The War on Drugs: The Price We Pay for Propaganda

The War on Drugs:

The Price We Pay for Propaganda

Originally published on Ismoke media (September 2017)

This week I am taking a look at how reefer madness, propaganda and successive disastrous anti-drug campaigns have created the opportunity for political prohibitionists around the world to break up families, destroy lives, incarcerate vast numbers of people and even murder people in this failed “war on drugs”. Born out of the Nixon and Regan “Just say No” school of drug policy DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) an anti-drug campaign was launched in 1983 in Los Angeles, California.

It has since grown nationally and internationally and has subsequently been instrumental in the escalation of the global war on drugs, creating the situation we’re in now where supposedly democratic countries can incarcerate and kill vast numbers of their own citizens.

The vast majority of those locked up are disproportionately poor, ethnic minorities predominantly dealers with the so called “low hanging fruit” those often just caught in possession such as the novice and naive youth, the intellectually challenged and those with mental health conditions making up the rest of the caged consumers.

The program which is a strong proponent of the now debunked theories and the reefer madness ideologies of the gateway theory, cannabis is addictive and causes Schizophrenia claims to “provide students from kindergarten (Infants) through to high (secondary) school with the skills necessary to recognise and resist pressures to experiment with drugs and to avoid gangs and violence”.

In reality the approach of DARE and other similar organisations actually replace any opportunity to teach kids truths about drugs that could serve them well for the rest of their lives instead it merely provides a brief respite from the mundanity of the syllabus, much like the drugs themselves, which as a result of prohibition are rife in schools across the world.

The program is used in nearly 80% of the school districts in America and in 54 other countries around the world (including the UK) teaching some 36,000,000 students each year.

The program started in Britain back in 1995 and has received consistent criticism and since it launched it has been indoctrinating children as young as 5 in this backward, antiquated and deeply detrimental world view under the name of “Life skills Education”

Unfortunately by attempting to overly emphasise and sensationalise the potential hazards and dangers of so called hard illegal drug abuse, DARE actually inadvertently conveys the impression that alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs are innocuous because of their legality and in contrast to the propaganda that they’ve been fed about even soft drugs like cannabis and magic mushrooms.

Even the US Department of Education prohibits schools from spending its funding on D.A.R.E because the program is deemed to be completely ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug use. DARE itself claims that the fact that the majority of the public like the idea of the anti-drug campaign is enough evidence of the efficacy of the program itself, and that to “test” it would require many years and millions of dollars – it’s a decision that no politician has yet dared make.

This antiquated ideology is, unfortunately, re-emerging in the East and is epitomised by the Philippino president Rodrigo Duterte whose drug policies are currently excusing a genocide on the many island nation after he reignited his own Nation’s War on drugs in full force.

Duterte’s war on drugs has now claimed the lives of 13,000+ people deemed to be drug consumers or dealers.

Incredibility among all of this bloodshed and rampant corruption The Philippines voted just 24hrs after voting to reinstate the death penalty for certain drugs charges to give its citizens lawful access to medical cannabis for a condition such as Epilepsy, Cancer, and MS. But all is not well for regular cannabis consumers in The Philippines, as it is likely the war on drugs will still continue to negatively affect them. “If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die. “Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component.” – President Durete

It is worth noting that Filipino president Duterte has some striking similarities with another recently appointed US president Donald J Trump who, with the help of Jeff Sessions seems poised to reignite the war on drugs in the home of the failed policy.

In May 2017 Jeff Sessions reversed his predecessor’s initiative to end excessive, racist and socially destructive mandatory minimum sentences, claiming, without evidence, that Holder’s sentencing changes had led to America’s sudden 10.8% increase in murders in 2015. This plus the reversal of the plan to end privatised, for profit prison seems to point towards a stepping up of the drug war in the states in coming years.

Recently another Asian nation has been hinting at adopting this monstrous and draconian approach to this failed policy. Head of Indonesia’s narcotics agency Commissioner General Budi Waseso, recently remarked that “The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance”

Indonesian president Joko Widodohaswho was recently quoted at a press conference as saying ”I have told you, just be firm, especially with foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist [arrest]. Gun them down. Give no mercy,” sparking fears that they may be the next country to adopt this vile human rights abuse as official government policy.

What the prohibitionist and promulgators of propaganda cannot seem to understand is that humans enjoy altering their consciousness by taking drugs and have done for millennia, be it through smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, consuming cannabis, eating magic mushrooms or taking LSD.

They fail to grasp that it is impossible to prohibit a behaviour out of existence. This is epitomised by the temperance movement, which attempted to deal with the “moral decay” caused by rampant alcoholism in the United States by prohibiting it. Readers of history will be aware that this drastically increased the negative effects that the drug had while minimising any potential benefits it could bring to society much like the situation we currently have with Cannabis.

The damage is somewhat negated by legalising alcohol, taxing it and using the funds on education and rehab schemes rather than criminalising all alcohol uses to “protect” the comparative few that abuse the drug. Tobacco, as well, is a greatly destructive drug, yet isn’t prohibited, it is simply taxed higher each year in the UK attempt to deter its use.

Governments around the world are perpetuating this policy of manslaughter by proxy by failing to address this failed antiquated global policy. The results are in and prohibition doesn’t work – it causes more dependency issues, more violence, more suffering, perpetuates racial, class and economic divides, and disproportionally incarcerates minorities, the poor and society’s most vulnerable.

There is some silver lining – Even the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisations (WHO) is now advocating for the abolition of prohibition and the global decriminalisation of all drugs.

So as the topic is being more openly discussed by advocates, activists, and charities around the world world – we continue to fight towards a brighter future. By discussing the failures of drug prohibition openly, rationally, and with compassion its helping to bridge the divide between the stereotypes cast by prohibitions propaganda and the real lives of drug consumers.


Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Why Fascism Loves Prohibition

Why Fascism Loves Prohibition

Originally published on Ismoke media (December 2017)

Fascists are authoritarian by nature, attempting to exhort their will through force to make others succumb to their way of being and thinking. Prohibition is, as we’ve previously discussed, a racist social control mechanism, and as it turns out, also the perfect tool for fascist governments and dictators around the globe.

Harry J. Anslinger is the bigoted and racist father of drug prohibition. However, it is another man, a modern manifestation of this warped worldview, the new US attorney general Jeff Sessions that seems to embody Anslinger’s ignorance.

He sees being nominated by Trump as a personal mission to roll back the clocks of progress on drug reform and stoke the dying embers of the war on drugs by going after America’s favourite floral scapegoat, Cannabis.

Making outlandish statements like “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” will only alienate the tens of millions of Americans in 8 legal states and 29 Medical states; regular folk who are consuming cannabis daily without it detrimentally affecting their health, job, moral compass or jeopardising their standing in their community in any way. Their only worry comes from bigoted and stigmatising statements made by antiquated politicians and the draconian policies they seek to reinstate.

Just last month, Jeff Sessions set about reviving failed, three-decade-old reefer madness rhetoric straight out of the Nancy Reagan propaganda playbook. Homaging the failed “Just say No” campaign by paraphrasing it, saying that “We’ve got to reestablish first a view that you should say no. People should say no to drug use”

“It doesn’t strike me that the country would be better if it’s being sold on every street corner. We do know that legalization results in greater use.” – Jeff Sessions This is a fundamentally untrue and misleading statement, as shown in a fortuitously timed and recently released study – legalisation doesn’t increase consumption. Furthermore, Sessions completely ignores the fact that Cannabis is already available on every street corner, it’s just currently unregulated and untaxed.

The Nazis are an interesting study when it comes to fascism and drugs. They certainly utilised a plethora of substances on the battlefield during the second world war, giving new meaning to the term “War on drugs”. But it’s their domestic policy and approach that is most of interest and relevance to today’s topic.

While the party ultimately allowed drugs to be utilised on the frontline, they, at least when first ceasing power were rather anti-drugs, establishing the Rauschgiftbekämpfung (Reich Working Committee for Combating Drugs) and were proponents of prohibiting access to certain drugs believing that this policy would help the push for cleaner, sober and more orderly citizenry.

The Nazi government was actually the first society on German soil and one of the first societies in the world to adopt such a strict anti-drugs policy. It is interesting that as efforts were being made on the other side of the Atlantic to ramp up the war on drugs, the Third Reich’s attitude toward drug policy was beginning to evolve. As the war intensified the Nazis tolerance towards drug use grew especially to ones deemed useful to the war effort, primarily stimulants and painkillers.

In 1938 the then-Berlin-based drug maker Temmler Werke launched its Methamphetamine compound, Pervitin, which was hailed as “a true miracle drug that could keep tired pilots alert and an entire army euphoric” by physiologist and university professor Otto Ranke.

This lead to him advising that the drug be utilised by the Wehrmacht (The unified Nazi armed forces) and marking the start of a new kind of warfare. The pharmaceutical arms race between warring nations had begun, later leading to the CIA’s failed attempts to weaponise LSD.

This is well documented in the book by Norman Ohler, Blitzed which among other subjects explores the obvious hypocrisies of ruling elites and high up party members espousing purity and sobriety while indulging to excess and fueling the war effort on narcotics.

The same hypocrisy can be observed in the fact that numerous MPS continue to be caught up in sex and drug scandals – it will come as no surprise that the toilets at the house of commons have tested positive for cocaine.

So at this point in history, the Nazi philosophy was more of viewing addicts and addiction as an illness and dealing with it as a health issue and not a failing of morality, the antithesis of the approach adopted by America, which blamed the addict for their problem drug use labeling it a sin.

Addiction was generally accepted in Nazi Germany to be a curable disease. However, the fascist regime used this disease label as a justification to murder those afflicted with the condition who were also of certain ethnic, religious or sexual persuasions, and those deemed a burden on society as part of the Aktion T4’s forced euthanasia program.

