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

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 Montreal.  Such moments in life are when you wish you’d put Simon and Garfunkel on your I-pod.  My 18 hours in Montreal 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!