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This book is not meant to be humorous, although a certain amount of
humour is unavoidable, partly because the nonsense and inconsistencies
which I came up against during the last four years, and partly because
sometimes it hurts so much that one has to either laugh or cry. I fully
intend to criticise the prison and the court systems, but not, I hope,
unnecessarily, and, I also hope, positively.
This is not meant
as a horror story, a fiction, or an analytical work, although I will
admit in advance to colouring and flavouring events, changing names, and
interspersing actual events with thoughts of the occasion. This is to
increase the readability of what might otherwise be a very 'flat' book,
considering the flatness of the system.
I consider myself very
fortunate, even in this experience, as I have previously travelled to
many different countries, and witnessed the different languages and
customs therein, which I feel has enabled me to adopt a more detached
and somewhat enlightened attitude to the strangeness which I constantly
experienced. Many inmates are either the well learned ‘old lags’ who
have been in and out of the system for years, or else are younger and
I was also fortunate to have already received an
education, thus being able to further it using the institution's
facilities and classes, able to write and read easily, unlike many of my
comrades, and thus help the time pass easily and productively. I was
also fortunate enough, for want of a better phrase although it may sound
as selfish as it is, to have first arrived at a prison along with some
acquaintances, and to recognise a few faces already there who I could
turn to for help with day to day life. Once again I sympathise greatly
with the young, scared and lonely convict or detainee.
it is only natural that I feel some anger and resentment against the way
I have sometimes been treated, in particular by the courts, this
emotion has never overwhelmed me.
I see so many things wrong
with the world that Mankind has created, not least the way in which
selfish and greedy individuals have polluted our beautiful planet and
continue to do so, perhaps to the point of no return and the devastation
of possibly all life. I fail to see how the Governments on this world,
who often seem to me to be evil, can allow the future to develop in
this way, ruining the chances of happiness and health for their
descendants. In the sixties I grew up under the constant threat of
nuclear devastation imposed by individuals so many miles away, whose
identities would never be known to most of us. But this being bad
enough, at least there was a chance of survival.
As the sixties
have become the nineties there are so many problems in this world, any
one of which will destroy us as individuals or as a race, including
Aids, acid rain, radiation poisoning, the 'Greenhouse Effect', the ozone
depletion, the pollution of the air, sea and land, space junk, chemical
additives in our food and water, and on and on and on.
this unemployment and the violence shown on TV, in video’s and in the
press, to the point of saturation and ‘normality’, and it is less
surprising what is happening on our streets. It has been said that by
the age of twelve the average American child has witnessed several
thousand murders on the screen, and doubtless a similar figure is true
for British children.
In the East they say life is cheap, and
death is all around, and certainly it seems that in many countries where
overpopulation has become such an everyday burden, there are constantly
civil wars or violent freedom fighters whom the various governments
call terrorists. But do the governments and industrial bosses realise
the terror which they daily cause us in our lives, through their greed?
Is it surprising there is so much violence and crime in the country?
is a strange practice to apply to people who are unable to afford the
goods or services advertised, and although increasing sales amongst the
select few, causes nothing but unsatisfied desire amongst everyone else.
Consider this story. It concerns a village deep in the heart of the
Egyptian desert near Libya. I forget the name, but that is unimportant.
This small oasis settlement had been there for hundreds if not
thousands of years, the locals content to grow what they could, and keep
their livestock. In years past they may even have profited from
accommodating the occasional traveller. They were certainly unlikely to
attract any tourists, unless some big archaeological discovery was ever
made. Being short of power, having no electricity and little means of
producing it, they were unlikely to attract much big industry.
locals remained poor people, but never starved. They were basically
content, having what they needed and most of what they wanted. This is
the point: they had most of what they wanted, or rather most of what
they knew about that they could want. Of course they may have wanted a
better doctor, a panacea, a magic carpet, but these were merely dreams.
One day however, one of the locals had to traverse the desert
to Cairo, for personal reasons. Suddenly, instead of being surrounded
by friends and sands, he found himself in a huge city, some fifteen
million souls, tall buildings, thousands of cars, buses, trucks,
bicycles, people in all style of dress, restaurants, businesses and even
more foreigners than the population of his home village. What did he
see? Advertising. Somehow he managed to get hold of a television,
battery operated, and having been shown how to work it, he took it home
Fortunately, or maybe not so, they could pick up
signals in the village and they were able to watch films, news and
documentaries about a country and a world they never new existed. The
children and young men were, of course, able to watch too. And what did
they see? Advertising Young mini-skirted girls drinking cola, cowboys
with their special cigarettes, the blond bombshell in the tight jeans,
the fast car and the gorgeous lady who went with it, watches, stereos,
holidays, household appliances and magical gadgets, and so on.
what happened to their simple needs and desires? They multiplied out
of all proportion. They wanted all these things too, but of course they
had no money so they could only dream on in frustration. Until one day
three or four young men themselves set off to Cairo, where the streets
were paved with gold and one could make enough money to buy some of the
well and ‘successfully’ advertised wares. Unfortunately when they got
there they found not thousands but millions of people in the same
position, unemployment ridiculously high, the city impersonal and
apparently uncaring, and their chances of even getting enough food for
tomorrow rapidly dwindling. But not everybody was poor. Some people
had cars, wore expensive watches and clothes, and drank cola, and
presumably had many more modern goods to make their lives apparently
easier and happier. So what did our young and impressionable brothers
do? They stole. They broke into a house and took what they could.