There are interesting parables between the government of Nazi Germany and our own under whom the racial disparity in stop and search has increased. It is now the case in this country that if you are black, you are 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched and 4 times more likely if you belong to an ethnic minority.

These people are profiled and accused of carrying drugs based solely on the colour of their skin or their ethnicity. This kind of persecution is the same discriminatory mechanism used under the Nazis to filter out white drug users from ethnic ones who are then disproportionately punished and penalised just like the US system which incarcerates more people for drug possession and use than any country on Earth. The land of the free is home to the largest prison population on the planet, and this is disproportionately made up of Black and Latino men who are targets and victims of institutional racism.

Most religions are also proponents of prohibition: religions are social control structures that justify the prohibition of certain drugs while praising others as “god’s law”. Most of the countries where you can still get the death penalty for drugs offenses are ubiquitously religious and have extremely authoritarian rulers and subsequently excessively harsh drug policies.

Interestingly Iran may be seeking to break this rule by decriminalising some drugs in an attempt to disrupt the relationship between drug addicts and drug traffickers.

The Philippino president Rodrigo Duterte is a prime example of how prohibitive policies can be enforced in a vicious, violent and authoritative way. His recent countries hyperbolisation of the war on drugs has seen thousands of suspected drug users, dealers and political rivals murdered by fellow citizens, vigilante gangs, police and the national drug agency in one of the bloodiest interpretations and implementations of prohibitive policies in recent times.

This is an insane juxtaposition when contrast with the country’s recent decision to legalise Cannabis for medicinal use. However, the genocidal prohibitionist president has warned that “If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it ever,”“It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested and If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die,”

Another example of prohibition taken to its extreme ideological ends is Maoist China and its massive reduction in opioid consumption following the Chinese revolution in the late 1940’s. Which had been a huge problem for the country for over a century, thanks, in large part to the British.

It is estimated that before 1950, as many as 20 million Chinese were drug addicts. To solve this problem, Mao had the People’s Liberation Army execute the drug dealers and forced millions of addicts into compulsory treatment. All in just twenty-four hours. reminiscent of Durete’s modern-day onslaught in the neighbouring Philippines.

Authoritarian and Totalitarian regimes are almost exclusively prohibitionists and firmly against the use of drugs like cannabis and classic psychedelics primarily because these substances broaden the consumer’s mind, cultivate new and unique ideas and concepts and can undo decades of cultural and societal conditioning in a single evening.

The drugs that are tolerated by these and even more moderate governments are seen as either vital tools that help society function or a necessary evil serving some archaic function regardless of the negative effects on the user and wider society.

Those with power will always seek to scapegoat drugs, blaming them for all of the ills of society as it is far easier than to attempt to understand the complex nature and causes of addiction and problematic drug use and how they’re deeply rooted in the very foundations of our culture and of society itself.

Cannabis is as much the future of the human race as it is our past and with this one plant we have the opportunity, the technology and the ability to end fascist ideology by eradicating the scarcity paradigm, which has been one of the main driving forces behind the spread of bigoted extremism, ignorance and fear, because when we all have enough, everyone is deemed worthy enough.

Ultimately, you cannot have a society which is both free and drug-free.


Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Can Cannabis Save Us From Climate Change?

Can Cannabis Save Us From Climate Change?

Article originally published on Ismoke (September 2017 )

Global warming is a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular, a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onward and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels and other human activities.

Although there is much debate in the political sphere there is a growing consensus in the climate science community with a nearly unanimous 97% believing that global warming is happening – scientists agree that the trends observed over the last past century are most likely due to human activity.

There are many repercussions of global warming: Rising sea levels, Ocean acidification, increased frequency of natural disasters and catastrophic weather events like the four “1 in 500” level hurricanes that have been (and are) battering the Caribbean and the US east coast recently, Coastal and onshore Flooding, Longer and more destructive wild fire, more frequent and intense heat waves and global temperature rising.

Researchers have found that economic, emissions, and population trends show that there’s only a minute chance that the Earth will avoid warming more than 2 degrees centigrade by the end of the century. One of the first scientists to warn of the dangers of climate change, Professor Jim Hansen, warns that “shit is hitting the fan”. In a recent presentation, he is quoted as saying:We’re too late to stop global warming with just renewable’s, we need to do something much more drastic”.

An international team of researchers, led by Professor Jim Hansen, Nasa’s former climate science chief, said that the world has already overshot targets to limit global warming to within acceptable levels and was “sufficiently grim” to force them to urge “rapid emission reductions” They also warned that efforts would need to be made to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by about 12.5 percent.

A paradigm shift is urgently needed if human life is to continue to prosper and to function in the way we have become accustomed to. For there to be a brighter future than this grim outlook, we need a drastic overhaul of our cultural and personal consumption habits in the present.

The daily depletion of destructive resources such as petroleum, plastics, wood for timber, paper, etc, petrol for machinery, polyester, and other synthetic materials used in clothing, textiles, and industry is playing a pivotal role in the acceleration of climate change. These products could be produced from cannabis without the environmental cost, and the fact that they’re not is likely a byproduct of the global prohibition and demonisation of the cannabis plant.

Other environmentally detrimental actions by humans include behaviors such as the mass exportation of industrialised animal agriculture by countries like Brazil, India, and Australia, the three largest exporters of beef. Cattle ranching is an activity that requires vast areas of land to be deforested to create space to graze them and tens of thousands of gallons of water and tons of feed to sustain and raise the cattle.

Cattle ranching is now the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon. Nearly 80 percent of deforested areas in Brazil are now used for pasture and the remainder mainly being mono crops such as Soy, which is largely used as feed for the cattle. A large proportion of these trees are felled illegally and with little regard for local wildlife or preservation of endangered species.

It is a symptom of the modern world tragedy, we find ourselves cast in that one of the most bio-diverse places on the entire planet is being decimated to graze cattle ultimately destined for a quarter pounder, happy meal, or milk on our morning cereal. There is hope yet: India, previously a large exporter has banned the slaughter and sale of cattle which will reduce the global availability by 20%. However, this is likely to be quickly capitalised on by the Australian market ramping up its operations, negating potential beneficial offset to the environment.

Incentivising the farming of Hemp/Cannabis on an industrial scale would massively help to offset a lot of the destructive environmental consequences of climate change. For example, switching all toilet roll, newspapers/magazines, greetings cards, wrapping paper other packaging to Hemp would not only save billions of trees annually, but also in the process would literally suck in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The net carbon sequestration of an industrial hemp crop is estimated at 0.67 ton/hectare annually.

Humans fell something like 15 billion trees each year (wow, more than two for every person on the planet, nice one humans) and the global tree count has fallen by 46% since the beginning of human civilization. This is a problem when you consider that trees are vital in capturing carbon and turning it into oxygen through photosynthesis.

Trees also drill water deep into the ground helping to avoid surface flooding and provide an ever-replenishing biomass for ground soils, providing nutrients and the perfect conditions for other flora and fauna to flourish in a rich base that is held together by the root structures of the tree preventing soil erosion and desertification.

In England, we have lost half of our irreplaceable ancient woodland since 1930. “Forests are being lost to development and infrastructure; we are cutting a lot and planting so few, so it may be that England is technically deforesting,” said Stuart Goodall, chief executive of CONFOR the trade association for the UK forestry industry.

Only 1.35 million trees were planted in England in the 18-month period from April 2015 to September 2016 this steep decline in tree planting means the current government is almost certain to miss its manifesto commitment to plant 11m trees in the UK in the lifetime of this parliament.

The 11 million target is neither ambitious nor linked to any policy objectives. It is simply a continuation of the number of trees planted by the 2010-2015 government. We should be planting exponentially more than 11 million trees in the lifetime of this parliament and future governments. The legalisation of cannabis is coming whether anyone likes it or not and its industrialisation is a necessity when you’re faced with the fact that the UK is currently heading toward deforestation.

Another result of deforestation is the massive amounts of pollution that cannot be captured and stored leading to the situation we have here in the UK where we have high levels of pollution and air quality so poor that it is causing 40,000 deaths every year.

Deforestation is also one of the main contributory factors to onshore flooding as it drastically alters the flow of waterways, streams and rivers coupled with drastically more powerful storms leads to flooding in locations that previously had been untouched by seasonal rains for generations.

The number of people exposed to flooding each year is at risk of tripling from 21 million to 54 million by 2030, according to a study by the World Resources Institute
This would result in the economic cost of flooding increasing from £65 billion to around £340 billion.

This could in part be negated by the immediate ceasing of the felling of billions of trees and the mass planting of cannabis/hemp and switching from the former to the latter for all potential fabrications that we produce. If done on a large enough scale, this would help to combat climate change through not just deforestation, but also, phytoremediation, a process that using green plants removes, contains, or replaces contaminated soil. Cannabis/hemp can be utilised to detoxify, desalinate, and remove irradiated and heavy metal contaminants. It is considered to be one of the most cost-effective and environmentally-safe cleanup processes available.

The cannabis plant was even utilised in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster with thousands of industrial hemp plants being planted to help deal with the radiation in the topsoils. Japan is considering using the same method to aid in the cleanup of the Fukushima exclusion zone. However, this is impeded by the draconian hemp license laws enforced on Japan by the US in 1948.

Global warming will create millions of climate refugees in the coming century, all of whom will need housing, food and other resources. Unless nations and international organisations start acting now we simply will not have what we will need.

Designing and creating new homes out of cannabis is a carbon-negative process – Hempcrete is a mixture of cannabis hurds and limestone used as a material for construction and insulation. Its sustainable, recyclable, carbon negative, lightweight, mold, moisture resistant, and non-flammable.

Cannabis plastics can make anything traditional petroleum-based plastics can without the need to fabricate a war in order to secure a resource through foreign interventions and the game-changer Cannabis Graphene.

