he will have to give an answer one way or the other. When the heat is turned up by continuing reform in other countries, it will become very difficult, and embarrassing, for him to ignore us and deny his previous statements on the matter.

We will be producing a template for people to use, however I would recommend writing something yourself if you are able – the more people who write something unique on this issue, the more likely it is that we will get their attention.

This is a very important moment for our cause. We need all of your help to push this into the public eye and force our politicians out of their comfort zone. Please; if you can help in any way – be it by writing letters, sharing the campaign on social media or talking to people about the issue and convincing them to join us, then do it. This is a chance for you to help make a serious difference: don’t get left behind.

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  1. I truly support this! we need to prove all the benefits of cannabis and actually teach people more about it, it doesnt just make you feel ‘high’

  2. Yadda yadda yadda. no one will change the uk views on cannabis. The only way to do that is vote for another party. Quite frankly if you think the tories have done nothing but get our country into more and more debt and as much as cannabis legalization could help towards taxes i just dont see those out of touch c*nts giving anything back to us. 1 statement rings true which David Come-on-man said before “we are thatchers children”

    If you want to make a change then vote someone else ffs

  3. Great write up Deej, I’m in the process of draughting a template letter/email for the general public to send to their MPs which will outline the problems directly attributed to prohibition and the multiple virtues of cannabis regulation, restriction to minors and quality control.

  4. Do you not think it suspiscious that both Obama and Cameron suddenly and firmly changed their minds with no explanation? Somebody TOLD them what to say whether they liked it or not. I want to know who that is. Politicians are owned. If we suddenly elected an average American to the post…never mind.

  5. I actually write to David Cameron the other day displaying my points and defending cannabis and how it can make this country better in full support of legalisation! 🙂

  6. i have used weed for many years when i started it was for fun , i gave up for many years , then as the years went on i developed Arthritis , fibromyalgia and costochondritis , i was eventually put on pills 1 step below morphine they took so long to start working and made me sleep all day, a friend of mine suggested weed , so i did , it starts to work after a few puffs, i am awake and more social towards everyone ,i have also been diagnosed with SEVERE pms which the weed helps more than pills , i think its about time this PLANT is decriminalised or made legal for medical use and possibly recreational use WAKE UP UK

  7. Actually Obama has not softened his stated views that much – he said that cannabis is ‘no more dangerous than alcohol’. (Alcohol is a substance that is responsible for 1 million hospital cases each year in Britain and you can legally buy a lethal dose [1 litre of Vodka – if consumed in one go] for less than £10.) It is all part of the process of changing his mind – step by step. I think that sensible drug policy and legalised cannabis is something Obama has always secretly wanted (he used to be a stoner after all) but to say so would have been the end of his career in politics.
    If America legalises Britain will follow (eventually) but I agree it will take a change of leaders to get it done. Cameron came down too hard on drugs to avoid references to his own cannabis smoking past (and rumoured possibly more recent indulgences with cocaine ) – he felt that he had to do this to stay as party leader then PM. Obama was not quite so heavy handed and is president of a country whose attitudes have evolved further on this issue than Britain. British politicians would love to tax and regulate but they can’t seem to manoeuvre themselves to do this as well as satisfying their paymasters, the press and keeping the approval of the voting public. Politics is about timidity and manipulation not doing what is right and that applies to all parties – it is just the way the system works.

  8. “British politicians would love to tax and regulate but they can’t seem to manoeuvre themselves to do this as well as satisfying their paymasters, the press and keeping the approval of the voting public.”

    May I suggest curbing our irritation and guiding the politicians on How They Regulate– positively promote, subsidize, encourage an industry making and marketing ingestion instruments which themselves Regulate dosage, in this case of cannabis, by being so sized and shaped that they permit 25-mg servings replacing the 500-mg “joint” or “spliff” (which may contain addictive nicotine).

    I.e. in addition to many existing vapourisers, pen vapes etc., educate your MP about cheaply handmade Long-Drawtube One-Hitters with a narrow screened crater which can be loaded with 25 mg of sifted particulate herb (cannabis, tobacco, alfalfa, basil, chamomile, damiana, eucalyptus, oregano, peppermint etc.

    Directions for making a one-hitter from materials costing less than One Pound at wikiHow.com: “12 Ways to Make Pipes from Everyday Objects”– visit the article, sign in, edit, improve, add pictures of 25-mg Regulatory one-hitters you know how to make (choomette, kiseru, midwakh, sebsi etc.) and urge all political leaders of your borough to Regulate H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide $igarette papers out of existence, save billions on health care (chiefly treating longtime nicotine addicts) and win cannabis reform leaders a Knowitwell Prize for the #1 Medical victory of the century.

  9. I just received a letter from my local MP, Bernard Jenkin. It was in response to my email asking for his opinion on Obama’s statement. I’ll give you some of my favourite quotes from the letter…

    “I do not agree that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol”
    “The government does not recognise cannabis in it’s raw form to have any medical purposes.”
    “Cannabis has a negative effect on a person’s mental health and on their respiratory, cardiovascular and reproductive systems, as well as increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer”
    “Our current laws draw on the best available evidence”

    I don’t know why I expected anything other than this response, nevermind.

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