Unfortunately these men were nothing of the professional burglar, knew
nothing of finger prints and forensics, and were soon caught. The
result? Four more inmates in the hell hole of Cairo prison. Once again
the advertising agents had done their job well, convincing the people
that they needed the junk they had to sell!
Of course the
situation in Britain is not as extreme, but nevertheless it is surely
obvious that if one successfully creates an intense desire for
something, in the minds of often uneducated and impressionable people,
in a time of unemployment when their cash is hard come by, at the same
time blasting them with crime on the TV, something somewhere is going to
give. A percentage of them, being unable to earn an honest buck, will
hit the streets, either taking what they want through robbery and theft,
or dealing in drugs or stolen property, prostitution, or any of the
many other ways of getting a ‘few readies’.
This is why the
prisons are so full. Add to that the people who drink and drive, maybe
take drugs steal to get money for their next hit to lift them out of
their boredom and fears, everybody taxed beyond what they can afford,
and the prison population begins to overflow.
Having stated that
as my beliefs as to why so much crime occurs, I now have to say that
this was only a very minor cause of my conviction. I will not in this
book, attempt to discuss my personal level of guilt or innocence, but I
would like to stress the view I had of my offences at the time.
charges were concerned with cannabis, a so-called drug. Having
consumed it for a number of years, and met untold people in nearly every
country I ever visited, smoked with young and old, people new to it
and those who had smoked very heavily for very many years, for social,
recreational and also ‘spiritual’ purposes,
I did not and do not
understand why it remains illegal! In its pure uncut form it certainly
seems to have done me no harm, or anyone I have met.
how much one consumes there is no danger for a reasonably balanced
person. It has been said that the fatal dose is two kilos, dropped on
the head from a great height! There is no heavy withdrawal, no side
The real problems are that it is often cut with
possibly damaging impurities, ranging from sawdust to barbiturates,
solvents to boot polish and evencow shit, by the less than scrupulous
illegal suppliers; that it is normally mixed with the legal and deadly
poisonous tobacco; and that it remains illegal and therefore in the
control of the underworld. The so-called controlled drugs are
controlled not by the Government, who should concern themselves with the
lack of purity of consumables, but by crooks.
Added to this
are the many acclaimed medical benefits of cannabis to sufferers of
ailments such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, asthma and arthritis, its
pain-killing properties, and relaxing properties, and the uses of the
plant - hemp, for the non-polluting manufacture of paper, linen, rope -
all the old maps, Bibles, sails, ropes etc were made from hemp - its use
as a food supply (seeds crushed to make gruel are highly nutritious)
for humans and animals, and its use as a clean, renewable (two crops a
year) and highly efficacious fuel, cannabis is probably the most
versatile God-given substance on earth! Of course, it makes some people
apparently lazier, but not all, and many of these become more creative
even if only privately.
There is a vast amount of music and art forms produced under the effect of cannabis.
5% of the population admit to having used it regularly, and in private a
great many barristers and other professional men. In private a great
many individuals agree that it should be legalised, but are, like the
majority of people living under Nazi control who witnessed the inhumane
treatment of the Jews, too afraid for their own careers, and freedom,
to speak out. The anti-legalisation lobby seems to be left, nowadays,
with the completely unfounded statement that it ‘leads to other drugs’.
True, 95% of hard drug users confess, when asked in a weighted
question, that their first illegal substance was cannabis. But only 5%
at most, of cannabis users ever take hard drugs. It is rather like
using the argument that 99% of convicted armed robbers admit to owning
water pistols as children, to bring about the prohibition of possession
and sale of water pistols! Meanwhile, whilst those in authority and
positions of respect usually remain silent, and the various campaigns
for legalisation are left in the hands of often unemployed and outcast
folk who have little or no experience of organisation, thousands of
users and dealers remain in prisons, and millions risk their health by
consuming street ‘crap’.