Cannabis Graphene is comprised of a lone hexagonal honeycomb lattice layer of tightly packed carbon atoms, it is one of the strongest, lightest, and most conductive compounds ever discovered. It’s a British invention that was first discovered in Manchester, where they built an institute for developing the technology that was supposed to build the northern powerhouse.

Graphene is 100 times more effective conductor than copper, lighter than air, and stronger than steel. It’s currently being made from graphite/coal and is retailing at around $2000 per gram. However, when produced from cannabis, it’s $500 per TON, To put that into perspective, that’s 907,185 grams at a saving of $1,814,369,500 Although cannabis-derived graphene cannot do everything graphene can, its energy storage capacity is equally efficient at a fraction of the cost.

Cannabis graphene superconductors could literally be grown to store whichever renewable is most suitable for that location, be it Tidal/Wave, Solar, or Wind. Utilising this technology would negate the need to secure vast amounts of Lithium what is now a proven inferior battery technology and could save Afghanistan from its impending “liberation” as it has been discovered to have a trillion dollars worth of Lithium deposits.

Wider adoption of various Industrial Cannabis technologies could provide the energy needed to ensure that no country would be forced to exploit one of the most dangerous, detrimental, dirty and destructive energy production processes, fracking.

If at this point in human history we deny cannabis as a tool to help prevent climate change because of successive decades of racism, reefer madness, and propaganda then we deserve to reap what we have sown.


Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

The etymology of the word “Marijuana” A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet

The etymology of the word “Marijuana”

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

A version of this article was originally published by Simpa on Ismoke (June 2017)

The origins of the word “Marijuana” is an antiquated and racist term that should be removed from our common vocabulary. Cannabis, as you will well be aware, goes by many names all over the UK and indeed all over the world. Weed, Dope, Bud, Reefer, Green, Ganja, Herb, Pot, Grass, I could go on – its correct botanical name, however, is Cannabis, which we get from the Greek word κάνναβις

Cannabis has been the standard term in botanical vernacular since the publication of Carl Linnaeus’s Species Plantarum in 1753 which was the first major attempt to list all the known plant species with the now commonplace, two-part Latin naming system known as Binomial nomenclature.

Although it isn’t as prevalent a term here in the UK as it is in the states, the term “Marijuana” is still being used in the global vocabulary, also to describe medical Cannabis. In fact, our cousins across the pond have taken to calling it “Medical Marijuana” or MMJ for short, but where do we get this strange term for weed? Where does the word Marijuana come from? And why does it continue to persist in the public vernacular?

Most people would point back to Harry J. Anslinger as the man who popularised the term. Anslinger was a firm advocate of alcohol prohibition, he believed that if only the government could crack down hard enough and arrest enough people then they’d be able to rid the country of alcohol. Alcohol was, at the time, the preferred scapegoat to all societal ills. Currently, this scapegoat has evolved to include drugs in general, with special attention being paid to any substance that can expand consciousness, induce empathy, or one that threatens the pharmacological cabal in any way.

Anslinger would later adopt this extreme ideology and methodology when in 1930 he was tasked with being the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), which in 1968 merged with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC) to become the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. This was the predecessor to what would later become the modern day DEA, The Drug Enforcement Administration, which was founded in July of 1973 by prohibitionist hero and avid Cannabis adversary Richard Nixon.

Following his employment as commissioner of the newly created FBN, Anslinger set about trying to convince individual states to police all drugs the same way that they were now regulating Opium and Cocaine. His first attempt failed to convince the population of the dangers of the Cannabis plant which up to this point had enjoyed a reputation as a rather benign substance with a myriad of medicinal and industrial applications.

Prior to the end of alcohol prohibition, Anslinger had even himself claimed that Cannabis was not a problem, did not harm people, and that “there is no more absurd a fallacy than the idea it makes people violent”. This changed when unemployment loomed for Anslinger, as prohibiting opium and cocaine alone wouldn’t justify his department’s continued existence.

Not being satisfied with just enforcing opium and cocaine prohibition, which was done as a way to control the Asian and African American populations in the early 1900’s, Anslinger drafted the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. This was the first federal law to ban the possession and sale of the drug, with the exception of approved medical and industrial uses. The Bill put a tax of one dollar on anyone who sold or cultivated the cannabis plant, aimed primarily at the poor and lower classes mainly Mexican immigrants. It also allowed them to ban Hemp as an industrial resource.

In that address to Congress, Anslinger stated that “We seem to have adopted the Mexican terminology, and we call it marihuana.” This may seem at first like the simple adoption of pre-existing terminology, but ultimately it was a deliberate tactic chosen to put emphasis on the Mexican immigrants who were seen as the primary consumers of Cannabis at the time in the South West USA.

It is also around this time the nomenclature began to change. Cannabis which up until the early 1900’s had been primarily been know as “Indian Hemp”, became more commonly known by the Spanish word for Cannabis, Marihuana. This was now also spelt with a J, Marijuana, as in Tijuana to emphasise Anslingers narrative that the plant was a foreign scourge brought in by immigrants.

This is further evident as when Anslinger or other government agencies discuss the medicinal or industrial applications they used the terms Cannabis or Hemp.

So Anslinger set his sights firmly on cannabis, which at the time was mainly being imported into the southern ports from overseas and brought across the Mexican border. It was being enjoyed by travelling Jazz musicians, celebrities and other various cultural movers and shakers, who were predominantly minorities who were helping to popularise its consumption.

Anslinger, who I feel its safe to say at this point was clearly a racist, spent a great deal of time collecting some 200+ rather dubious anecdotes, which he referred to as his “Gore files” of reefer induced violence, and sex crimes by mainly minorities to shock the mass media and politicians.

Anslinger took every available opportunity to promulgate the terms marijuana and reefer madness while he continued to escalate the levels of propaganda, misinformation, scare stories and flat out lies spread amongst the American public about Cannabis, some of which persists to this day. It is a testament to Anslinger’s skills at media and political manipulation that the primary nomenclature in the US is still Marijuana, some 40 years after his death.

There are signs emerging of change on the horizon. Hawaii passed a bill that states that the word “marijuana” “carries prejudicial implications rooted in racial stereotypes” dating back to the early days of prohibition and seeks to replace all mentions of “medical marijuana” with “Medical Cannabis” so steps are being taken to address this outdated and unnecessary term and replace it with the correct and ubiquitous term, Cannabis.

By Simpa

If you’d like to learn more about the early days of Prohibition and Harry J Anslinger, Then I’d highly recommend you read Johann Hari’s book,

Chasing The Scream: The first and last days of the war on drugs.

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Has Cannabis been Legalised or Gentrified?

Has Cannabis been Legalised or Gentrified?

Originally published by Simpa in Weed World Magazine Issue 142 (November 2019)

It has now been nearly seven years since Colorado and Washington became the first US states to vote to “legalize” cannabis and in the years that have followed those historic votes, another 9 states have subsequently “legalized” cannabis for adult consumption with Illinois becoming the latest one to join the ever-growing list.

There are another 33 states which also have access via some form of a medical consumption model and New York has just voted to decriminalize after voting down corporate legalization.

Since the implementation of these monumental changes in the US, there has been a global shift in attitudes towards cannabis and other previously demonized and stigmatized substances such as Psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA. These initial baby steps into this brave new world certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by the social elites, cultural engineers, financial demigods, and the heads of industries that have long since owned and operated this neo-liberalistic nightmare of a society we find ourselves currently inhabiting.

The formation of policy think tanks, consultancy agencies, and other specialized businesses signifies that the commodification and ultimately the gentrification of cannabis has begun. This white-washing and gentrifying isn’t anything new, it is part of reefer madness propaganda that stretches back into our recent history and the racist roots of prohibition. The demonization of cannabis that was generated in the first half of the twentieth century led to the arbitrary distinctions we now use to classify the various subgenus of cannabis under prohibition. The categorization of Cannabis Sativa L into the ambiguous and ill-fitting terms of Hemp and Marijuana in the US and Hemp, Herbal cannabis, and Skunk here in the UK is an insidious attempt to rebrand and commodify certain components, strains, and functions of the plant. While still being able to use its continued prohibition to disproportionately target and decimate the lives of ethnic minorities, the poor, disenfranchised, and the sick and dying.

When we look back at our history it is evident that there previously was no such distinction between these cannabis subspecies in the UK. Indeed, the hemp that Henry VIII mandated be grown and that could be utilized to pay taxes will of most certainly been considered cannabis today as it undoubtedly would have contained large amounts of THC and other currently criminalized cannabinoids. The rigging and sails on the ships that stole the lands that created the British empire were all cannabis and not hemp as we would know it today.

The arbitrary limitations placed on the cannabinoid content of cannabis is a consequence of prohibition and one of the single largest impediments to the cultivation of a truly prosperous and sustainable global ecology and economy. Instead what we are seeing today here in the UK is the land-owning gentry seeking to grow hemp under license from the home office to profit while the poor who do the same thing to survive benefit sanctions by cultivating cannabis in their own homes are still getting targeted, raided, and arrested. Creating yet another classist divide in an already deeply divided country.

These arbitrary limitations allowed industrialists to continue utilizing and profiting from cannabis’ industrial properties while continuing to criminalize the subgroups that choose to consume it for its intoxicating qualities. As is epitomized in the below quote from senior Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman.

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. Do you understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did”.

This current incarnation of corporate “legalisation” does much the same thing by perpetuating this class warfare. It allows corporations to continue to make tens of millions in profits while millions of innocent consumers, cultivators, and political dissenters continue to be criminalized and persecuted by their governments. The gentrifying of cannabis is most obvious in the emerging global CBD market, which is expected to be worth over $20 billion globally in the coming years. Cannabidiol has exploded into the public consciousness in recent years but it is considered just another passing fad by a great deal of the companies that are out there today. They’re simply there to cash-in on the latest trend adding minute amounts of CBD to everything and anything. Such as clear plastic water bottles which means that the fragile compound found within has degraded long before the consumer has chance to consume it) but hands down the weirdest product that I have seen to cash-in on this craze is the hypoallergenic CBD infused pillowcases.

