Rosie Boycott

The Editor

Independent On Sunday

31 March 1998

Dear Rosie,


Thank you and congratulations for organising the March. We were a trifle concerned when, by 11.30 there were still only a few hundred in the park, but the numbers swelled and 16,000, in the circumstances, was a pretty respectable turnout.

What circumstances? Well the fact that yours was the only paper pushing the idea; the fact that no other media (at least none we outside London were exposed to) even mentioned it, either before or after the event (presumably for fear of appearing to support it); the fact that, quite reasonably, even your own paper didn't push it too hard for fear of a major flop; and the fact that you only announced it yourselves a couple of months back.

In the light of all that we thought 16,000 was a pretty good 'first' showing.

What next? No doubt you'll be flooded with suggestions but here are our two pennorth...

We have to accept that this is going to be a long campaign. 16,000 marchers won't even make them acknowledge our existence. We have to start planning the next one Now and be prepared to make it an annual event (at least) until we win the battle. In the light of that, here are 10 proposals for consideration.

1 Lets have an announcement in the next week or two that next year's march will take place on (May Day?) Let us declare, now, that it will be repeated every year until the law is changed.

2 If you haven't already established one, lets set up a trust funded campaign committee whose sole aim is to promote the campaign and to whom funding can be channelled.

3 Lets begin raising the necessary funds to fight this issue on all fronts. The trust can invite subscriptions, donations, covenants etc. Amongst other things, the funds should be used to mount legal challenges through all appropriate channels; to promote public debate; to set up a defence fund for those prosecuted for breaching the law and to lay the groundwork for all future public events be they marches, occupations or whatever.

4 Let us establish a target turnout for next year's march of no less than 10 times this year's.

5 In addition to any others designed for general publicity and fundraising, we should create a specific badge to be bought, for say a £1 or £2 donation, only by those who intend to commit themselves to going on the next march. We can then make a point of publishing the growing number each week and not only maximise the publicity and our own confidence, but also have a reasonable verifiable measure of participation. (We could even collect the badges on the day as proof) Not only would this help the organisers plan the event but the, hopefully, large numbers would pressurise the other media into covering the campaign. Let them try to explain their avoidance of the issue when we exceed the 'Countryside' march!

6 Let us organise a formal petition with a target of 1 million signatures.

7 If we achieve the sale of the 160,000 march badges and the petition, the march should begin, as it did this year, in Hyde Park, but should end at the gates of Downing Street where a delegation should demand entrance to present the petition.

8 Serious consideration should be given to how far we can or should advocate public flouting of the law in pursuit of the campaign. Our own view is that there are many honourable precedents for this in this century alone, from the Suffragettes to the Ramblers, who have justifiably breached unreasonable laws in order to highlight their cases. Our case - as a straightforward Civil Liberties issue - is no less justifiable, nor are those tactics in support of our case. However, we accept that the position of your Newspaper is a trifle more delicate than the average cannabis user and that you may find it too controversial actually to advocate breaking of the law. This might be one of the major benefits of setting up a trust to take on the lead role. (And also why it would probably have to be a trust rather than a charity) The IOS could then merely 'report' its recommendations and thus distance itself from such controversy.

9 When and if that strategy is agreed, obvious contenders for public flouting of the law are those events where it is likely to take place anyway. Music Festivals and the Notting Hill Carnival are major examples.

10 Speaking as previous non IOS readers, we now buy your paper simply and entirely because you've had the guts to take this stand. Obviously you can't make this point yourselves, but I'm sure you won't object to publishing what we have to say about it to your other readers.


We strongly appeal to all other supporters of this campaign to make a point of seeking out and persuading all the Cannabis users they know, who do not already buy this newspaper, to commit themselves to supporting the Independent On Sunday. This is one of the easiest ways in which supporters can promote the campaign.

They have taken a brave stand and, in doing so, they have dramatically increased our chances of success. They deserve our support and it makes damn good tactical sense on the part of us 'heads' to make sure that they flourish and remain in a strong enough position to continue fronting the battle. Seeing their circulation increase to a million or more would itself send a powerful message.

Perhaps, as part of the general fundraising effort, the IOS could consider a special Cannabis related subscription which could be the normal rate plus an optional variable amount which would be passed directly to the Trust.

Finally, as part of our own attempts at spreading support for both the campaign and the IOS, we are sending this open letter to as many cannabis related web sites as we can find in the hope that we can all agree to focus our efforts on the IOS campaign as that which offers the best hope of success, at least here in the UK.

Rosie, thank you again.

Yours in peace

Mr and Mrs Harry Stottle