Let’s face it, even with the risk of
incarceration, people still use it and will continue to use it, and
continue to line the pockets of crooks, so it is really time that some
government opened its own eyes, legalised it, took control of quality,
gained revenue through taxation, and saved the time of police, courts
and prisons. So, having said that, why was it suddenly made illegal in
the 1920's? Some political reasons? Strange how the banning of
cannabis and hemp suddenly created a vacuum in the supply of ropes and
fabrics, shortly before the industrial giants put nylon on the market,
and the huge petrochemical companies marketed their synthetics and
polluting alternatives. I sometimes wonder if there was a connection.
am not trying to excuse breaking the law. The law is the law, right or
wrong, and the country cannot survive without laws. Judge Pickles,
himself an advocate for the legalisation of all drugs, was correct when
he said that people should not be allowed to pick and choose which laws
to keep and which laws to break, that sort of freedom would be
disastrous. Neither should such offenders be given leniency. In prisons
there are many who would legalise all sorts of unpleasant things which
they have been incarcerated for. Yet it is true, in the cases of the
suffragettes and also the homosexuals, who sought to change the law by
breaking it, that it can eventually lead to publicity and success.
would, however, stress that very many people with similar experiences
to me, never had any intention of hurting anyone, and mostly have never
broken any other laws. Their preference for cannabis over alcohol and
sedatives, has, nonetheless, resulted in their doors being kicked in,
humiliating strip and personal searches, hours of solitude in filthy
police cells and extended interviews often interspersed with secret
threats and insults, confiscation of assets, collapse of businesses or
careers, long periods in prison equivalent to sentences for armed
robbery and often greater than for rape offences, and general alienation
from their families, friends and society in general.
because they wanted to get high! Cannabis is used in prisons probably
more than on the outside. The staff, I have been told more than once by
members of that elite group, tend to turn a blind eye - it keeps the
So, back to this book, like I say it is not the
place to discuss guilt or innocence. Although I can hardly avoid
‘having a dig at the system’ and those who perpetuate it, that is
neither my purpose.
Rather I want to present the prisons
through my eyes, the eyes of an educated and travelled, non-criminally
minded, and, as those who know me will agree, harmless forty year old
male from Wales. I felt that by helping to organise contacts and
introductions between suppliers and customers, I was helping people by
enabling them to get a clean supply, by keeping them away from alcohol,
hard drugs, and the dreadful tranquillisers and sedatives, benefited
Educated as a scientist at university, I was taught to
examine the facts for myself, and not to blindly accept everything I was
This is all I ask of you the reader, to consider the
evidence with an open mind; those who accept orders and laws without
question are the true fascists.
The book is divided into four sections: the first will cover the nightmare of remand in custody.
three prisons which I entered were category B, a maximum security, and a
low security C category. I was on wings separated from the so-called
vulnerable prisoners, as we call them, ‘nonces’, guilty of horrendous
crimes which should not ever be even imagined.
Amongst the prisoners with whom I lived the hatred of the nonces was universal.
for the others it seems that the longer the sentences the more respect
the inmates had for each other. A man two or more years into a ten or
twenty year sentence has an entirely different attitude towards his
surroundings than a short-timers who is only ‘passing through’.
main problems for the long-timers are the poor living conditions, being
isolation from family and friends, and institutionalisation.
and helplessness, anger at the treatment of self and others, an
authoritative hypocrisy, are what causes violence amongst these men.
This book is an attempt to portray what I saw and felt at the time.
Saturday, 29 August 2015
Friday, 7 August 2015
JACK'S YARD: HOWARD MARKS, GENERAL ELECTION 1997 - from "Out of Joint - 20 Years of Campaigning for Cannabis"
Taken from "Out of Joint - 20 Years of Campaigning for Cannabis"
By early 1996 I had started writing letters again and began to take an interest in the "CLCIA".
When I had been convicted there were just over 80 members in the CLCIA, most of them local – by the time I got out there were almost 200 – but I did not feel impressed as it was over 3 years. I spoke with Jack and Tina and agreed to get involved again, and said I thought we needed to start a membership drive and make the campaign more national – maybe even international.
Jack and Tina had not done nothing whilst I was away – Jack had copied many letters sent to literally hundreds of people in authority, from MP's to Bishops, local doctors and healers, local cafés and pubs, even world leaders, seeking support. Although some had deemed to reply, there was little support. Amongst those that supported legalisation were the Labour MP The Late Tony Banks, the eccentric judge the Late Ernest Pickles, and a few journalists.
Jack had focussed on Howard Marks aka Mr Nice aka many other names, who had been arrested by US officials in Spain and taken back to the US where he was given a 25-year prison sentence for moving quite large quantities (tons) around the world. Jack – as did we all – wanted to see Howard free – and it was about that time that he was released and returned to the UK, so we were all overjoyed when we heard that Howard Marks was out and back in the UK.
Jack continued to insist that cannabis would be legal within 12 months. It was sounding like "tomorrow" but "tomorrow never comes". He was totally convinced that not only was he on a Holy Mission but also that he was some sort of divinely-appointed spokesman. He had a following, but I was not one of them.
Whilst I had been in prison, Jack and Tina had read newspaper reports and made contact somehow – or vice versa – with several people that were to become prominent in the UK cannabis campaign and some of whom would become good friends. Don Barnard was one of these.
Don was a few years older than me and had a completely different background. He had been to school in Norwich and later married Jackie and moved to Braintree, Essex, where they had children.
Don had previously been involved with trades unions and had some experience in politics.
He had fought in a trial after being arrested for growing cannabis to ease the pains that his wife suffered. He was one of the first people to defend himself on medical grounds.
