Image for A Bitter Pill to swallow ...

“I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis, just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates…

If a drug is needed for a valid medicinal purpose though and is being administered safely there should be no question of its legality. And if a drug that is proven to be safe abroad is needed here it should be available.

I agree that the regulation of medicines is a thicket of complexity, bureaucracy and corporate and institutional self interest.

My basic contention is that something that has been found to be safe in a reliable jurisdiction shouldn’t need to be tested again here.”

So reads part of a letter from Prime Minister Tony Abbott to 2GB presenter Alan Jones dated August 23. It has been confirmed by a staff member of the PM’s office.

At that time Tasmania’s own Health Minister Michael Ferguson had publicly stated that he would not support any medical cannabis trials. He has since backflipped, and now apparently supports medical cannabis trials here in Tasmania.

There has still been no progress in federal legislative change, but signs are promising. I won’t be the only one to congratulate government ministers on legislative progress when that happens. A few friends of mine suffering chronic or terminal illnesses, who already benefit from illegal medical cannabis use, will likely join me. This is a clear political move which harms nobody and helps a many people in dire circumstances. It is a surprise to some that it has taken so long, and that a federal Liberal government is the government to do it.

To understand that, the broader political landscape that led to this move is worth commenting on.

There are many movers and shakers to thank for this progress, not just government ministers, Alan Jones and the Haslam family in NSW. Primarily I would thank the HEMP Party, who’s raison d’etre is exactly this legislative reform and future reform related to cannabis.

Also worth thanking are the Sex Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, who had similar policies going into the 2013 federal election. Although there are not currently any elected Sex Party or HEMP Party politicians, they can be thanked for much of the intense lobbying that produced the result so far - including local HEMP Party candidates Matt Owen and John Reeves.

Despairing of legislative change in Tasmania ...

Thanks should also be extended to the Norfolk Island government, where Tasmanian Health Cannabinoids moved to, in order to grow medicinal cannabis legally, despairing of legislative change here in Tasmania.

Beyond the national political machines, there are many individuals who demanded media attention for their plight, including Nicole Cowles, Natalie Daley, Devonport City Council alderman Justine Keay, Tasmanian poppy farmers fearing loss of monopoly and revenue, and many more.

I don’t question the validity of legislative reform regarding medical cannabis. However, I believe activists need to reassess methods of achieving legislative reform, in the light of these new developments – especially myself.

You see, I organised a series of 420 protests last year, from April till June. They were not populous events. The biggest would have had a couple dozen attendees and a handful of speakers. But lack of numbers didn’t faze us, and so we decided to just do it again every Saturday afternoon, until eventually attendance petered out completely.

This past Sunday there was a well-organised rally in Launceston, organised by Tam Laskey, which had approximately 200 attendees. Looking at photos of other protest rallies on the same day across the country; they were not huge either.

In contrast, multiple protest rallies against the federal budget have been well-attended, since the federal budget was proposed in May. I organised the March in May, and with 4 days’ notice had 700 attendees. Since then there has been at least 5 protests rallies against the federal budget in Hobart alone, with perhaps 5-6 thousand non-unique attendees in total– and the federal budget has barely changed.

So if numbers at protest rallies don’t seem to have a noticeable effect on political outcomes, what is needed for political change?

Clearly having an infamous shock-jock on side doesn’t hurt. Business support certainly helps.

Individuals with horrible stories of injustice don’t seem to make much difference. Major political party support doesn’t make much difference either. Perhaps the prime minster has a conscience? Or a will to change at least one thing for the better?

There must have been an overwhelming factor forcing the Liberal Party to be liberal in this matter, when they have been staunchly conservative up till this point (just like the Labor Party and the Greens).

It is the electoral gains of the HEMP Party, the Sex Party, and the LDP. You see, these are progressive right-wing parties. “Right-wing” in the fundamental sense of smaller government and less regulation.

The Liberal Party is in exclusive coalition with the National Party, and are not prepared to countenance the growth of any more right-wing parties like the Palmer United Party. The splintering of the right-wing vote could result in Liberal or National MPs jumping ship, further erosion of Liberal Party votes and at this time, these are political costs the Liberal-National Party coalition cannot bear.

For me personally, I’m wondering whether protest rallies have any relevancy any more in creating political change, and coming from somebody who religiously attends & organises political rallies – this is another bitter pill to swallow.

Ben Peelman is a 2nd-generation violin teacher, event promoter, and political activist currently running for the second time for Hobart City Council. When he’s not stirring the pot he likes to fry croutons. He believes in direct democracy and would prefer every voter be a candidate on the ballot paper.

TT MEDIA HERE ... for Premier Hodgman’s latest statement on medicinal marijuana … and Kim Booth says Premier has broken No Gag Promise on Pay Freeze Bill … and Bunnings, TasTAFE, Emergency Services, ‘Conflict Forests’, Day of Peace, Climate: Sunday Sept 21 MONA, Spring Barn Market, SARRAH, whaling, failing small business, Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC, seadogs, West Papua, Deb Hurley, Le Tour De Norfy Challenge 2014 etc, etc, etc ...