First Draft - 15 May 1999
Marijuana Manifesto is a "working title". I'd prefer something like
"The Cannabis Defence" but a bit snappier...
On no account should anyone be tempted to act as suggested by this document YET. I am not a legal expert and I haven't a clue, at this stage whether what I am proposing could actually work. If I'm wrong, it might actually make your situation worse! I am copying this to various better informed bodies and its final form will no doubt be influenced by their input. They may even take over the project and you'll need to go to their page/s to pursue the matter further. (if so I'll link from this page)
At the moment, this is a tentative proposal only. All suggestions welcome. Harry Stottle
The document proper follows:
The purpose of this document is to state clearly why the Government's insistence on prohibiting our private pleasure is unecessary, illegitimate and an inappropriate issue for the Law to deal with.
Our advice to anyone arrested for using Cannabis is that you should, when asked to comment or make a statement, make only the following response:
"In order to understand and judge my behaviour, you need to read the [this document whatever it's called]".
You should plead "not guilty" to any charges related to the use of cannabis by virtue of the fact that no crime has been committed.
You do not need to deny using or possessing Cannabis. Neither do you need to admit it. You need make no other statements about the case other than the formalities and, at the appropriate time, to insist on exercising your right to a trial by Jury.
As this document (and, if necessary, expert witnesses called to support it) will then form the entire basis of your defence, the court has no choice but to accept it in evidence which means that your fellow citizens on the Jury will get to read it.
Our advice to those citizens is as follows:
The Prohibition of Cannabis is an issue of Liberty.
You may not have known it, but in most Western Democracies, the State cannot deprive anyone of "Liberty", without your consent!(1)
What this means is that when, as a juror, you sit in judgement of your fellow citizens, you have to be convinced not just that an offence defined by statute has been committed, but also that the Statute itself is fair and reasonable. Yes - you can judge the Law itself. (For precedents and further explanation please see The Juror's Handbook In passing you might ask the question - why haven't we been told about these rights and powers as members of the Jury by the judge or courts themselves?)
It is our contention that the Law prohibiting the use of Cannabis is a gross infringement of our civil liberties, a gross excess of the powers of elected governments and a gross injustice to all the victims who have been labelled as criminals by virtue of breaching an illegitimate law.
Cannabis has been defined by irrational legislators as being a dangerous drug. This definition is the entire basis for the law as it now stands. It is why you may be reading this as part of a criminal prosecution.
This allegedly "dangerous drug" has been used continuously by the Human Race for over 5,000 years. During all that time, no case has ever been recorded of a death caused by overdose or allergic reaction to Cannabis. None. Ever! And although many attempts have been made, in the absence of newsworthy deaths, by governments to find evidence of less than mortal clinical damage, the scientific consensus is that even heavy use of the substance does considerably less damage than either Tobacco or Alcohol(2), which, as you know, are both permitted substances. In broad terms, the medical evidence suggests that Cannabis is somewhat less addictive than Coffee and somewhat less toxic than Tea(3).
Even attempts to show that marijuana users cause more traffic accidents have singularly failed. If anything, the evidence suggests that Marijuana users are slightly under-represented in accident statistics - possibly because, unlike alcohol which impairs performance but makes drivers reckless, Cannabis also impairs performance but tends to make drivers more cautious(4). It seems that the worst danger associated with marijuana is that as it affects balance and co-ordination (like alcohol but to a lesser extent) there is an increased risk of accidents in general, the vast majority of which damage the user rather than innocent bystanders.
Prohibition, therefore, can never be justified on the basis of harm caused either to users or to third parties. There has, in short, rarely, if ever, been a LESS dangerous drug than Cannabis. Even Aspirin is vastly more dangerous and kills about 100 people a year(5).
Juries should thus be asking themselves the question: "On what reasonable basis has this substance been branded dangerous and illegal?"
Juries should further consider whether the use of Cannabis, for which the defendant is now on trial, involved anyone else or breached the rights or freedom of action of any other person. If not, then the obvious question is "Why is this a matter of Law at all?"
Isn't it rather odd to find a supposed Criminal behaviour in which there is no victim, or even potential victim, of the alleged crime?
If we commit the crime of theft the victim is the owner of the stolen
If we commit the crime of fraud, the victim is the person or organisation we have defrauded
If we commit the crime of homicide, the victim is dead
If we commit the crime of possessing cannabis, the victim does not exist
At worst - if the substance was indeed harmful - then those accused of the crime would also be the victim. And what sense can it possibly make to have the Law punish the victim for harming themselves? In fact, as Cannabis is so innocuous, there is no victim at all.
Can there possibly be any sensible definition of crime which doesn't require there to be either a victim of that crime or at least a potential victim? (such as exists when you are caught exceeding a speed limit)
And can we be expected to support a Law which criminalises behaviour which does no harm other than breaking the law itself.
Even the tiny minority of abusers of cannabis is - first - a much smaller proportion of the user population than we find with alcohol and - second - MUCH less likely to cause harm to other members of society.
Laws like that are made to be broken and it is the Jury's power and privilege to strike down such laws before they allow governments to exercise excessive and unnecessary control over their citizens. Governments declare that they are our humble Servants. It is the Jury's ultimate duty to ensure that the Servant of the People doesn't get ideas above its station and begin to act as though they were our not so humble Masters.
It is, of course, too late for the hundreds of thousands of cannabis convicts already created by this unjust and irrational law, but it is not too late to prevent further convictions.
We believe that the average juror, when allowed to exercise their freedom of thought in regard to these matters will conclude that the prohibition of Cannabis is without any foundation in science or common sense. Furthermore we believe many jurors will agree that such private behaviour should never in any case be subject to the Law in the first place.
On these two grounds Juries can and, we hope, will freely decide to
refuse to convict any defendant charged with these artificial offences.
1 Jurors Handbook
2 "Marijuana Myths"
3 still looking for reference - anyone know it?
4 "Marijuana Myths"
5 Oh Willow Don't Weep
Drug Deaths in USA