Throughout my time as a cannabis campaigner, Don has shown himself to be one of the most devoted and hardest working of people. I worked together with Don over the years on many aspects of campaigning, including the publication of our venture (a few years after this time) of "The Challenge".
Don attended and spoke at many events and conferences; he wrote numerous letters to Government and press; he battled with his own MP and councillors; he helped whenever he could – we always consulted on the phone and many a time we either dropped or boosted an idea depending on if, and how much, we agreed. His struggle continued even though ill health made things difficult. I found Don to be one of the most inspirational and friendly of all the campaigners I met. He was the only person ever to be accepted for a with a Hone Secretary of the UK – albeit the meeting was cancelled after the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, was sacked. That was in 2006.
THE LATE DR ANNE BIEZANEK
Dr Anne was a GP in Merseyside who was arrested after procuring cannabis for her ailing daughter. She had to go for trial and also was at risk of losing her license.
The British Medical Council were understanding and helped her to some small event, with her case. Dr Anne was allowed to keep her daughter's medical condition out of the public eye, and she won her case.
Dr Anne endorsed the Family Council of Drug Abuse Europe (FCDA) publication: "The Report" - along with many other academics, judges and doctors. She was always supportive of the campaign. I never met her but I know we had mutual respect.
I never met Dr Anne, but respect for her grew after we exchanged several letters and spoke a few times on the phone. Despite her personal problems, she was always loyal to the cause.
In 2001, Dr Anne's sister, Leslie von Goetz, was to stand as an LCA candidate and ran her campaign from her bed in Fife.
THE FCDA EUROPE
I never met Kenn and Joanna d'Doudney, the authors of "Cannabis: The Facts, Human Rights and the Law -
The Report of the FCDA Europe", but I dealt with them by mail.
The Report itself is extremely hard to read, hardly written in plain English for the average person to read without the aid of a dictionary – and a dictionary that covered Latin phrases too.
However, it was, for me, a convincing argument that the laws against cannabis possession, cultivation and supply were not only unworkable and unjust but also illegal in themselves. The prohibition of cannabis was the result of a conspiracy that favoured pharmaceutical and petrochemicals, they said. It was a "Crime Against Humanity".
The report was full of good arguments and fact. It was endorsed by judges, doctors, economists and academics.
The FCDA claimed that The Report was admissible in evidence at trial.
Kenn also offered to help people defend themselves in Court, saying that The Report could be cited and they could be called as "Expert Witnesses"
The problem arose, however, that they showed themselves to be completely intolerant of people that neither did not understand or did not agree with every word they said or wrote. That led to pointless arguments.
Worse still, they became abusive and tended to suddenly refuse to communicate any more or to help the several people that wanted to use them.
If we disagreed, they called us "prohibitionists". If we mentioned the word "decriminalisation", we were called "prohibitionists".
Maybe they did not know just how much of an insult some of use took that to be. For people that spend their lives fighting cannabis prohibition, it was one of the worst of insults. It seemed that they were applying it to almost everyone.
The crux came when my good friend Simon was busted for possession. Simon had been convicted with me of conspiracy in 1992 and had served 2 out of a 6-year sentence. Now he had to go to court again, possibly facing prison, so, through me, he turned to The Report and its authors for help.
This was to happen in 1998.
I never met anyone from the FCDA Europe. To me they seemed to be living their lives in isolation in France, issuing orders and asking everyone to buy their book.
I must say that although I found the book itself inspirational, I cannot say the same for the authors
Linda ran the Legalise Cannabis Campaign, Scotland, for several years before I heard of her and when I did, I wrote on behalf of the CLCIA. We obviously needed to work together. Linda was a veteran campaigner and associated with the Scottish Green Party. She was a brave schoolteacher indeed, to be a committed campaigner too.
I didn't meet Linda until several years later. I am glad that I did.
Linda is still campaigning as I write this book – she must be one of the longest-running cannabis campaigners in the world.
The CLCIA held irregular meetings in Norwich. Most attracted between 10 and 15 people and largely consisted of toking sessions as if we had to burn it all up as fast as possible, with me trying to keep the meetings to an agenda.
To be honest, although they were fun, I would hardly say that they were productive. It put me off meetings!
Activities in the CLCIA were mostly due to the efforts of Jack, Tina and myself. There was plenty of support but also plenty of excuses when it came to actually doing something.
Jack has accumulated several boxes of fliers that they had had printed whilst I was away. When I discovered them I asked Jack why he was keeping them:
"Why don't we give them out at fairs and festivals, Jack?"
"There's no hurry," he said, "They are part of the history."
But for unforeseen circumstances that were soon to hit us, I do believe Jack would still have them today.
We held most of the meetings either in Jack's Yard or in a local café
We produced new fliers, and I started to build my web site, The Cannabis Campaigner's Guide, CCGUIDE (http://www.ccguide.org) which was to provide information, news and contacts for cannabis campaigners.