The lesser-psychoactive cannabinoid has in recent years been hailed as a treatment for everything from Anxiety to Alzheimer’s disease and has become that popular that chains such as Holland and Barrett are now even stocking it. This is in my opinion simply creating another classic boom and bust scenario as we’ve seen in housing and technology.

I feel that the only way for CBD to remain relevant is for cannabis to either not be decriminalized or be legalized. This creates an incentive for these companies to either back ubiquitous legalization or actively block decriminalization to protect their share of the market. The UK recently saw its first conviction for the sale of CBD oil containing too much THC. I think it’s safe to say some sweeping changes are coming to the UK market. This case reiterated the current law and classification in the UK prompting several shops to simply cease selling CBD/hemp flowers and sell off remaining CBD oil brands that are currently in contravention of the misuse of drugs act 1971 – which is frankly the majority of the current market as a recent study found that half of the CBD products being sold in the UK does not contain what it says on the label, with many having a lot less of the cannabinoid than claimed and many having illegally high levels of THC in them.

The growing CBD market is emblematic of the gentrifying and co-opting of cannabis by the same vulture capitalists, bankers, and industrialists who sat on the fence for decades and watched as countless activists, advocates, patients, and consumers were oppressed, persecuted, and demonized by their own peers, healthcare professionals, and governments. They do not deserve, nor should they be allowed to profit from any part of the plant while there are still people being locked away in cages for trying to do the same damn thing.

The legal CBD industry is enriching and empowering individuals and companies to dictate and determine how to legalize THC and the rest of the plant for personal profit. We already know that there are representatives from corporate conglomerates from Canada, America, Israel, and others that are working with some rather dubious individuals and shady organizations here in the UK that are utilizing the obscene wealth that they’ve generated in their domestic markets to pay off right-wing British politicians and policymakers to set up think tanks, policy groups and to orchestrate slick media campaigns to dictate and determine drug policies that profits them and not the people they proclaim to fight for and represent.

Just look at the media campaign to legalise access to cannabis for medicinal purposes that took place in the summer of 2018. It was instrumented to get the UK to allow private prescriptions and bring companies like Tilray and Bedrocan into the UK’s ever-growing “medical cannabis” market to compete with the world leader and the Conservative’s favorite cash-cow GW Pharmaceuticals.

GW is arguably the proxy progenitor of the recent resurgent wave of gentrification by showing the rest of the world how to create a legal cannabis monopoly while still proliferating reefer madness propaganda and financing campaigns to ensure that cannabis remains illegal – maximizing profits and maintaining their global dominance as the world’s largest exporter of “Medical Cannabis”

This model of corporate legalization creates some rather unique challenges and unexpected negative consequences. It detrimentally affects the national and local drug economies that have for decades supplied patients and consumers with cannabis, providing jobs and an income for tens of thousands of people up and down the country many of whom would be locked out of a legalized marketplace here in the UK.

The loss of earnings to so-called street dealers and criminalized growers that have risked their liberty for the people for half a century during the dark days of prohibition is something to consider when looking at implementing any legalization model. The same people that have bravely fought for legalization are too often the same ones harmed by the takeover of corporate cannabis as they’re demonized and ostracized by the suits that now run the industry, often (ironically) for having criminal records for working with cannabis.

Under these new systems of strict licenses and corrupt governing bodies, most of those people have become even easier targets as the authorities now have additional funds and control systems to help target them and news agencies to demonize them further helping to protect corporate profit over the rights of the people. Just take a look at what is happening in California, they’ve deployed the national guard to help root-out “illegal” cannabis grows and unregistered farmers destroying tens of thousands of plants.

The corporate chokehold that big business has over the entire state means that thousands of farmers, dispensaries, dealers, and delivery services that would otherwise thrive in a truly legalized system are being targeted, shut down and raided to protect the nauseatingly high profits of “Big Green”.

These corporations are simply here to take the consumers’ money and they’re using it to bankroll corrupt politicians and fund deceptive and divisive media campaigns to disrupt campaigners and direct the progression of drug reforms to financially benefit them and there narrow self-interests above that of the public, consumer or patient.

Show me an example of where cannabis has actually been legalized and not just commodified for vulture capitalists and the corrupt greedy men that govern us to enrich themselves. Not easy, is it? Take, for example, the great white north. Canada has been put on a pedestal recently as the model to follow but Canadian “legalisation” comes with 45 laws and harsh financial and physical penalties for breaking them. It also seeks to actively lock out the very same activists whose blood, sweat, and tears changed public opinion and got it legalized there in the first place for them to profit off.

These days international drug dealers, sorry ‘import/exporters’ wear expensive business suits, fly first class and don’t ever get high on their own supply – or anyone else’s for that matter. As most of the top individuals in this 21st century gentrified cannabis industry has never consumed cannabis nor ever intend to either.

How is it right that the suits that have no idea, indeed no inclination, about the diverse rich history and vibrant subculture that has thrived for decades despite the war on drugs, despite reefer madness, and all the pernicious lies of prohibition and the vile rhetoric that continues to demonize successive generations of consumers be allowed to dictate its fate?

So, if cannabis is to be relegalized anywhere it must first honor and recompense the victims of the war on Cannabis. This must be our highest priority – not profiting from the introduction of prohibition-lite policies. Ultimately, it is my opinion that cannabis has not yet been legalized anywhere in the world. It has, however, been commodified, monopolized, and gentrified by the very same people that have spent decades demonizing and destroying the lives of its defenders.

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Pondering the Profitability of Prohibition

Pondering the Profitability of Prohibition

Originally published by Simpa in Weed World Magazine Issue 143 (January 2020)

Long gone are the days of tie-dyed clad hippies preaching peace and love from the pulpit of the plant. Their long wavy hair and baggy clothes replaced with trendy haircuts and fitted business suits. Their old mantras of love and equality have given way to those of legislation and equity.

As multinational companies begin the inevitable process of commodifying, capitalizing, and conglomerating the cannabis industry we are left to ponder how did one of the most prolific c and demonized plants on the planet become one of the most profitable?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade you’ll be aware that Cannabis is having a real renascence right now, but what you might not be aware of is just who is behind this recent resurgence in research and the pushing for the introduction of prohibition lite policies under the guise of legal reform and the so-called legalization of cannabis.

What has changed in the minds of conservative politicians and voters that means that they now support cannabis policy reform? Well, one word: profit. The conglomerates that have emerged from the smoke clouds of the uncertainty of law changes in America and Canada are exerting their influence and power over emerging markets such as in the UK. They dominate the landscape and dictate the direction of reform to best benefit their corporate interests.

They are pushing propaganda and lies to further their own agenda of monopolizing the market and attempting to control the opinion of the populous and the supply of Cannabis into emerging legalized nations. There are plenty of men and women in prison today for attempting to do exactly that. So why are they incarcerated while the suits are glamorized and immortalized on the pages of glossy magazines? Simply put they’re the wrong color, class, or creed.

The consumption and trade of cannabis have been going on for several millennia longer than we could ever know, however, it’s taken until this millennium for the ruling classes to truly get a hold of the market and figure out a way to capitalize and commodify its trade to increase their power and wealth.

The British have quietly been at the forefront of the international drug trade for centuries now. It all started back in the 1800s when the consumption of a novel little herbal brew known as Tea increased some 10,000% thanks mainly to the tacit endorsement of royalty and nobility who were arguably the celebrities of their day and rather keen on the newly imported brew.

This vast increase in consumption showed the British industrialists that trading commodities like drugs were not just highly profitable but also a great way to control and restrict their sale and supply of those substances. The rate of consumption speedily spiraled leading to the British having to secure their own trade routes – which they did by incorporating the East India Company – negating the need for existing trade deals with the Portuguese and Dutch. The trade became so lucrative that at one point two-thirds of the company’s profits came from the taxation of predominantly lower-class consumers of tea. The drink became that important to the nation that the government demanded that a year supply always remains in stock.

The exorbitant cost of importation and the trade door with China remaining ajar meant that the British had to get creative in the way they went about off-setting the high cost of its escalating habit. Therefore it’s no surprise that the British decided to increase its illegal opium trade with the Chinese – leading to the opium wars and what the Chinese now refer to as “The century of humiliation” The consumption of tea became that prolific that it started to affect the profits of another popular drug – namely Alcohol. This put a great deal of pressure on King Charles II to levy a tax- which by the 1750s had reached as high as 119% leading to tea smuggling becoming commonplace in the country.

Interestingly, when first being sold in Britain in coffee houses the proprietor would often tout a variety of virtues of tea proclaiming that it “makes the body active and lusty” somewhat reminiscent of all this fancy well-polished CBD marketing that we are currently seeing pop-up all over the world. It’s also curious to note that originally tea was considered a medicine in China before later becoming the national drink.

Tea as with most of the drugs that twenty-first-century living relies upon are cultivated, created, and commodified by some of the most impoverished communities on earth yet they make the least from the global drug trades – both legal and illegal – be it chocolate, caffeine, or cocaine.

This experience taught the British predatory classes that trading in drugs was not only highly profitable but also a good way to siphon funds from the lower classes helping to keep them impoverished and thus easily manipulatable.

PErfecrting this practice would position them perfectly to monopolize and dominate the “Indian hemp”(Cannabis) trade. In 1798 the British signed into power a law restricting the cultivation or sale of cannabis or cannabis-based drugs/preparations without first obtaining a license.

The regulation was adopted as the legislation stated “with a view to check immoderate consumption, and at the same time to augment the public revenue.” We are hearing the same argument in chambers today. During the British colonization of India, there were native-only asylums filled to the rafters with dangerous “ganja smokers.” In truth they weren’t psychotic or dangerous they were simply deemed unruly by the British colonialist occupiers for their consumption of cannabis.

