The political situations in countries where there are more than two viable political parties can be understandably difficult for American audiences to comprehend. Britain is a great example.
The Conservatives, the current party-in-charge, are indeed conservative, and they’re clear to the right of Labour, the leading opposition party. Easy enough.
But then there are the Liberal Democrats, a sort of center-left party—but absolutely more center than left—who have only the tiniest of presences in the House of Commons, with eight seats out of 650 (and yet more than 100 seats in the House of Lords). They’re not rabid nationalists who eat austerity for breakfast, nor are they socialists. They’re, well, sort of like establishment American Democrats. They’re boring—and lately, they don’t really win too much.
This now may change, thanks to cannabis.
The Liberal Democrats believe they may now be poised to pick up support from far-left, grassroots types. They’ve just unveiled the most progressive, radical and teapot-upsetting drug policy reform proposal in British political history—legalized marijuana, with regulated and taxed cannabis shops on the main drag in Notting Hill.
Buzzfeed News was first on the stop with the Liberal Democrats’ leader Tim Farron, who believes that a regulated system of cannabis production and sales could raise as much as £1 billion in annual tax revenue. Farron and other Liberal Democratic leaders confirmed that marijuana legalization will be a key component of the party’s platform in the upcoming election. (But they call it a “manifesto.”)
Under the Lib Dem proposals the production and sale of marijuana would be fully legalised, with the quality strictly regulated to reduce harmful chemicals and sales restricted to over-18s. Purchases would be allowed only through licensed cannabis shops, similar to the system used in several US states.
Currently, much of the marijuana available in the UK is grown by slave labor, as a recent Guardian investigation found. Poor people, often from southeast Asia, are smuggled into the country and coerced into working in grow houses for gangsters, who often leave them without human contact for months on end. Not very good. Something must be done.
And, amazingly, it won’t be Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.
The party of the left, the socialists, the trade unionists who actually managed to run a country for quite a while, is staunchly opposed to marijuana legalization. On that front, Labour has more in common with Theresa May’s Conservatives, who want to keep current drug laws where they are, than with the Liberal Dems.
“The prohibitionist approach costs a huge amount of money, means we criminalise a large amount of people, and increases the harm,” Huppert told Buzzfeed. “We spend a lot of money making people’s lives worse. That cannot be correct.”
Recently, some far-left parties in Europe have tried to gain traction by promising to legalize marijuana, and it hasn’t exactly worked.
The two most-left presidential candidates in France’s recent election both lost in the primary; the current president, the boring, let’s-not-stir-anything-up technocrat centrist Emmanuel Macron, is unlikely to set off any seismic shift in French drug policy.
But will the weed gambit pay off for the Liberal Democrats, at all? Will it be a correct and proper political move?
It’s important to note that they have little in the way of street cred. Barack Obama was a bigger stoner than LD leader Tim Farron, who last smoked weed when he was a teenager, or stodgy blokes like Huppert, who says he’s never used cannabis.
Not that you need to wear a hemp suit to support legalization, but some authenticity would be a nice change—as long as it is authenticity not from a lunatic who lunches with Donald Trump. Compare the LD’s limp marijuana handshake to the UK political establishment’s two-fisted embrace of alcohol culture, which in a way is responsible for Brexit.
At the same time, any legalization would be a proper legalization.