I met Derek Williams. I had written to Derek in 1992, after reading his letter in the Norwich Evening News, but was banged up before I got to meet him. However, he did make the effort to go down to Jack's Yard and by the time I was out and about again, he had become involved with the CLCIA, albeit from his personal anti-tobacco approach.
All was not well between Derek Williams and the some of the other CLCIA members who claimed that Derek was trying to "high-jack" the campaign to become pro-cannabis but anti-tobacco. Things were at a boiling point.
Derek has been one of the most argumentative of all the active cannabis campaigners I ever met, often to the point of being disruptive: he was committed only to his way, harm reduction, and often appeared top me as a "control freak", wanting strict regulations.
I tried to heal the rifts, tried to make sure that Derek was given a chance to put forward his views, but I failed in that.
He would often resort to abusiveness in discussions that became rows, calling people "silly". I told him that I had just spent over four years in places where he would not have said those things in public without repercussions, that it was simply not polite.
On one occasion, when Howard Marks was due to make an appearance on a TV show called The Warehouse, in Norwich, and several of us managed to get tickets to attend, Derek turned up and complained that Mick Pryce was not dressed suitably, even though Mick was only a member of the audience and not due to speak and even though it was actually nothing to do with Derek. Mick felt so insulted that he left.
I do believe Derek contributed much effort but had his people management skills been better, he would have achieved far more. Instead, he alienated so many. A shame.
GENERAL ELECTION 1997: HOWARD MARKS
Mid-1996 we were looking towards the next General Election, this time vowing that we would not let other parties prevent us from having our say and we wanted to put up at least one candidate.
We all thought it would be wonderful if we could get Howard Marks to stand for CLCIA in the 1997 General Election – all we needed to do was meet him and ask.
Howard had been labelled by the press as the cannabis "Mr Big" and "Mr Cannabis" of the 1970's and 1980's – he had supposedly brought huge quantities of cannabis to the UK from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Lebanon and other places.
Many of the tokers of those days had smoked Howard's product which was probably all excellent – he had become the UK's Mr Cannabis.
Howard had written a book called "Mr Nice" and, guess what – it started off with Howard driving to Norwich to buy a passport in the name of Donald Nice, a local builder whom I had known but who had since passed away.
I had wondered if Howard Marks was the Welshman that Donald Nice had brought to my basement flat for an hour for a smoke – it later turned out that it has been, and we toked on some fine Lebanese hash that Howard later told he he had probably had imported.
Donald pronounced his name "Niece" (like the French town) but Howard pronounced it "Nice" (as the opposite of "nasty") I was glad Howard had not become Mr Nasty – whenever I met him he always seemed nice!
We would fight both Norwich constituencies
First we announced that we would select two candidates, one for each Norwich North and Norwich South.
UK: Pro-drug party to fight election seat
Evening News, Norwich
Wednesday 3 July 1996
Pro-cannabis campaigners are to put forward a candidate at the next general election in Norwich North, it was revealed last night The local pressure group will be one of the first to run in a parliamentary election on a pro cannabis ticket. The Norwich-based Campaign to Legalise Cannabis International Association will choose between four potential candidates later this month. Chairman Jack Girling said: "There's still no headway for legalisation after 25 years of campaigning, so the next step is to give the issue to the people.
"There's a groundswell of opinion that cannabis should be legalised."Mr Girling says the candidate would seek election under the name of the Cannabis Party and he expects to attract at least 5000 votes, retaining the £500 election deposit. The drug, which is also known as dope hash, pot or weed, is usually smoked in cigarette form and is thought to be used by up to 1.5 million people in the UK. Supporters say it is a harmless alternative to alcohol or tobacco which can help relieve chronic pain from cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. The local campaign, which has 280 members, will canvas homes in the city to attract votes. "We hope to get more awareness of the facts about cannabis," said Mr Girling. Director of the drugs and legal advice agency Release, Mike Goodman, believes this will be one of the first examples of a pro-cannabis candidate in a British election. Similar candidates are expected to run for seats elsewhere at the general election."We always have a no smoking policy at our election counts," said returning officer for Norfolk North, John Bryant
Then we named the candidates we had chosen.
Ready for polls, Legalise pot group makes its choice
Evening News, Norwich
Saturday 7 Sep 1996
A SELF-EMPLOYED labourer and a mature student are to contest Norwich's two Parliamentary seats - calling for cannabis to be legalised. Michael Pryce, 50, and John Adam, 44, were approved by members of the Campaign to Legalise Cannabis International Association. And a spokesman for the organisation, which has over 350 members in the county, said they were hoping to attract at least 5000 votes in both Norwich constituencies."Originally we were only going to put up a candidate in Norwich North," he added."But a lot of our members live in the Norwich South area and were disappointed they weren't going to be given the chance to cast their votes as well."Mr Pryce, a divorced labourer with no children, lives at Aylmer Towers, Mile Cross and will fight Norwich South. He is also a tenant representative on the Mile Cross area Housing Committee. Mr Adam is married with two daughters aged 19 and 12. He lives in Gildencroft, off St Augustine's, and was a free-lance design assistant before starting as a theoretical physics student at the University of East Anglia. Bashir Khanbhal, Conservative candidate for Norwich South, a pharmacist, said voters would not be interested. "Quite frankly I think it is an insult to the British voter that they are being asked to vote on a single issue. Most reasonably intelligent people will want the chance to consider a whole manifesto," he said. Labour's constituency party chooses its candidate at a meeting on October 6. Party bosses are thought to want to whittle the candidates down to a short-list of six this weekend. Agent John Cook said: "Single issue candidates are an irrelevance in General Elections - and there is data to prove that."