By the end of the 18th century, there were headlines in local papers proclaiming that “Murderous assaults by individuals under the influence of Indian hemp have been somewhat frequent” very much reminiscent of the red top press today. Fast forward a few centuries and not much has changed except corporations are now the new governments.

Board rooms and the halls of power are populated with conservative and right-wing individuals seeking to plunder and profiteer from the partial dismantling of the monolith of prohibition. They’re pushing to “legalize” cannabis not because it is the right thing to do but out of greed and desperation. It is a vain attempt to continue their control paradigm and capitalize on the inevitable impending ubiquitous relegalization of cannabis.

The rationality of the prohibitionist is to attempt to justify their own intrinsic racist/fascist/classist ideology and inclinations by claiming that they are preventing these drugs from causing harm when it is painfully and abundantly obvious that the policies of prohibition do far more harm than any substance ever could.

It just goes to show that this justification has always been a misnomer – they do not care about preventing harm, they only care about perpetuating profit and maintaining power at all costs.

The emerging modern cannabis industry suffers many ills whose pathology is rooted in the racist origins of the war on drugs. It is evident in the racial, ethnic and cultural disparities between those who own and operate the dispensaries, farms and facilities and those who simply work in them who make up the quasi-legal framework and infrastructure of the world’s fastest growing industry.

With the ability to control the creation, consumption, and trade of illicit drugs through restrictive and prohibitive legislative policies dwindles. The new nations or corporations of today are attempting instead to utilize good-old-fashioned capitalism to continue their centuries-long monopolization of the global drug trade. Whereas before the profits from the drug trade were illegal, under the modern pharmacological paradigm it is not just perfectly legal it’s considered good business practice to regularly increase the number of users and the volume of their consumption each fiscal quarter.

It is this mechanism that has propagated the opioid crisis we are currently witnessing play out across the western hemisphere. The current profit motive incentivizes international drug cartels and companies to intentionally create lifelong customers and addicts out of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.

This adjustment to the current cultural climate and attitudes has the added bonus of helping to launder their ill-gotten gains from industries that have directly benefited from the continued prohibition of cannabis as a multi-purpose, renewable industrial resource.

The war on drugs has long since perpetuated middle-eastern terrorism through the continuation of the scarcity paradigm. If cannabis was once again ubiquitously relegalized then the era of war for limited resources such as oil or minerals would be over.

So, who are the people that are profiting from prohibition as it stands today? Well, there are many but the major ones are Big pharma (a trillion dollars), The fossil fuel industry ($4.65 trillion), the Energy sector ($6 trillion), and War ($2 trillion). All of these industries are going to be unequivocally changed and reshaped by the reintroduction of cannabis back into humanity’s global toolbox.

The villainous ignorance, vicious hatred, and propaganda of the prohibitionist have disrupted, destroyed, and devastated the lives of cannabis consumers and their families for nearly a century now and we’re expected to just roll over and let them co-opt, commodify, and capitalize on a resource that they continue to vilify and demonize us for consuming?

Honoring the victims of the war on drugs both past and present should be our highest priority not profiting from the retooling and redefining of prohibition. Show me a single example of where cannabis has actually been legalized and not just commodified for vulture capitalists, corporations, and governments to perpetuate the same old classist machinations. They are utilizing the system to disadvantage certain ethnic and socioeconomic groups and classes, thereby handicapping their efforts to enter the blooming industry before they’ve even begun.

This transition to prohibition lite policies is an insidious attempt to retain the social control paradigm that has determined the direction of human development for decades now. Prohibition is profitable because they can dictate the level of supply available to the population to consume and determine who is authorized to deal and trade those substances. Cannabis on the other hand has now become far too expensive to police and far more profitable to commodify – hence the tide change in policy.

This I believe is one of the primary motivators behind the conservative establishment’s volte-face in attitudes towards cannabis law reform and their attempted co-opting of a culture and the killing of a rich and vibrant community.

Ultimately, diversification through the “legalization” of cannabis is the only hope the owners and operators of our society have to remain relevant and ensure renewed revenue replenishes their robbed riches. It is my sincere hope that these vulture capitalists and neo-liberalistic prohibitionist profiteers play no part in the planning and forming of the new post-prohibition paradigm. It is time to end the war on drugs once and for all and utilize the vast funds saved and generated to rebuild, regrow, and reconnect our devastated communities.

The first step must be to liberate our brothers and sisters that are still victims of the war on drugs. Pardon and expunge their records and pay reparations for the time stolen from them by the draconian and antiquated war on us.

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Fasten Your THC’T Belt

Fasten Your THC’T Belt

Originally published by Simpa in Weed World Magazine Issue 145 (May 2020)

So this one might be a little controversial – but its a conversation that I believe is long overdue and one we desperately need to have.

“Don’t drink and drive – smoke and fly” is an expression that you’ll often hear from cannabis consumers when discussing the use of cannabis while or shortly before operating a vehicle, but how safe is it to consume cannabis and get behind the wheel?

Over the past decade, the acceptability and the normalisation of cannabis has increased greatly with doctors, politicians, celebrities, athletes, and many more “successful” professional individuals are now freely open to publicly discuss their personal and professional consumption and advocacy of cannabis as an ethical, efficient, and effective medicinal alternative to the myriad of dangerous, destructive and potentially lethal drugs that are currently available on the market.

We have had a rather black and white view towards drug-driving on illegal substances for many years now. Illegal drugs are dangerous to drive on and legal ones aren’t as long as you have permission by way of prescription. Yet most of the drugs that are licensed and regulated through prescription are perfectly fine to continue to consume when driving as long as the agreed dosage is followed and that the consumer themselves determines that they do not feel impaired.

Contrast that with an individual consuming those exact same substances recreationally and legally they would always be considered impaired regardless of dose or whether they themselves were actually incapable of safely driving. This highlights a glaring issue with this current system – one that needs addressing immediately before more lives are lost or ruined.

In the UK, as in many other countries, there is a legal driving limit for the majority of licensed prescribable medications that would still be considered illegal recreational substances when consumed without professional authorisation or permission. Ketamine, Amphetamines, Methamphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, Oxycodone, Valium, and many other substances have an acceptable legal limit of intoxication when operating a vehicle via prescription.

It seems to me unusual that we have specific drink and drug driving laws when we already have legislation that governs the safe usage of a motor vehicle. For example, a driver may be impaired by consuming food at the wheel. A 2012 study from Leeds University showed that driving while eating reduced reaction times by around 44%Yet it isn’t illegal in the UK to eat and drive nor have we felt the need to draft arbitrary guidelines and legislation to attempt to qualify exactly what can and cannot be consumed at the wheel. The emphasis is simply on the driver to do what they feel is safest in any given situation. You may, however still be pulled over and could even be charged with careless driving if an officer deems you were driving without due care and attention. I feel this is a far more pragmatic approach.

With regards to Alcohol in the UK, a breath sample with a detectable level of 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres is considered intoxication and will see you arrested for drink driving. This feels rather arbitrary when you consider the multitude of variables that determine individual impairment.

The current legislation fails to take into consideration tolerance, metabolism, diet, stress levels, and many other factors that play a large part in determining to what degree a consumer is affected by their consumption. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating for the right to drink-drive – I am simply stating that the current system doesn’t do enough to empower consumers to be aware of any potential impairment.

There is plenty of emerging evidence that is showing that the ignorance and stigma of cannabis prohibition continue to govern the creation of new legislation – just look at Canada’s new system. As of October 17th, 2018, it has been legal in Canada for all adults (over the age of 19) to consume cannabis. This has meant that the country has now implemented nearly 40 new laws and strict legislation to prevent what lawmakers feared would be a pandemic of drug driving.

This hasn’t materialised for a number of reasons. The most obvious one is that Cannabis is not Alcohol. Consumption doesn’t affect decision making in the same way at all. A driver that is too high knows that they’re too high to drive and will simply wait or make other arrangements -whereas the brain of a drunk would trick them into thinking they were not as a drunk and capable of driving safely

The same applies to “medical cannabis” as it does for other prescription medications. So impairment is determined by the consumer and the continuation of the agreed dosage not from arbitrary guidelines. It is interesting because I have personally seen documentation in the UK that states that a “medical cannabis” patient can operate their vehicle under the influence as long as the cannabis they consume is the prescribed strain/product stated on their prescription but that they would be impaired if they used “street weed” or grew it themselves.

A recently released study conducted by the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada seems to suggests that the current cannabis-impaired driving penalties may be too strict as they rely to heavily on simply detecting the presence of THC and not determining actual impairment of motor skills.

The study which was recently published in the journal Addiction also compared the impact of other currently illegal drugs and alcohol on vehicular collisions. The study analysed blood taken from more than 3,000 drivers who were treated post-crash in BC hospitals between 2010 and 2016. Taking over 2,300 individual accident reports – including 1,178 in which the driver was ultimately deemed responsible for the crash.

The analyses revealed that there was no increased risk of causing an accident when THC levels were below five nanograms per millilitre – that being said levels higher than that were found to marginally increase the risk. However, given that only 20 samples had higher amounts of THC that could be significant or just a statistical anomaly.

When cannabis is vaporised or combusted the levels of THC in the blood increase greatly. They again begin decreasing to two nanograms per millilitre within four hours of smoking. The team also noted that for edible products the drop in detectable levels was similar but took about eight hours to return to current legal limits.

In the UK the police can stop you and make you do a ‘field impairment assessment’ if they think you’re on drugs. This is a series of tests, for example, asking you to walk in a straight line. They can also use a roadside drug kit to screen for cannabis and cocaine – other drugs require a blood sample taken back at the station.

