Despite almost unbelievable progress forward in the U.S. last year, primarily caused by the initiation of recreational market sales in Colorado and Washington State, forward reform in the UK has repeatedly stalled.
What would it take to move reform forward to the starting gate of fast forward action in Britain? A few lessons from the U.S. market and development over the last year might reveal a few answers.
The first is that just getting the issue in front of voters and outside of the narrow political debate that has stalled forward reform will be at least different in Britain than many states in the U.S. because of the constitutional nature of voting for change. That said, not all states in the U.S. allow state voters to change laws either by ballot initiative (see Texas), or as in Colorado, Alaska and Nevada, literally changing a state constitution to allow legalization.
This could be seen, within the context of UK politics, for example, as say Scotland not voting to secede from the United Kingdom but rather demanding a different drug regime and policy.
Probably not feasible.
Therefore the UK, just like in Texas, where voters are required to let their politicians move forward on legislative changes and tweaks to state drug policy (employed part time and at poverty wages), citizens will be required to force politicians via other creative ways to respond.
In the U.S., one of the most effective tactics to force forward motion, particularly in states where voters are unsure of recreational reform (see California as a prime example if not the first one of a long list), is to identify and focus on other political “flashpoints” or connected larger issues. This includes (in the U.S. at least) the unbelievably harsh zero tolerance policies baked into almost every level of national if not state policy from street interdiction to employment and benefit based drug testing. How this has manifested, particularly lately, has been the severe backlash against DEA SWAT raids from California to Georgia. Now temporarily halted for at least a year and more realistically two, thanks to last year’s last minute budget compromise in Congress, the conversation in the U.S. has now turned to more local and state interdiction efforts (still harsh but not quite as draconian) if not the larger issues of use and privacy.
Taxes are another issue that are encouraging state politicians in particular (and increasingly federal ones) to change their tune about the industry. This might be one of the most fertile grounds for reformers to exploit in Britain. So might the disrepair and extended wait times at the NHS, if not an exploding cancer rate across the UK.
That said, it is clear that the simple lever needed to convince large numbers of people to press the issue forward effectively has just yet not reached a critical flashpoint in Britain. Until that happens, the UK will continue to lag not only behind the U.S., but Europe, as pot reform and the freedoms that go with it continues to be a global conversation.