Activism is Warfare

By James Collins

The great annual 4/20 celebration is over.  Congratulations to all the people who stepped out around the globe and joined the chorus of voices that said “Cannabis is okay” for our leaders and oppressors alike to see.  Damn fine show people!

You’ve proven once again that the rhetoric about cannabis users being lazy and apathetic, unfit to any unified purpose, is complete bunk.  You did a thing en masse, and that took organization and effort.

Highway 420Blastfax kudos all around!

The trouble is that April 20th is but once a year, and prohibition still holds its brutal grip the other 364 days of the year.  You can get away with sparking up a fatty in public on one measly day, but we want our chance to do the same without fear of persecution all year round.  It’s a war.  I didn’t decide to label it that, a bunch of nincompoops in the White House called it the War on Drugs a long time ago.  I’m just taking up the banner of the conflict they created.

In any war a “military” must use its assets to their best advantage.  The same is true in activism.  A military has ground forces, air and naval support, and then also elite special forces who operate across enemy lines in hostile territory.  Much the same could be said of activists.  We’re not all the same, we have different skills and abilities, and we must apply those skill sets where they are most effective.  A sniper doesn’t work on an artillery battery, and a pilot would be pretty wasted serving in a M.A.S.H. unit.  You have to use your tools where they are needed.

The air and naval support has to happen on the streets.  You have to bombard the public with information.  Leaflets, information sessions, posters, social media, newspaper exposure, anything possible to get the subject of cannabis on every wagging tongue should be used.  You need to spread the idea that cannabis is safe like a virus throughout the population.  This is why blogs, magazines and even silly pictures with funny captions are genuine activism: Information is a weapon.  You must use every delivery method possible to spread it.

The special forces are the so-called “professional lobbyists”.  They’re a bunch of guys with lots of credentials in nice suits who do things like have meetings with Ministerial panels and advisory councils.  They have the academic skills and the official credentials to get in the door with the snobs we all elect to run the world for us.  They work on the inside, pressuring officials and pushing the agenda through the mechanisms of mainstream public institutions.  Their job is very important, but they can’t do it all alone.  They need support.  Just like an air war is useless without boots on the ground, cutthroats and spies aren’t effective without an army at the front line keeping the pressure on.  The French Resistance couldn’t have accomplished much sabotaging Nazis if nobody was landing at Normandy.

The last and most numerous of those assets is the infantry.  The boots on the ground like us, regular folks who sign up for the cause.  They have to keep the pressure on enemy lines at all times.  One of the ways they do that is through occupation, or protest.  They assemble in public and make a huge display of just being there to make their point, creating the picture of public support behind those other assets.  Their other role is bombardment.  That’s working the phones and the emails, keeping the pressure on our public officials to do the jobs they are so well-compensated for.  Shooting blindly across no-man’s land is pretty pointless for one person; if a whole infantry division does it they can make a serious impact without even seeing their target.

Sitting in those trenches during the First World War firing blind shots over the dirt at the oncoming army didn’t seem like it was accomplishing much.  At the same time, had they not been doing that the Central Powers would have overrun the rest of Europe and our political landscape would look very different.  While it feels like an act of futility at the time, the only thing more futile than fighting is giving up.  That assures defeat, and you can’t even say you went down swinging in the aftermath.  If I’m going to lose I would like to do so on my feet, rather than becoming Austria and waving flags welcoming my invader.

This is where we must band together, as those poor wet bastards in the trenches who just keep shooting into the dark.  We can’t put down the rifles.  In our case the rifles are phones, laptops and even paper and pen.   I spend a lot of hours in front of this little box reading and writing, networking, looking at the problem from every angle.  There are many days I wonder why I don’t just spend all that time playing games and throwing a stuffed mouse around for my cat.  It would be far less frustrating and probably a lot more entertaining.

Cannabis Surrender Bin: We shall never surrender, NORML UK

London police invite people to surrender their cannabis before attending the annual 4/20 smoke out in Hyde Park.