So what happens if you’re caught over the 2 nanograms per litre in the UK? Well, it’s rather similar to drink driving or other drug driving offenses. If you’re convicted of drug driving you’ll get: a minimum 1-year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to 6 months in prison, a criminal record, and your driving license will also show you’ve been convicted for drug driving for the next 11 years.

So although the science is still out as we wait for further unbiased evidence and research we must have a rational and adult conversation about how cannabis affects the average consumer’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The common argument used to justify the incredibly low threshold for intoxication is that alcohol impairs therefore cannabis must also impair. This is an oversimplification of the situation as the tolerance of a daily consumer is much higher than that of an occasional or first time user.

This is comparable to a first time or occasional tobacco consumer that would be affected by a “rush” that could temporarily impair them and reduce their ability to safely operate a vehicle. Compare this to a daily habitual user who would be unaffected by this temporary. The same is true with driving when stressed or highly emotional but yet again we do not have specific laws to restrict people driving when in those heightened states.

The advent of automated and self-driving cars means that in the near future this argument will become rather mute. We already have the technology to create automated vehicles with integrated breathalysers, body language reading software and sensors, and saliva analysis equipment to detect and determine impairment. This approach could mean we would protect drivers by taking appropriate action instead of punishing the driver. The car would simply determine the drive to intoxicated and switch to self-drive mode transporting the driver safely to their destination with no risk to themselves, other road users, or pedestrians.

Ultimately, detection and impairment are two very different beasts, and far more needs to be done to ensure that safe and competent drivers are not unfairly criminalised by the creation and continuation of legislation borne of ignorance, pseudoscience, and the lingering hangover of a century’s long racist, classist, and the fascist war on drugs.

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Exploring the debate between Medical & Recreational Cannabis

Exploring the debate between Medical & Recreational Cannabis

Originally published by Simpa in Weed World Magazine Issue 141   (September 2019)

William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish physician, is credited with first bringing knowledge of the medicinal benefits of consuming cannabis to the west. While working abroad in India in the 1830s he discovered through experimentation, observation, and research that a herb widely consumed by the locals was, amongst other things, a rather effective analgesic and anticonvulsant. Upon his return to Europe in the 1840s with a sizeable cargo of cannabis seeds he began cultivating, extracting, and creating various preparations of the plant.

These were then used to treat a plethora of ailments and illnesses – becoming so popular that by 1850 it was placed in the United States Pharmacopeia and became a popular ingredient in most pharmacological preparations prior to the discovery of drugs such as aspirin in the late 1800s. Cannabis has been utilized by humans around the world for tens of, if not hundreds of thousands of years to treat all kinds of conditions and diseases.

Prior to the prohibition of cannabis, all use was considered medical or having medicinal benefits. It is only really since the advent of the war on drugs that there has been this arbitrary distinction between so-called medical and recreational cannabis consumption.

This is the same divisional tactic and rhetoric that has been used in the debate about the many industrial applications this plant also possesses as authorities continue to proclaim that hemp and cannabis are different plants and should accordingly have separate legislation governing them. Allowing certain parties to massively profit while restricting access to others – now why does that sound familiar?

The sustained smear campaign conducted against cannabis by sundry of industrialists, misguided moral crusaders, and easily corruptible governments has ultimately led to the complete criminalization of the consumption and utilization of any part of the genus Cannabis Sativa L without prior expressed permission and the acquisition of often rather expensive licenses from government departments like the USDA or British Home office.

In recent decades, however, there has been a resurgence and renaissance in awareness and knowledge about the medicinal benefits and effects of consuming cannabis both prophylactically and to help reduce, relieve and manage the symptoms of a multitude of modern conditions, diseases, and illnesses.

The first modern medical program was created in California back in 1996 with the passing of Proposition 215 also known as The Compassionate use act of 1996. This allowed for the first time since the start of the prohibition for cannabis to be prescribed by a doctor to a patient for the treatment of a limited number of ongoing conditions such as HIV, Aids or to treat the side effects of toxic cancer treatments and drugs. This was later expanded to include back pain and migraines

Two conditions that became far more prevalent in the preceding years as citizens with conditions not on the qualifying list had to suddenly have these other conditions to gain access legally. This was also the first time in law that a distinction was drawn between regular cannabis consumption and the use of so-called “medicinal cannabis” Two decades later and the golden state has finally legalized cannabis for adult consumption with the passing of “the Adult Use of Marijuana Act” or Proposition 64.

This means that people suffering from conditions that could be helped by cannabis but who were not on the approved list can finally legally benefit from consuming cannabis. This effectively gives all adults access to cannabis and the right to choose to consume it to aid or improve their lives.

This has created the road map that has since been adopted and followed by many countries including most recently Canada who first granted limited medical access back in July 2001 and have subsequently now followed California’s lead by “legalizing” their adult consumption market, albeit it with 38 new rather draconian laws. Could this be the same path that Britain takes in the coming years? “Medical cannabis” and cannabis-derived medications were after all reclassified from schedule 1 to schedule 2 on November 1st, 2018 by home secretary Sajid Javid. This rescheduling should have granted citizens access to legal cannabis for medicinal purposes.However, in reality, the legislation only moved Cannabis-based medications such as Epidiolex and Sativex and “pharmaceutical grade” Cannabis in its floral form from schedule 1 to schedule 2.

Homegrown cannabis or so-called street weed remains schedule 1 and as criminalized as “recreational” cannabis even if your condition is on an approved list and you have a prescription personal cultivation still carries the same potential penalties. So, it would seem that cannabis can have medicinal value but only if you buy it from one of their approved dealers – sorry, I mean “healthcare professionals”. It is now 6 months since this change in law and just over a handful of people have been able to obtain cannabis on a rather expensive private prescription nor has there has yet to be a single person able to access it on the NHS.

This now means that although at least two members of our current government are directly profiting from the sale of cannabis-based medications for the treatment of MS and Epilepsy they won’t allow their constituents to access it. Leaving those consumers who already know that they can benefit from cannabis to continue to be criminalized and expected to either continue suffering needlessly or risk either 14 years in a cage for cultivating their own or 5 years for buying it from the black market.

This arbitrary distinction between “medical” and “recreational” exists solely to help pharmaceutical companies, venture capitalists, and industrialists to dominate, commodify and monopolize the emerging cannabis market while continuing to criminalize the public and any potential industry rivals. Consider this if legal commercial cultivators of both “medical” and “recreational” cannabis are required to produce it to the same industry standards by the same manufacturing regulations and practices and they’re from the same strain what exactly makes one medical and the other not?

Think about it they both provide phytocannabinoids that help supplement the mammalian endocannabinoid system, so why is there such a distinction between so-called medical and recreational cannabis? The short answer is money. GW Pharmaceuticals is currently the world’s largest producer and exporter of “medical” cannabis selling their oil in their flagship product Sativex for four times the price of gold.

Helping to line the pockets of the current British Prime Minister Teresa May and Drug Minister Victoria Atkins whose husbands both directly profit from GW being allowed to dominate the legal cannabis market and their partners regurgitating the party line at the pulpit that cannabis has “no accepted medical value”. Yet private clinics in the UK are legally allowed to import cannabis from Holland and sell it via a private prescription model while the average consumer continues to be persecuted for being too poor to afford a prescription and persecuted if they dare grow their own at home.

The flowers sold by these clinics are considered “pharmaceutical grade” whereas your home grow is classified as a dangerous street drug that can cause psychosis, addiction and has “no accepted medical value”. One such product is the rather creatively named Bedrocan from the Dutch company Bedrocan.

Which is the brand name for “Afina” a Sativa strain with 22% THC and <1% CBD. But wait, isn’t that, that dangerous skunk stuff we hear so much about in the British media?! If I gave you a bud of Bedrocan flowers and a bud of UK home grow you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two.

So why is it that one can be sold to patients for three times the average street price yet the other could land them in prison for 5 years simply for possessing it?It is the same if you were to compare say Blue Dream and Blue Dream CBD both breed by Humboldt seeds but the CBD version is a 1:1 whereas the other is THC dominant with 19% and less than 0.1 CBD yet they look and smell identical. This whole CBD is medical, and THC is a dangerous addictive street drug rhetoric is neo-reefer madness being promulgated by individuals personally profiting from the public’s ignorance of their Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and the entourage effect.

So, I ask you medical or recreational what is the difference when it is you that plants the seed? There is no need for an arbitrary distinction or for you to fain, fake or exaggerate an illness or condition to just because it happens to be on the list of approved conditions arbitrarily set by ignorant legislators that have no expertise or experience in this field what so ever. Interestingly, recently in Canada the CMA (Canadian Medical Association) submitted a proposal suggesting that there is no need for a distinction or difference in law for the production and distribution of medical and recreational cannabis.

I am inclined to agree in part, I believe that the only difference should be in the way they’re taxed to offset the cost of individuals with lifelong diseases and conditions that require continual high-strength doses. However, until the system is changed the cheapest, easiest way to get consistent access to quality cannabis is to cultivate it yourself

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

How Cannabis can Save the World

How Cannabis can Save the World

Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 139  (April 2019)

“I don’t know if Hemp will save the world but it’s the only thing that can”
Jack Herer

I’ve been consuming cannabis now for a little over half my life and, like many a green-faced naive teenager before me, I had heard and regurgitated all of the wonderful and amazing things people had said about weed without really ever trying to separate fact from fiction.

Believing the things I liked to be gospel and quietly hoping the others that I didn’t weren’t true. But as I’ve grown and matured, so too has my thinking and my passion to discover the truth of the matter. So how many of those timeless rumors and weedy whispers of my youth have turned out to be true? Could it be that as the emperor of hemp, Jack Herer once put it “Hemp will be the future of all mankind, or there won’t be a future” I mean, could Cannabis actually save the world or is this just another pipe dream? Well, the older I’ve got and the more educated on the subject I continue to become, the more Jack’s words ring true to me.

