Hi, Tony here. It’s been a while, but this posting at least follows on from the last one from Guy about his bust for a single joint. This song has a very basic theme – marijuana good, prohibition bad. Marijuana is back in the headlines with the arrest and possible jailing for years of a 14 year old Australian boy in Bali. What has really made my blood boil has been the comments from his fellow Australians on news sites, Q&A, etc., to the effect that if he has done the crime, he should do the time; ie it’s perfectly OK if he does six years or more in an Indonesian jail for a stick of pot.
I wrote this song for a competition as part of the 2004 Nimbin Mardi Grass. There were three heats held in the Rainbow Café. The winner was decided by popular acclaim. At the end of my heat the two judges spent at least a quarter of an hour playing back their recording and checking the levels on the applause to try to split me and a Swedish duo. In the end the Swedish duo won out. Later on in the finals, they lost to a local entry, and finished as runners-up. Some months later I made this recording at my friend Kim’s place in the Valley. The set-up was fairly primitive – a Soundblaster gaming sound card and a headset mike, plus an old version of Cubase. This was the first time I had ever recorded on computer myself. It was of course a steep learning curve. I gave the finished song to a few friends, including in Nimbin the following year, but it was never circulated publicly or played on air. Recently, looking for things to add to this blog, I found the disk that had the original files on it, and I was able to remix it to at least get a better balanced result than my first effort.
Both Guy and myself have been involved in campaigning for drug law reform over many years. The first time was in 1986, when the Bjelke-Petersen government introduced the Drugs Misuse Act. It had many draconian provisions, including mandatory life sentences for possession of two grams of cocaine or heroin. As a way of expressing my opposition to this particular piece of tyranny, I stood as an independent candidate in the Queensland state election of 1986. With about twenty supporters as company, including Guy, I was arrested in the Queen St Mall smoking what was actually a dummy joint (comfrey leaf), and became the first person to be charged under the new legislation. The charges were later dropped.
Later on, following the demise of Joh and the Nationals, Wayne Goss’s government started a process of reviewing the drug laws through the CJC (Criminal Justice Commission). In 1993, myself and two of my friends, John Jiggens and Dusan Bojic, started HEMP (Help End Marijuana Prohibition) to campaign for positive changes to the law. We were very active for a period of about four years, with numerous demonstrations, pickets, forums, public meetings, and concerts. Some of the demos were quite large, with over 2,000 people.
The review process in 1993 got off to a promising start with Phil Dickie, the journalist who had so much to do with bringing about the Fitzgerald Royal Commission, in charge of the process. An excellent discussion paper was released in July, followed by a series of well organised and well attended public meetings. Later Phil was replaced with no explanation by Dr David Brereton who authored the final report. Phil’s response to the report was headlined “It’s criminal what they’re not doing”. He referred scathingly to the CJC’s “timid little report”. Clearly Brereton was the right man for the job. In the end some of the worst provisions of the Drugs Misuse Act such as the mandatory life sentences were changed, otherwise it was business as usual.
As a part of HEMP’s campaign I again ran as a candidate in the 1995 state election, along with Guy and two other HEMP members. At a large demo of over 2,000 I was arrested for the second time for smoking a joint in front of Parliament House. The first time is shown in the photo above. As part of his campaign Guy changed his name to Guy Freemarijuana. John and Nigel Quinlan used the same tactic in later election campaigns, including for the Federal senate. The powers that be hated this so much that later the federal government changed the election laws to stop this happening.
Although the campaign lost some of its intensity after ther first four years, people have continued to agitate around Australia on this issue, and stand candidates in elections. In early September I attended a demo in King George Square organised by a group of students etc. who have revived the old name of NORML. HEMP was registered as a federal party in 2004, and Guy and I ran for the senate in Queensland. They don’t make it easy for small parties, changing the rules whenever necessary, and HEMP was later deregistered, but just recently it has again been registered as a federal party.
I could rant endlessly about this issue, but let me just point out one piece of research (p. 114) in the original CJC discussion paper which shows that 10 to 15% of cannabis users are upper white collar workers who make up 1.8% of arrests, 30% of users are lower white collar workers who make up 3.5% of arrests, 25% of users are blue collar workers who make up 14.7% of arrests, unskilled workers make up 5% of users and 19.3% of arrests, unemployed make up 5 to 15% of users and 46.1 % of arrests, and students make up 5 to 15% of users and 7.1% of arrests. In other words if you are part of the upper half or society, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if you are poor, look out.