Rain cleared in Lismore yesterday for the ‘May Day Rally for Cannabis Law Reform’ to highlight the refusal by our politicians to engage in the drug law reform debate. Michael Balderstone, HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) Party President, hand delivered copies of the Australia21 Report to the Courthouse, Police Station, Janelle Saffin MP and Thomas George MP.
The recent Australia21 Report has called for a re-examination of our attitudes and laws regarding drug use. The panel of esteemed professionals have asked for ‘widespread consultation towards fashioning a rational response to drug taking in our community.’
Michael believes the report is a ‘game changer’ and questions the war on drugs. ‘It is really about who makes the profit from which medicine. We are here today to say that it is time to have the conversation that the Australia21 Report is begging us to have.’
Accompanying the hand-delivered Australia21 report was a letter requesting a public forum in our Town Hall to consider the report’s recommendations.
Steve Bolt also addressed the crowd. ‘This latest report is about the 500th report saying that the laws are wrong, that prohibition is not working, it’s a waste of time and resources.’
Steve has been involved in the Drug Reform issue for 20 years. I asked if he could share with Echonetdaily any observations in his time observing reform dialogue. ‘I think a lot of people in authority have closed their minds. The same issues are still there, there is nothing new about the criticism about prohibition. It has been around for a long time. Look at the spectacular failure of trying to ban alcohol in the USA. Disaster!’
One of the arguments supporting continued cannabis prohibition is the notion that easy access would infer increased use. I ran this past Steve and invited his comment.
‘We have evidence-based answers to that. Citizens of Portugal and Amsterdam (where there is liberal access to cannabis) actually decreased their usage after ending prohibition.’ I joked that the visitors from countries with prohibition would make up for that decrease!
Mental health is another area of concern. Steve admitted that marijuana can affect some people’s mental health but questions the sophistication of thinking that this should apply to everyone.
’Evidence shows that a small proportion of people have mental health problems associated with cannabis usage which can be quite significant, they need to be looked at and understood. But for the very large majority of people that use cannabis, this is not the case. ‘
Drug reform is not just referring to recreational use. Current Australian laws allow very limited use and production of industrial hemp and as Steve pointed out, ‘It is still illegal in Australia to eat a hemp seed, which is nutritionally valuable. Yet it’s not illegal in any other country.”
Gail, a local retiree, marched in the rally and told Echonetdaily, ‘I simply can’t drink alcohol, it makes me physically sick. I use marijuana recreationally and have found that it has cured my symptoms of menopause, something that 10 years of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) couldn’t do! And that makes me a criminal!’
Michael was appreciative of those who attended. ‘I am well aware that a lot of people won’t put their hands up for drug law reform as it is like saying I’m a criminal, come and get me.’ Police were also thanked and Michael joked that they were ‘…not in a position to agree with him but they were still part of the march and I may even be speaking on their behalf.’
The 20th MardiGrass cannabis law reform annual gathering is on this weekend at Nimbin. For details go to http://www.nimbinmardigrass.com . The Australia21 Report has given a new optimism to the annual protest weekend.