Ha! So the Tory did not think intelligent people would vote for a single issue party and Labour thought a single issue candidates were irrelevant! Those attitudes were part of our reason for standing; they put themselves on pedestals.
We wanted Howard Marks to stand so we started trying to make contact.
It was not long before we heard that Rob Christopher, who later changed his name by deed pole to Free Cannabis, had booked an old cinema in London for a cannabis conference, and that Howard Marks were amongst the speakers.
An opportunity not to be missed. So we booked a van and a dozen or so of us went along, including Jack and Tina.
It was there that we asked Howard, first privately then publicly, to stand for election. He said yes as long as it was on the single issue of cannabis. Just what we wanted.
Jack and Tina had been booked to speak at Free Rob's Cannabis Conference, but Tina said she'd prefer me to take her place. We were actually announced as "Jack and Teeni" - I guess I was Teeni! That did not help. I suggested to Jack that we use the same formula that had been so successful a few years earlier when Will Hutchinson and I addressed the Cambridge Institute of Criminology. Jack agreed – we were to take turns speaking.
I did ten minutes as an opener and passed the microphone to Jack.
Jack said :"OK then, so how many of you think cannabis should be legalised?"
Then a few murmurs. "That's why we're here!", somebody shouted. "Where you at?" said somebody else.
There were only about 30 people in the room but all were waiting for Jack to continue. He didn't. It seemed like he'd frozen up! So I carried on, spoke for about ten minutes, and that was that.
Howard Marks later came on and I asked him if he would stand in Norwich on the single issue, at the next election, and he agreed.
This was to be the start of a new era in my life; again.
MORE THAN ONE SEAT
We decided to let the world know that Howard Marks would stand for election on the single issue of cannabis.
We did this by spreading the news as a 'rumour', asking people to keep it quiet and not tell anyone else.
Within a few days the local newspaper, the Evening News in Norwich, phoned Jack and asked him about the rumour. He said it was true and they wrote an article. That kind of made it official!
The CLCIA was about to contest our first General Election and we decided we could fight both Norwich North and Norwich South as parliamentary candidates could stand in as many constituencies as they liked so long as they had the deposits and nominees. That had apparently been quite common in the 19th century to ensure some people won at least one set. But if a candidate did win more than one seat, they had to take no more than one.
Howard decided to stand in Neath, near his home town in Wales, and Southampton Test, in the General Election of 1997. There were others to organise those constituencies: I would focus on trying to help out in Norwich.
BANNED FROM STALL FOR GIVING AWAY FOOD
Meanwhile, in Norwich, we were about to get into trouble with Norwich City Council for giving away harmless but nutritious hemp seeds from our Information stall in the city centre. We were buying them by the kilo at £1 a time from local shops. We gave away both cooked and flavoured, and untouched seeds along with information on hemp.
Pro-cannabis group banned from city market
Evening News, Norwich
Monday 13 Jan 1997
Pro-cannabis campaigners have been banned from a Norwich market after handing out seeds of the illegal plant. The Campaign to Legalise Cannabis International Association gave the seeds to people visiting an information stall. And Norwich City Council has banned the organisation from the Haymarket after complaints from the public. But the campaign - which plans to contest Norwich's two parliamentary seats at the General Election - is ~ threatening a court injunction against the hiring of any council property by political groups. A spokesman said "The CLCIA considers the refusal to hire the stall would put our candidates at a disadvantage".The row follows a display by the group in December at the Haymarket. Police received 10 complaints about the distribution of seeds. Distributing cannabis seeds is not illegal - the question of legality only arises when they have grown into plants. Helen Selleck, the council's community arts and events officer, said: "We recognise this was not an illegal activity. But they acted outside the terms of their contract. Some complaints suggested seeds were handed out to young people"Norfolk police drugs education officer Richard Price said: "Cannabis seed once grown is an illegal substance".
Several issues arose out of the ban and the press report. I was sad to see Richard Pryce (no relation to Mick) claiming that cannabis was an illegal substance – it was in fact illegal to possess, cultivate or supply. As for Helen Selleck, she was unable to show that we were in breach of contract and we were allowed to use our stall again. But that was after what became our first successful international action – a powerful letter and email campaign from around the world, in our support, to Norwich City Council's Community and Events Office. Helen told me she had been on holiday for a week and came back to hundreds of messages. It also turned out that six of the seven people that had complained were police officers! Upset that we were not breaking the law?