I do it for the same reason you’re sitting here now reading this, instead of blowing up digital aliens or watching a celebrity dance competition on television.  We do it because on some level we give a damn more than we don’t.  We do it because if nobody does it then it won’t get done.  We do it because we want to be the change rather than simply wait for it.  It’s something worth doing, even if it does feel completely hopeless.

I know it is frustrating sitting on hold, and leaving voicemails nobody returns, and writing letters that seem to go into a black hole.  All that effort isn’t completely wasted.  There is a human being on the other end, and they are forced to hit “delete” at the very least.  If enough people put the pressure on all they will have time for is pressing the “delete” button on their email, and that hampers their ability to make up new laws that make our lives harder.  It also tells them that the opposition to those laws is growing in intensity and the days where they can maintain unjust policies are numbered.

All around the world right now people are starting to stand up to the government.  It isn’t just cannabis.  It’s everything.  Corporate corruption is endemic and our officials are more interested in lining their own pockets than doing their jobs.  You know why they get away with it?  Absolutely epic and unprecedented apathy towards major issues has spread like a disease.  People just don’t care about anything, because they’re poor, overworked and tired.  They’re counting on us lying down and getting steamrolled.  We can’t let that happen.

It’s not a matter of either/or.  There isn’t a restriction in place here; we are not forced to click only one box on the protest list.  It has to be a combined effort on all fronts, combined warfare, a dynamic approach to forcing change through proactive engagement through all venues.  Activism is warfare, and we’re winning this one.  Twenty years ago no government in the western democracies would have considered the concept of recreational cannabis.  Now it’s a reality in two jurisdictions and the conversation is on fire everywhere else.  The soldiers of prohibition are in a phased withdrawal as we speak, so we have to keep lobbing fire at their backs as they run to make sure they scram right off the field of battle completely.

Soldiers don’t fight for the generals.  They don’t stay in the fight for the folks back home, or for the sweet taste of victory.  They do it for the person to their left and to their right.  They do it for the other soldiers that have their back.  They do it for each other, because only we can get us through the fight by doing it together.  Try to remember that.  Every one of us feels like David before Goliath with a tiny rock in a sling, but that isn’t the case; all around you there are a million other Davids with their own tiny rock to throw.  We don’t even have to be good at throwing rocks with this many of us; if we all keep letting them fly one of those stones is going to get Goliath right between the eyes.  Even failing that, the combined force of so many stones will make him think twice about holding his ground.

Again, congratulations to you all for fighting this long, and keep an eye on your fellow Cannabis Soldiers.  We aren’t at the capital yet, but it’s visible on the horizon now.  We’re almost home.

Hyde Park NORML UK meme: Cannabis is illegal, on 420 it isn't

Cannabis is pretty much not illegal on April 20th around much of the world. It shouldn’t be illegal on any other day.


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  1. Don’t know if its cause im utterly wasted but this is the most inspirational speech I’ve read on this subject, hit up my email ill help in any way I can. #420forever #inspiredtoact

  2. This will be reposted on my political and personal blog, with permission. Inspiring! The war rhetoric helps many understand just what is going on with this issue.

    Well played, sir!

  3. Classy Jordan. I agree with Phil. Excellent writing and thoughts. My favorite part being: “You have to bombard the public with information. Leaflets, information sessions, posters, social media, newspaper exposure, anything possible to get the subject of cannabis on every wagging tongue should be used. You need to spread the idea that cannabis is safe like a virus throughout the population”

  4. I can’t agree that activism is about war but some of what you said is inspirational. We all need to remember that we are in the business of changing minds. This is best done by agreeing with as much as possible, accepting people’s fears, making friends and demonstrating what good reasonable people cannabis users are.
    You cannot persuade the people who disagree with us by having an adversarial attitude or showing hatred and aggression. I know we are talking about extending the hand of friendship to (what many of us consider to be) some of the most bigoted and hateful people around but no one ever said it was going to be easy. You may even change some people for the better and make the world a better place too !

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