Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) UK Conference

Last month, in my new role as Dir­ector of LEAP Europe, I was invited to do a talk at the SSDP con­fer­ence in Lon­don.  It was great to meet the key SSDP organ­isers, and also share a plat­form with Jason Reed, the co-ordinator of LEAP UK.

The stu­dent act­iv­ists of SSDP are demand­ing that our polit­ical classes instig­ate a mature, fact-based dis­cus­sion about the “war on drugs”.

Sorry to rehash all the well-known art­icles about why this “war” is such a fail­ure on every con­ceiv­able front, but just let me reit­er­ate three key points: pro­hib­i­tion will always fail (as this clas­sic “Yes Min­is­ter” scene depicts), and the reg­u­la­tion and tax­a­tion of recre­ational drugs (in the same way as alco­hol and tobacco) would be good for soci­ety and for the eco­nomy; it would decap­it­ate organ­ised crime and, in some cases, the fund­ing of ter­ror­ism; and it would make the use and pos­sible abuse of recre­ational drugs a health issue rather than a crim­inal matter.

The stu­dents get this — why can’t our politicians?

Jason and I had a warm wel­come from the SSDP. They can see the value of law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­als — police, judges, law­yers, and cus­toms and intel­li­gence officers — using their exper­i­ence to con­trib­ute to the debate. I look for­ward to LEAP work­ing more closely with the SSDP.

And do drop me an email if you would like to help LEAP in Europe.

The Canadian Tour

OK, so I’m a crap blog­ger — but I have to say that my access to the inter­net was severely lim­ited dur­ing my travels across Canada!  And then I had to go back to the UK, then NL.…

Vancouver_posterCanada was great — the first national speak­ing tour organ­ised by the country’s  9/11 groups.  And before you roll your eyes, these are cit­izens’ groups that are call­ing for a new enquiry — in response to a moun­tain of evid­ence from hun­dreds of cred­ible experts around the world, who ques­tion the offi­cial account peddled by the 9/11 Commission. 

Bear­ing in mind how the issue of 9/11 has been used and abused by our dear gov­ern­ments to jus­tify the end­less “war on ter­ror”, the use of tor­ture, the wars in the Middle East and the erosion of our freedoms at home, I think any con­cerned and respons­ible cit­izen should, at the very least, keep an open mind about this issue and do their own research.  Espe­cially as the 9/11 Com­mis­sion was, in the words of its two chairs, Keane and Hamilton, “set up to fail”!

But back to the tour.  Huge thanks go to Patrick, the national organ­iser of the tour, who had the vis­ion and com­mit­ment to pull the whole thing together, as well as sort out all the logist­ics and arrange a con­stant flow of media inter­views for me, of which more below.  And of course to the organ­isers of the events: Eliza­beth, Ruk­shana, Mark, JF, Michael, Adam, Adnan, Graeme, and all the other act­iv­ists — too many to name individually.

I had to fly to Van­couver via Chicago O’Hare, which spooked me to begin with.  I’ve been through that air­port before and it has, in the past, lived up to its well-deserved repu­ta­tion for power-crazed immig­ra­tion officers.  How­ever, I got a real sweetie — we ended up hav­ing an inter­est­ing chat about the nature of demo­cracy, before he cracked a smile and waved me through.  

In com­par­ison, Van­couver air­port is a Zen exper­i­ence — all nat­ive art install­a­tions and water­falls.  As I emerged blink­ing into the late after­noon sun­shine (it was about 3am by my body clock), I was greeted by the Van­couver posse and whisked away in the Truth Bus to food, wine and another radio inter­view

Georgina_photo3I did a series of radio and news­pa­per inter­views the next morn­ing (thanks, Rukshana’s mum for the use of the phone!), before being whisked off on a tour of Van­couver by Ruk­shana and Geor­gina.  The city blew me away with its beauty — moun­tains up close, parks, sea and arty quar­ters.  If it wasn’t so
damned close to the US bor­der, I would be ser­i­ously temp­ted to move
there. 

At the end of the after­noon, I had a fab time being inter­viewed on Van­couver 1410 CFUN driv­e­time radio, before one more tele­phone inter­view and a well-earned glass of cham­pagne at Geor­gina and Darren’s.