I look around the world today and see endless problems and only one solution. The total unrestricted and ubiquitous re-legalization of cannabis as an industrial resource. The case has never been clearer and the need for change has never been dire.

It now seems like every month a new report comes out warning of the disastrous consequences of on-going climate change. In October 2018, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (IPCC) released its latest report. It stressed the urgent need for immediate action to reduce atmospheric carbon and attempt to prevent future catastrophic global events such as rising sea level, droughts, heatwaves, and floods. It calls for countries to engage in mass reforestation, the ubiquitous implication of electric transportation systems, and the improvement of carbon capture technology.

The IPCC reports that there needs to be a 45% reduction in atmospheric carbon by 2030. However, with current technology imitations and a lack of political will, it’s unlikely that this target will be met, to the detriment of all life on Earth.

Technological carbon capture is currently rather limited and only really being used by industry producers attempting to prevent the waste generated by the production of energy from polluting our airways. Utilizing cannabis means that any currently disused land could be covered in one of the fastest-growing natural forms of carbon capture. When Cannabis is grown it sequesters 125kg of carbon per ton from the atmosphere. That material could then be used to make any one of the tens of thousands of potential applications that this most versatile of plants has as an industrial and commercial resource.

The United States recently passed the Agricultural Improvement Act, also known as The Farm Bill 2018. It has a provision effectively legalizing the cultivation of Hemp for farmers in all 50 states. The bill doesn’t change the legal status of Cannabis Sativa or any of its derivable material, compounds, or chemicals. They’ll remain schedule 1. It does however remove the arguably arbitrarily distinct subspecies of Hemp from the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) Effectively legalizing it. Hemp is classified in the US as Cannabis strains with a THC content of less than 0.3%.

This means that hemp is now legal to cultivate with a license from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) across the entire country. This also seems to allow for not just the fibrous material and the seeds to be utilized in production, but also deliverable extracts and concentrates.  This potentially means that as CBD derived from hemp isn’t scheduled in the US, that CBD products derived from hemp may in fact now be legal in all 50 states. Time will tell as the minutiae of the bill is hashed out over the coming months.

Advancements in cannabis-based technologies and the rediscovery of ancient techniques bring us tantalizingly close to being able to grow our way out of the countless economic and environmental consequences caused by cannibalistic capitalism and the criminalizing of one of the most important and invaluable renewable resources in the first place.

So, what can the US do with all that hemp that farmers from Alabama to Montana are going to be cultivating by the ton? Well, Cannabis as you may know is our oldest companion species. We’ve been using and finding new ways of utilizing it tens of thousands of years. Since that time, we’ve discovered some rather amazing properties and applications for this plant. From textiles to energy storage, food to fuel, an intoxicant to a holistic healing herb, cannabis has tens of thousands of uses.

Cannabis paper for example can be recycled twice as many times as standard pulp paper. The pulp and paper industry is now the third-largest producer of pollution adding over 220 million pounds of environmentally destructive by-product to our air and water annually. The carcinogenic industrial pollutants Dioxins are often used to chlorinate white pulp/paper and are now so prevalent that it shows up in breastfeeding mothers now show traces of these chemicals in their breastmilk.

Similar to how micro-plastics have now become so ubiquitous that the average human has several different types of plastic present in their body at any given time. This is a direct consequence of allowing a corrupt cabal of elite industrialists and corrupt governments to criminalize cannabis. Instead favoring the newly discovered and subsequently highly polluting and carcinogen petroleum-based plastics over biodegradable plant-based ones.

There is estimated to be 15 trillion tons of floating partials of micro-plastic in the ocean alone. There is so much plastic food waste packaging that it is now legal in Europe to have 0.15% of recycled plastic in agricultural animal feed. No wonder we’re seeing on average 8 different types of plastic now show up in human feces.

Those Petroleum-based plastics also contain the potentially carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) which can mimic the sex hormone estrogen. These chemicals have been shown to alter the endogenous levels of growth and stress hormones in plants. However, we’re still awaiting conclusive evidence to show the extent of the damage it causes in humans.

Climate change is melting the vast majority of the world’s freshwater supply – which is stored on the poles. As it melts into the ocean it becomes salinated making it undrinkable and contaminating it with pollution, micro-plastics, and other industrial chemicals that have been pumped into our sea for decades.

Graphene nanotubes derived from cannabis could potentially be utilized in off-shore desalination plants to combat this problem. The process of transferring the saltwater to be processed into drinkable water through a network of cannabis graphene nanotubes generates electricity which could be utilized to power the plant via cannabis supercapacitors. Using cannabis-based carbon nanosheets to help filter out pollutants and micro-plastics all while generating clean drinking water and renewable energy. 

Cannabis Graphene super-capacitors not only make a viable alternative to traditional cell batteries. They’ve also been shown to out-do carbon-based graphene in energy storage tests. Further helping to reduce the need for environmentally destructive and polluting mining practices to secure traditional material to make batteries. Speaking of energy, like many other crops cannabis can be turned into a biofuel. Cannabis ethanol is roughly 5 times cheaper to produce than petrol and far less polluting.

Agricultural crop ethanol biofuels are a closed-loop carbon cycle, unlike the system we currently engage in which burns fossilized carbon from tens of millions of years ago. Greatly increasing the current carbon levels in our atmosphere. Biofuels produce far less pollution when burned and require minimal modification to existing engine technology to allow them to run much more efficiently only cannabis ethanol.

Synthetic textiles like Nylon and Polyester are derived from coal and petroleum too and cause a great deal of environmental destruction. This could also be replaced by cannabis. Which is one of the strongest and longest-lasting fabrics available. It’s carbon negative, naturally resistant to pests, mold, and UV light. Cannabis textiles could replace all cotton which currently uses 25% of all pesticides used annually. Hemp not only doesn’t need pesticides it also produces on average 250% more fiber than cotton too.

When it’s made into a building material called Hempcrete – which is shredded cannabis fiber from the sticks and stalks mixed with powdered limestone and water – it is flame retardant, mold, pest, and water-resistant and sequesters carbon for 50 years as it fully sets. Hempcrete homes are a durable, sustainable, economical, and environmentally friendly way of tackling the epidemic of homelessness.

Cannabis also desalinates, detoxifies, and removes heavy metals, chemicals, and even irradiated material from the soil it’s grown in by a process called Phyto-remediation. Its roots dig down deep into the earth helping to prevent topsoil erosion and desertification of our fragile arable lands. These complex networks of roots help to prevent flooding by simply absorbing excess water. The roots also promote healthy mycelium networks further helping to protect bee populations that are attracted to the prominent source of pollen. Planting cannabis between agricultural crop cycles helps to return vital nutrients naturally to the soil too.

Cannabis could also help prevent a zombie apocalypse…albeit it a synthetic one. Ubiquitously re-legalizing cannabis would allow safe, consistent access to clean, quality natural cannabis products negating the black markets’ desire for synthetic cannabinoids in an attempt to negate prohibition. It would also go a long way to stopping pharmaceutical companies creating increasingly dangerous analogs of cannabis components in a vain attempt to patent and profiteer from nature.

The world can arguably be as small as the life of an individual. Prolonging the life of an otherwise terminal parent is to save the entire world in the eyes of a child. Over the past several decades there has been a plethora of studies – over 20,000 of them and evermore academic research that proves the validity, safety and efficacy of Cannabis as a treatment and prophylactic for many common illnesses, conditions and diseases.

Cannabis causes meta-cognition and introspection in those that consume it. This could, in my opinion only lead to better governance of nations if its politicians were cannabis consumers. Imagine, for example, if the politicians that frequent the halls of the British Houses of Parliament –  with its 12 subsidized bars and restaurants – had the same opportunity to consume cannabis as they did to imbibe in alcohol before making important political decisions.

Ultimately, in my opinion, I do not think that we should be looking to the same people that got us into this mess to be the ones to fix it. Neoliberalism has poisoned our air, polluted our oceans, and prohibited our future. They’re not interested in saving the world, only in perpetuating the practice of profiteering and plundering the planet while the population starves and chokes on the by-products of their greed.

So yes, I do believe that cannabis can save the world but without the guiding hand of the people who have an intimate knowledge of this plant it’ll simply end up as just another heartless, soulless commodity for the corporate pirates to pillage and cash-in on. These companies will devour each other on the stock market in a fiscal feeding frenzy until there remains only a handful of people controlling the whole thing. While the culture and communities they’ve exploited to enrich themselves remain demonized, divided, and impoverished.

So, although the days of flower haired, tie-dyed hippies in sun-soaked fields proclaiming that cannabis will cure all human ailments, bring about world peace and save the entire world are over, their ideas and those same concepts nevertheless still remain.

The embers have been kept warm in the hearts and minds of those who’ve quietly spent decades infiltrating all facets of culture, industry, media, and government to proliferate their anti-prohibition beliefs. Their offspring have been raised on the ideals of inclusivity, cooperation, and camaraderie and are cultivating themselves into the vanguard of tomorrow. With unprecedented access to innumerate scientific studies, academic research, and the all-pervasive internet each generation has discovered a little more of the picture and brought us closer to the same realization that Jack had when he sat down to write The Emperor Wears No Clothes– that Cannabis is the only thing that can save the world.

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Cannabis Legalisation VS Decriminalisation

Cannabis Legalisation VS Decriminalisation

Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 138 (February 2019)

It has become painfully clear over the last few years that global attempts to prohibit cannabis have been an unmitigated failure and disaster. It has severely detrimentally effected communities around the world, severed public relations with the police and eroded trust in the judicial system – breeding intergenerational distrust, suspicion and hared of authoritative institutions.