The Council then agreed that we could have our stall back on condition that we gave away only cooked seeds. We agreed as we felt we had no choice and the Information Stall was more important than this particular battle. However, we DID give away uncooked seed – to the pigeons!
The stall was run mostly by Mick Pryce and Mick Fell, bot now deceased, and Mick Brown. The "Three Micks!"
THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF THE HOLY AND SACRED HERB – UCHASH
Jack Girling went on to found his "Universal Church of the Holy and Sacred Herb" (UCHASH) and they organised a session for smoking a chillum in the Cloisters of Norwich Cathedral after several letters were sent to the Bishop asking for a meeting, with no success.
I was not a member of that Church – I am not sure I even understood it – but I supported their Rights. So when I saw on TV that the police had "pounced" on a a circle of people smoking the chillum in the open air, all filmed by Anglia TV, I was outraged.
As the Chillum was passed amidst cries of "Boom Shankar" and "Alli Ali Ganja", the police pounced. They had been hiding behind some of the pillars surrounding the Cathedral cloisters.
The police just took the chillum off one of the people in the circle. It was filled with lavender. Police stopped the religious ceremony to search them all.
Jack had a small piece of cannabis resin in his pocket – for some unknown reason -and was arrested.
I wrote to the Police Complaints Authority (run by police) and eventually received a visit at my house which was stinking of freshly-smoked weed. The one officer said he was not interested in that, just what I had to say. He told me I was the only person in the UK to have complained. I asked if it would remain on record and when he said yes, I dropped my complaint. What was the point if I was the only one.
I helped Jack get his court case together and the Judge even said he could call whosoever he wished, even the Bishop and Dean of Norwich cathedral, and the Home Secretary.
It was the most disappointing court case I ever witnessed. It was, for me, a massive opportunity, but Jack decided that quoting one sentence from the Bible and one sentence from Human Rights, was enough. He presented the Jury with two or three pieces of paper and said "I rest my case". He was convicted unanimously. It was on the day of the anniversary of Human Rights
It was not long after that DISASTER struck.
I was awoken in the early hours with by phone calls first from Tina Smith, Jack's partner, then from Derek Williams, telling me Jack's Yard had been burned down. I watched it on the TV News.
Derek rang back and said he wanted to say that it may have been an arson attack by a group opposed to the CLCIA. I said I wanted to find out more before saying anything. Suddenly Derek was on the news saying we had been attacked.
The Yard and the CLCIA HQ were gone, burned to the ground in a ferocious fire – all that wood, and paper and paint and canisters of gas, they had to spray the nearby houses with water to keep them cool.
After that, the number of new members per week dropped to almost zero. We had nowhere to meet. We had lost many of our records. Jack and Tina, not even insured, were devastated.
I don't know how, but we pushed on. Jack, Tina and volunteers searched the cinders for anything remotely useful – I guess that was there way of handling the trauma. Somebody gave us a caravan and we sat in that for our meets.
The police never convicted anyone for arson – they had caught just one guy caught running away. He claimed that thugs had thrown him onto the roof from the nearby Magdalene Street fly-over, had crashed through the roof to find a fire burning. Personally I never thought it was an organisation behind the fire, but maybe somebody local hated us enough?
It was devastating for Jack and Tina – they had lost their property, their business and their income.
SUE NEAL AND PARADOX DELIGHTS
I rented a shop in St Augustine's Street in Norwich. This was with the help of Sue whom I had met at the Yard. We called it "Paradox Delights" after a Dutch Coffeeshop called "Paradox" which was to try to show the paradox of the law. It was just a small shop with a low rent and we would use it as Election Campaign HQ, sell skins and artwork.
We thought that if we could sell just 100 packets of skins (rolling papers) a week it would cover the rent. It was a struggle, especially when volunteer staff failed to show or in one case turned a blind eye to shoplifters.
To the rear of the shop was a small print works run by Alex; Alex was a great help, then, in helping get our printing done.
There was a friendly café next door, run by several campaign supporters. We had our meetings there – usually 13 of us. I never know why so many of our small local meetings had 13 of us attending? Jack thought that was significant. I think he thought twelve of us, not always the same twelve, were his disciples.
Howard Marks came to Norwich and I remember as if it was yesterday him walking into Paradox Delights. I discovered that in fact I had met him in the late 70's, when he was in Norwich to get his Mr Nice passport. Small world for sure.
I took Howard to several local shops that were supporting us, like Martin Wyatt's "Head in the Clouds" which was one of the very first "head shops" in Britain.
I also took Howard to the caravan in the burnt-out Yard. Everywhere he went people wanted him to sample their crop, tell them it was good. In the evenings Howard wanted to visit pubs and clubs to gather support.
I must say that campaigning was fun although difficult to get many people to help.
I spoke with Howard and we agreed that in an attempt to create and show unity, we would invite Derek Williams to take the role of Election Agent for Howard. I am still not sure that was a good idea as Howard and Derek differed strongly on the tobacco issue but Derek played his part and on one occasion spoke at Hustings in Norwich North.
