Activism Feature

Publisher’s Note: Democratic Evolution

Democratic Evolution

Ted Smith

Democracy is not perfect, but it works. It works when people in large numbers organize to affect change in our social infrastructure. Historically, cannabis consumers have suffered under democracy, especially those of us living in countries ruled by political parties controlled by corporate military families. But it does not have to stay that way.tedsensiblecanvass

Now it is time for history to write a new chapter about democracy. A chapter about freedom, peace and happiness. A chapter written by cannabis enthusiasts. A chapter about our revival.

Many of us have been frustrated with democracy, partly because it is responsible for this mess in the first place, and partly because governments are still being used to suppress us around the world. While it is true that corporate and religious zealots have directly used governments against us, we can turn things around using many of the very same institutions that have traditionally kept us down.

For those who have studied the history of government, the prohibition of cannabis is an understandable mistake, tragic as it is. Democracy was formed primarily by rich guilds and families to protect their property and business from high taxes, asset seizures, and irrational policies often created by monarchs and religious leaders. Early government was formed by wealthy, intelligent people who presumed that by ensuring their own economic interests, they were also benefiting the greater good with a more stable marketplace.

Back in the early days of democratic government, the average person could not even read, and depended upon information shared in conversation. Various measures were put into place to limit who could even vote, let alone who could run for office. Many families and guilds made fortunes by developing a close relationship with elected politicians and bureaucrats, and they made sure their competition was limited.

Under these conditions, the prohibition of cannabis was easy. One hundred years ago the general population was still quite in the dark about most government policies, and at best could occasionally choose between one upper-class politician or another. At the time the media was little more than a mouthpiece for big business, and Reefer Madness proved a successful campaign.

Some things in government have changed a lot in the last 100 years, while some things have not changed at all. Now, the general population knows cannabis is incredible medicine, we know hemp can be used in most products, that it is healthier for us and the planet than most industrial alternatives, and it is clear why this plant was taken away from us. It seems clear the average person is ready for these laws to change, and it is the government that is holding us back.

In many way, democracy is like a muscle. If only used during elections, democracy is weak and impotent, leaving the making of laws, taxation, and government expenditures to the wealthy. Use it or lose it.

Democracy is much, much more than the opportunity to vote. For many, it simply means the right to speak out without being shot or imprisoned. For others, democracy means we have the right to question our leadership, engage in public debate regarding a broad range of community issues, and become involved in the internal political processes of picking candidates, while exposing government corruption and exploitation.

The more people that engage with democratic processes with the intent of generating public benefits, the easier it will be to enact positive change. If citizens decide to walk away from their civic responsibilities and not even register to vote, then it becomes even easier for the wealthy to consolidate their power. You are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.

The Sensible BC campaign is a perfect example of how democracy can work, and how young the democratic process is here in Canada. We are very fortunate to have the ability to force a referendum upon our government, as the successful anti-HST campaign proved. However, it will only work if people participate in the democratic process.

With the Sensible BC campaign, cannabis consumers and anti-prohibitionists have a very real chance to set the laws in the right direction, not only in BC but across the country. This is significant, given the turning of the tide that is occurring down in the United States and far beyond. It is ironic that we are learning to mimic initiatives that first appeared in the U.S. decades ago, but Canada could never change its laws without a similar movement happening there.

There are certainly other activities one can do that exercise democratic rights, including becoming involved in a political party. It does not matter what party you get involved with. As long as you are working towards improving society and making government agencies accountable, then you are fighting the good fight.

We need your help. The planet needs your help. Your community needs your help. If you turn your back on us, please do not bother complaining to me.

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