Recently, a petition demanding the British government put the issue of cannabis legalization up for a debate managed to collect more than enough signatures over the course of just four days to force Parliament into action. Meanwhile, in the United States, a similar petition was launched around the same time on the White Houses’ We The People website that has barely garnered enough support to even be considered a threat to the sanctity of Uncle Sam’s prohibition model.
Although the topic of cannabis legalization often focuses on what is going on in the grand scheme of North American politics, the recent push to legalize weed in the United Kingdom suggests that the British population may actually be hungrier to win the fight against prohibition than their American counterparts.
According to the UK Government and Parliament petitions page, a move to legalize the “production, sale and use of cannabis” has already collected over 190,000 signatures – well over the 100,000 required to earn the issue a legitimate debate within the House of Commons. The proposal, which was drafted by a 25-year-old economy student attending Aberystwyth University, suggests that legalizing cannabis across the Kingdom would generate $800 million in tax revenue, save the country $400 million in police resources and lend to the creation of thousands of new jobs.
Most importantly, the petition is not long-winded; it simply consists of two-paragraphs asserting that marijuana, a substance that has been illegal in the UK since 1925, is “safer than alcohol” and it should be legal because humans have used it for various purposes for over 4,000 years.
Supporters must now wait for the Petitions Committee to take up the issue in September. If Parliament decides to debate the issue, which according to the website “almost always” happens for petitions reaching 100,000 signatures, it is conceivable that British lawmakers could begin discussing the end of prohibition long before the United States.
As the majority of cannabis activists in the United States have learned, it can be difficult to meet the necessary signature requirements in the time allotted to get any issue gunning for the reform of government policy taken seriously. Every year, there are countless canvassing attempts in the U.S. aimed at changing the drug laws, yet the majority of these efforts seem to get snuffed out long before they ever have a chance to materialize. Perhaps this is due to stricter guidelines or maybe even a lack of funding, or perhaps it is simply the response of a population too preoccupied with pop culture and social media gossip to truly give a damn about making the country a better place.
Apparently, the population doesn’t have as much trouble distinguishing between real life and white noise in the UK. Although the British government gave petitioner James Owen until January 2016 to gather enough support from his peers to earn a voice, his attempt greatly surpassed federal standards in less than a week – an indication that the Brits are seriously chomping at the bit to free the leaf.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Owen said that after watching several states in the U.S. and the entire nation of Uruguay makes changes to their pot laws, he felt compelled to fight for that level of change in his own backyard.
“There’s roughly 3 million adult [cannabis] smokers in the UK and I don’t think it’s right for the government to be criminalizing such a large section of society,” Owen said.
Disturbingly, even with millions of cannabis supporters in the United States, not to mention a great deal of success in beating the war on weed throughout numerous historical battles, there is not (to my knowledge) a single petition that has ever been penned on the issue of cannabis legalization that has successfully collected enough signatures to force a response from the federal government.
The latest U.S. petition, which was submitted on July 25, is an absolute embarrassment to the cause, standing at just over 15,000 signatures this week. This, from a population whom the latest polls suggest is in favor of ending prohibition at the national level.
Yet, somehow, unlike our friends in the United Kingdom, the American cannabis culture isn’t taking the issue of pot legalization serious enough to make a dent in the walls of Capitol Hill. Or maybe pot activists in this country have just been flogged between the ears so much over the past few decades that they simply feel helpless against hammer of the federal government. Nevertheless, when comparing the UK’s petition with the overall effort in the U.S., it almost seems as though the Land of the Free has all but given on the concept of ending prohibition. Perhaps most people are simply content with sitting back in a shroud of disdain over the current situation, while waiting for the rest of unmotivated society to stand up and do all of the work.
The sad but true fact of the matter is that U.S. Congressional powers have very little reason to even consider making changes to the federal marijuana laws at this moment in time because the “real majority” doesn’t have the nerve to fight the system. Unlike the times of alcohol prohibition, there are very few radical citizens in this country prepared to stoop to random acts of violence in order to get marijuana removed from the Controlled Substances Act, and there simply isn’t enough pressure being applied at the top to warrant modifications to the existing policy.
I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I’ve met in my travels, some of which work (or used to work) as photographers for my assignments, that refuse to use their real names when it comes to publishing cannabis-related content. Most of these people are worried that their connection to marijuana activism or the cannabis industry as a whole will cause them to be ostracized from their local community and prevent them from capitalizing on other opportunities. It is for this reason that most of the common class will never like a marijuana-related post on Facebook and they sure as hell are not about to put their name on a petition aimed at launching a stoner revolution.
Unfortunately, under these circumstances, the United Kingdom stands a better chance at legalizing marijuana than the United States. The majority of the British population seems unaffected by how they are viewed by popular society for supporting pot reform and they have obviously grasped the concept of government working for the people. It is easy to ignore an issue as long as it is not staring you in the face and the UK petition has, in a sense, kicked down the door to Parliament and forced lawmakers to at least consider the voice of the masses. Win or lose, their efforts are commendable – to say the least. Citizens of the United States should take notice.
My personal prediction is that no major changes will be made to the marijuana laws in either the U.S. or the UK until after the UNGASS summit convenes in 2016 to discuss making changes to the international drug laws. A global coalition recently submitted a proposal aimed at amending the treaties of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to either downgrade the classification of cannabis across the globe or remove it from the international drug laws altogether.
There is speculation that with the recent push by several countries to legalize marijuana, changes could be coming within the next year that will alter the course of cannabis laws all over the world.
Which country do you think will legalize cannabis first? Share your opinion in the comments.