One evening about ten of us went with Howard to a local night club. I must say that was a new experience for many of us; we weren't all night club people!
We were being followed about, at that time, by several people with cameras that wanted to produce a video record of our campaigning. So the cameras were also on us in the night club.
At one point an attractive young girl came over and said she recognised Howard and wanted to ask some questions. She was very friendly, even shared a joint (smoking was allowed in night clubs in those days, although smoking joints was done discreetly).
JD, one of the founders of the CLCIA, asked her "Are you a policeman?"
"Yes", she said, "but I work in London. I am just up in Norwich for the weekend and off duty. I do support you, but please don't put my face on camera."
JD must have had a good nose for sniffing out police! Ha!
At the University of East Anglia (UEA), Howard gained the support of "Tricky"; everyone cheered him, this was beginning to look like an easy election – if only they all lived locally and were registered to vote. Support on the street whilst handing out fliers, was good too – we had lots of names on our petitions on the Information stalls. Of course there were the occasional negative comments and even verbal abuse – but the range of people that supported us was impressive – even some of the police.
We came across the local Green Party candidate sometimes, whilst we were out campaigning.
Whilst she was for sure sincere, she knew nothing about cannabis – and neither did any of the other candidates, one of whom was Charles Clarke, who won the seat and later became Home Secretary for Labour.
As time went on we became less fearful and more confident in our shop – Paradox Delights – and it became a focal point for the campaign – we put posters in the window; we "came out", decided to let people know why we were there.
The trouble was that we were hardly generating enough money to pay the bills.
Derek Williams was appointed as Howard Mark's election agent, at my suggestion in an attempt to bring unity, although I was the one to hand in the Nomination papers and the £500 deposit demanded from anyone that wants to stand for Parliament. I also spent much of my time taking Howard Marks around when he was in the area. Howard was also contesting two other Constituencies, Neath and Southampton Test and he had to put in an appearance or two, at least, in each. I had plenty of time to get to know Howard: we were similar but different. We had both been born in Wales, come across cannabis at University, recognised its potential, done fairly lengthy prison sentences and written books. Howard liked to indulge in alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, seemingly as much as possible. I had no objection to that. I do think, however, that I have more of a liking for food.
At one Hustings in Norwich South, Derek Williams, from the audience, asked which candidates had smoked cannabis. Of course Howard immediately admitted it, as did Adrian Holmes the Green Party candidate, but the big surprise was Charles Clarke, who said he smoked it in the USA whilst at University. He repeated (and explained) this in press interviews later. He was in fact one of the first UK MP's to admit to having toked cannabis. I did not get on so well when I asked at the next Hustings how many of those that admitted to having smoked cannabis would turn themselves into the police. Only Howard said that he would and, in fact, had.
We went out campaigning on the streets, to the University of East Anglia, Norwich City college, several clubs and bars. I can't say it was easy getting people to come along from Jack's Yard to help us: they preferred, seemingly, to sit around a fire and get stoned.
As a result of all that a film was shown on TV the next year, late at night, and is still available to watch on line. It is called "Howard Makes His Mark" and although showing exactly what was happening in the public eye, I cannot say it put everyone in good light. It even has Howard saying that he did not see eye-to-eye with Derek whom, Howard said ".. seems to have his own agenda."
Buster was a Druid and a friend of Don Barnard and lived in Essex, near Braintree. Although he was not a member of our group, he stood up for hemp and for changing the law. He was greatly involved with saving the trees and said that hemp was a cousin of the trees. He stood for election in Braintree in 1997 on behalf of his New Millennium, New Way Party and seemed to go down well with his eccentric manners of a poet.
A RESULT – OF SORTS?
The day of the election and the "count" came and soon the declarations of the results came.
There were two vote counts, one each for Norwich North and Norwich South, in different locations. Most of us, along with Howard, went to Norwich North where we thought we would get our best result. Derek was there being very optimistic - "I think we've done really well," he told Howard and I.
Candidates are allowed to take a specified number of "Counting Agents" to watch, but not interfere with, the counting of votes. It was, to say the least, boring. Fortunately, we were able to pop out for refreshments and a toke.
Howard gained about the same percentage in each constituency: 1.1 to 1.6%. I thought that was quite good considering it was our first election, but Howard seemed pretty devastated. His percentages in Neath and Southampton were a little lower.
The problem was, we said, that so many of our supporters were either not even registered to vote, or never bothered – and then we had those that supported us but were loyal to other parties. But we had gained some publicity, raised the debate, and spoke to and in front of our two new MP's: in Norwich South, Charles Clarke who later became Home Secretary and in fact the only Home Secretary at the time of writing that ever agreed to meet us; in Norwich North Dr Ian Gibson for Labour, who supported legalisation. 1.6% was enough to do so somewhere in the future.
There was at that time no such thing as "Legalise Cannabis Party" but that is what the press called us - Howard was an independent.