After this day of recov­ery, I was then invited onto the Bill Good Show the next morn­ing.  Bill is the grand old man of BC media, and he was a excel­lent inter­viewer.  I had half an hour with him, and the show went out to over a quarter of a mil­lion people.

Vancouver_photo2The meet­ing that night was a great suc­cess — I could feel the energy and interest of the audi­ence as I spoke for 1 1/2 hours, and then had over an hour more of ques­tions.  I think it’s wrong for the media to say people are no longer inter­ested in polit­ics — they’re just not that inter­ested in the estab­lished polit­ical hier­arch­ies and systems.

If I had thought Van­couver lovely, the scenery was even more beau­ti­ful as I took the ferry down the bay to Vic­toria, past small wooded islands.  Of course, that was the moment my cam­era decided to pack up…

I had a lovely couple of days in Vic­toria, pampered by Eliza­beth and Brian, shown the beau­ties of the island and meet­ing a num­ber of act­iv­ists.  I also had the pleas­ure of meet­ing Row­land Mor­gan, (co-author with Ian Hen­shall) of the excel­lent best­seller, “9/11 Revealed”

I’d done a num­ber of inter­views before arriv­ing on the island.  The Vic­toria event was very well atten­ded and I had a stand­ing ova­tion at the end.

Then it was back to Van­couver for another hour-long inter­view on Co-op Radio and a pot luck sup­per with the act­iv­ists, before fly­ing off to Ott­awa for the east­ern leg of the tour.  I arrived at mid­night to be greeted by the lovely Mar­jorie and Cam, who hos­ted me for a couple of nights.  My sleep was all too brief, as I had to get up at 4.30 to make a 6am radio inter­view.

The Ott­awa event was smal­ler (I would say it was an extremely rainy night!), but per­fectly formed.  Des­pite this, the group seemed very enthused about put­ting on future events.

The next day brought a Grey­hound bus ride up to Mon­tréal.  Such moments in life are when you wish you’d put Simon and Gar­funkel on your I-pod.  My 18 hours in Mon­tréal were hec­tic — and we only just made it to the meet­ing on time, what with an excel­lent din­ner and ter­rible traffic.  The meet­ing was really vibrant.  After­wards, when every­one else was head­ing out to party, I had to slink back to my bed for a brief 4 hours sleep, before get­ting a train at 6.30 to Toronto.

Adnan_on_TVI hit the ground run­ning, with a lunch­time inter­view, then a peace demo in the city centre.  Clin­ton and Bush Jr were in town, giv­ing a talk to 5000 of the faith­ful who were flush enough to cough up between $200 and $5000 to hear their bien pensees.  Inde­pend­ent media did a couple of good inter­views with me.  Shame­fully, the Stop the War Toronto group only man­aged to rustle up about 1,000 pro­test­ers out­side the con­fer­ence centre, and then refused to give a plat­form to Split­ting the Sky, a Cana­dian peace act­iv­ist who had attemp­ted to arrest Bush for war crimes when he vis­ited Cal­gary in April, and who had him­self been arres­ted for his pains.  How­ever, some other peace act­iv­ists had some good coverage!

The next day, hav­ing caught up on some sleep at last, I had an excel­lent time at the Toronto uni­ver­sity radio sta­tion, where we had a lively hour-long inter­view, before head­ing off to my event at the university. 

Next stop, Water­loo Uni­ver­sity, where I did a round of inter­views accom­pan­ied by the journ­al­ist and cam­paigner, Bar­rie Zwicker. The format that night changed to an inter­view on stage con­duc­ted by him, which worked really well.  

Spyinggame003The final stop of the tour was Hamilton where, after another all-too-brief night, I had three morn­ing inter­views — 2 on radio, and one recor­ded for the TV even­ing news.  A lovely Lebanese lunch with a group of pro­fess­ors from the uni­ver­sity fol­lowed, and then a much needed chance to sleep it off, before head­ing out to the final gig, organ­ised by Pro­fessor Graeme Mac­Queen and hos­ted by Mohawk Col­lege.  Well, they always say the last one is the best — and I had an amaz­ing even­ing.  Over an hour of talk, fol­low­ing by 1 1/2 hours of ques­tions from an inter­ested and informed audience. 

So a great time in an amaz­ing coun­try.  Thanks once again to all who made this tour such a suc­cess, and good luck with your future plans!