It has incarcerated tens of millions of non-violent consumers, predominantly and disproportionally from impoverished ethnic and cultural minority neighborhoods. The vast majority of these arrests being for simple possession alone. Cannabis prohibition has also arguably contributed more to climate change than any other single factor by its absence as a versatile renewable industrial resource. The scale of industrial and commercial technological applications this plant has is rather quite staggering.

Our oldest companion species is the perfect renewable alternative to highly polluting petroleum-based plastics, wasteful and destructive energy production and storage, It could provide pesticide-free textiles as well as replace many other environmentally destructive and wasteful industrial and commercial products that pump carcinogenic waste products into our environment at an alarming rate.

The prohibition of Cannabis has been used for over 90 years now as a racist, fascistic and classist apparatus to corral, control, and coerce citizens conformity through arbitrary legislation, harsh punitive measures, sustained campaigns of malicious misinformation, and the mainstreaming of media manipulation through the proliferation of propaganda, reefer madness rhetoric and ever-increasingly outrageous lies.

Legalization doesn’t necessarily always mean decriminalization!

The fatigue born of fighting the war on drugs on multiple fronts for nearly a century has weakened the prohibitionist’s ideological position on cannabis. This has allowed for the re-emergence and the rekindling of an undying debate, one as old as prohibition itself. What system would be the best alternative to this current antiquated, disastrous, and draconian prohibitive policy– legalization or decriminalization?

While both have their individual merits, there are obvious advantages and drawbacks to both systems as they currently stand. I personally feel that the most reasonable, rational and sensible approach would be an amalgamation of the two main alternatives to the all-out prohibition of cannabis.

Legalization doesn’t always necessarily mean decriminalization, in fact sometimes, as in the recent case of Canada it can actually mean increased criminalization through the implementation of arbitrary new legislation that confuses citizens while creating a climate conducive for the capitalization and commoditization of cannabis by the very same people that have spent decades demonetizing, persecuting and incarcerating its consumers.

So with the recent implementation of “legalization” in Canada, the total number of cannabis-related offences shot up from half a dozen to forty-five. Also by failing to fully decriminalize cannabis this system will continue to perpetuate the stigma and shame that society has spent decades casting on cannabis consumers. While continuing to mislead the public into believing that cannabis is far more dangerous than it actually is.

Canada hasn’t in my opinion legalized cannabis, it’s just introduced ‘prohibition-lite’. A system under which if you are caught in “over-possession” (that’s the possession of more than 30 grams) you could still face up to five years locked in a cage with violent and dangerous criminals for illegally possessing too much of a legal product. Does this sound like Cannabis has been legalized to you?

Canada now joins Uruguay as the only two countries to of “legalized” cannabis. Uruguay changed the law in 2014 to allow for domestic commercial cultivation and government-controlled distribution through the country’s network of pharmacies. It also granted permission to personal and collective cultivation but once you’ve signed up to a government register, a step many citizens are refusing to take leaving them to continue to be criminalized and classified as an illicit cannabis consumer. Again this isn’t what I imagine the average consumer envisions when they think about cannabis legalization.

Although this may be the best system introduced yet, it still perpetuates the idea that consuming cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol or caffeine (both of which currently enjoy minimal regulation in the South American nations).

Another country that is being celebrated for legalizing cannabis, or Dagga as it’s known in South Africa. This isn’t true under the definition of the word as I understand it. I mean, how can South Africa allow personal cannabis possession and cultivation yet provide no form of domestic supply, distribution, or public consumption and then continue to criminalize those that consume it in the wrong way and herald it as legalization? I’d say it’s far more accurate to describe dagga in South Africa as being decriminalized for personal cultivation, possession and consumption in private.

“The United States is an interesting case study. They’re currently trialing a variety of legalised and medical models in individual states. There are now ten states that have “legalised” adult-use Cannabis in some way with Michigan now joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont, and the district of Columbia (Washington D.C) North Dakota was the only state to vote down adult-use cannabis reform with Missouri and Utah passing medical bills.”

These systems of rigorous restrictions and over-regulation are not what the average cannabis consumer thinks of when they envision a world in which Cannabis has been re-legalized. Too often legalizing means gentrification, commoditization, and capitalization of our culture and community. It means those typically straight-laced white middle-class folks who were complacent and silent during prohibition because it wasn’t them or their kids being harassed daily by cops and actively targeted for “random” stop and searches. Now that public opinion and the law have shifted they’re emerging from the woodwork ready to invest, to capitalize, and turn a culture they’ve spent decades condemning into a commodity.

So with this in mind is legalization really the best alternative or would full decriminalization be better?

There are many countries that have already decriminalized Cannabis to varying degrees. Some of which may surprise you. Belize, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Georgia, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Slovenia, Columbia, and of course Portugal.

Although these countries have decriminalized cannabis they still have nevertheless failed to allow personal cultivation or provide any form of regulated and legalized commercial access to consistent quality products through a regulated domestic supply chain. This guarantees that these governments will continue to waste billions in vain attempts to police and control the consumption of cannabis by its citizens.

The continuation of prohibition on production prevents these governments from utilizing a legal marketplace to create economic stimulation and the generation of much-needed tax funds through a robust regulated domestic cannabis market. Instead of leaving hundreds of millions/ billions in profits to the international smugglers and criminal gangs.

In the absence of a legally regulated market criminal enterprises are left vying for a share of the illicit market. Often using intimidation and violent tactics to bully and strong-arm their way to the top of the supply chain. While employing underhanded, dubious, and dangerous cultivation practices to ensure the continuation of their excessive profiteering from the prohibition of cannabis. This leaves the average consumer at the mercy of these criminals who have controlled the domestic and international cultivation, transport, and trade of cannabis for decades.

Portugal best exemplifies the shortcomings and failings of only introducing a decriminalization model without also creating a legal domestic commercial cultivation and distribution marketplace. In 2001, Portugal decided to decriminalize all drugs to help combat what was at the time one of the worst rates of drug overdoses in Europe.

The leading politicians of the major parties commissioned a review of the country’s current drug policy – promising to implement the recommendations of the committee without politicizing its conclusions. The committee convened some months later and recommended that personal possession and consumption of all drugs from Heroin to Cannabis and Cocaine to Ketamine be decriminalized.

So instead of levying ineffective fines and incarcerating consumers, those caught with less than 10 days worth of their substance would be summoned before the Comissões para a Dissuasão da Toxicodependênciadissuasion (the commission for the dissuasion of drug addiction) A committee made up of an attorney, a psychiatrist and a social worker. It is their job to attempt to decrease the consumption of drugs rather than seeking to understand the underlying reasons why these individuals are continuing to utilize their substance in the face of such staunch social stigma.

Although this is a welcomed volte-face in the country’s drug policy. Portugal’s decriminalization efforts do nothing to help reduce the continued cultural condemnation and vilification of drug consumers or provide meaningful harm reduction techniques, education, or support. It also fails to ensure consistent access to clean, quality, unadulterated substances produced under strict regulation through standardized production practices and supplied through an accountable system.

Interestingly after seventeen years of decriminalisation, it appears that the country is ready to look at fully legalizing cannabis. The opposition parties are hopeful that they will be able to introduce a bill to legalize cannabis in the country following the passing of a bill in July to allow pharmaceutically produced cannabis-based medications to be prescribed. I hope that they’ll keep their current decriminalized system too, effectively making them the first country to truly re-legalize cannabis.

We shouldn’t just be discussing re-legalizing cannabis for medicinal applications or adult consumption we should be making the case for the industrialization of cannabis, we need all three pillars if we are to ever have a true cannabis revolution.

The ubiquitous reimplementation of Cannabis as a renewable resource would usher in a third industrial revolution. Utilizing cannabis technologies such as Hempcrete, Cannabis-derived Graphene, and biodegradable cannabis-based plastics. The cultivation of Cannabis with no arbitrary cannabinoid cap or other trivial restrictions could result in hundreds of, if not thousands of tons of resin-rich flowers for use in pharmaceutical medications and other preparations. It would also easily provide more than enough material to fortify cereals, grains, and other food sources in the same way we already do with vitamins. This would go a long way to supplementing the endocannabinoid system of every single man, woman, and child in the country. It would also make pharmaceutical maintenance drugs and weak pharmaceutical-based cannabinoid derived medications obsolete in the vast majority of cases.

The grey-area created by the overly ambiguous language used in this debate is deliberately divisive. It is intended to promote distrust and cultivate disharmony and suspicion amongst advocates and activists. In reality there is no legalize vs. decriminalize, medical vs. recreational, grow your own vs. pharmaceutical medications.

In truth, these are arbitrary definitions and distinctions designed to dissuade debate, to derail any discussion, and demolish any attempts at opposing the current control paradigm. In reality, there is only the re-legalizing argument. Which to me is the reintroduction of cannabis as a resource with no arbitrary restrictions or ideological limitations.

They like to say “legalizing cannabis” as if it will be the first time cannabis has been legal, when in reality prohibition is the blip. Cannabis was legal for the entirety of human history until some racist and fascist policy makers and industrialists colluded and conspired on a campaign of propaganda, misinformation and reefer madness.

There are unfortunately those that profess to back the ubiquitous re-legalization of Cannabis but whose actions betray their intentions and show that their true loyalties are with the corporate vultures that are circling and just waiting to pick the carcass of reform clean and not with the community and culture that they claim to represent.

This is why we must always be aware of the intricacies and implications of the reforms we offer our support to and read the fine print of any campaigns that we rally behind. Whenever an alternative policy is put forward by any political party, NGO, or other body it must be intricately inspected to ensure that at the very least it decriminalizes all personal and social consumption and cultivation to guarantee that no one is ever again locked in a cage for the utilizing a plant that is less harmful than sugar.

Ultimately, any form of legalization without full decriminalization will only ever amount to a Prohibition-Lite policy. The way to finally deal with this mess is to re-legalize Cannabis as an industrial resource, as the oldest medicine and as a far safer alternative intoxicant to alcohol.

By Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.