Post-Legalization Pot Activism: Adjustments in Goals and Tactics

CANNABIS CULTURE – “If we don’t take action now

We’ll settle for nothing later

We settle for nothing now

And we’ll settle for nothing later.”

– Rage Against The Machine, Settle For Nothing

“Bring down the government
They don’t, they don’t speak for us”

“I’d like to say that people can change anything they want to; and that means everything in the world.”

We had explained to them repeatedly (most recently back in 2015) that any arrest of a non-violent protester would not go over well with the crowd.

On that day we non-violently resisted the arrest of one dealer  (it usually results in either the cops backing off or looking bad in front of cameras – see my discussion of Hug Power here.) and there was a big scuffle. Four people including myself were arrested. The obstruction charges were dropped after we went to court to a few appearances.

This time – instead of arresting anyone – they went for confiscation of the pot dealer’s business. It appears the police were doing two things with this confiscation:

1) to wear us out and dampen our enthusiasm by picking off the small businesses one by one

2) seeing if we would risk arrest for property – or over-react. Their job was to destroy us either with goading us into aggression or bullying us into submission.

We let it all happen without grabbing the gear or interfering with the confiscation, but it got me thinking. Maybe we should have done something more. Not touch the cops. Not touch the product. I was thinking more like everyone who could get arrested that day surround the dealer, link arms and start singing “A Dealer Is A Person In Your Neighborhood” to the tune of Sesame Street’s “Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood”  – everyone who couldn’t get busted would record the event with phones from multiple angles.

This would result in two things happening: we would

1) be demonstrating solidarity with the dealer, while at the same time

2) demonstrating non-violent resistance to police fuckery. I think those are the right messages to send out to the young people.

Which brings me to the topic of this article.

Now that pot is about to become “legal” (for old people to smoke it and rich people to grow and deal it, anyway), what changes for pot activists? What are the principles that guide us? What should our new end goals be? And what adjustments to tactics – such as the one mentioned above – be used in fighting for those goals?


What this goal – the harmless shall not be harmed – ends up becoming when transformed into cannabis policy is where nobody is punished anymore for any non-harmful-to-others activity and nobody is punished even if they harm themselves. In the event of self-harm, we as a society should try to reduce self-harm with education and no longer attempt to use the police.

Practically speaking, the fair-trade organic coffee bean regulations – where there are no barriers to participation in the growing, buying, selling, importing and exporting and using of coffee beans other than those which apply to organic cultivation standards and fair trade labor standards – should be the same ones we use to regulate cannabis. These regulations are harm-focused and prevent harm to others so they are justified.

The current set of regulations proposed by Canadian federal and provincial governments – Bill C-45 – which attempts to regulate cannabis like a hard drug (more strictly than even alcohol and tobacco – the two hardest drugs) are more focused on creating artificial stigma and exclusivity and actually cause all kinds of prohibition-related harms, including unnecessary punishment to harmless people.

To sum it up, the powers-that-be are trying to shove hard-drug regulations down our throat. We activists must promote soft drug regulations to prevent the harms that come with prohibition – the most dangerous types of harms that drugs can be associated with.

We must no longer be simply “legalization” activists. We must adjust to become “inclusive legalization” activists. My argument is that those activists that don’t fight for the inclusion of the young and the poor in legalization are simply opportunists in disguise.

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