Newsbrief: Local Authorities Trying to Ban Million Marijuana March in London Neighborhood 3/11/05

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/378/brixton.shtml

The 7th Annual Cannabis March and Festival in the London neighborhood of Brixton, scheduled as part of global Million Marijuana March activities, is in danger of being banned by local authorities, according to the Brixton Cannabis Coalition. But in a sign of disintegration in the local cannabis reform movement, the former organizers of the march, known as the Cannabis Coalition (UK), have disavowed any connection with the event and questioned its current direction.

On February 23, the council in Lambeth, the London borough that includes Brixton, sought to ban the annual event, citing citizen complaints and drug dealing. In a statement issued that day, the council said that while it supported freedom of speech, "the council cannot condone illegal activities such as cannabis use and drug pushing -- both of which have taken place at previous festivals held by the Cannabis Coalition... When the festival has taken place before we have received numerous complaints from local people who have been harassed by drug dealers and we have received many reports of people taking drugs... We do not feel confident that the Cannabis Coalition will be able to prevent such incidents occurring again," the Lambeth council noted. "We have a duty to ensure that any event taking place in the borough is not being used to support illegal activity -- which drug dealing and drug use clearly is."

But it is not the Cannabis Coalition organizing this year's event. That coalition disintegrated over "unresolved disputes regarding the organization of the march," according to a statement posted on the Cannabis Coalition web site. Furthermore, the defunct group noted cryptically, "there has been growing concern about the direction both the march and the festival have been heading." And what is more, "the Brixton Cannabis Coalition was never part of the Cannabis Coalition and seems to mainly represent the interests of the Green Party Drugs Group, which is based in Brixton. It most certainly does not represent the interests of the cannabis movement as a whole."

Be that as it may, the Brixton Cannabis Coalition is fighting to overturn the council's decision and is accusing the council and the Lambeth executive of failing to follow normal procedures in deciding whether the march can take place in Brixton, a progressive mixed neighborhood of West Indian immigrants and urban ravers. "The Brixton Cannabis Coalition regrets the decision supported by the Lambeth Executive to ignore the agreed public events policy and try to ban the Cannabis March and Festival on Saturday 7th May because of cannabis dealers at last years festival," the Brixton coalition complained.

The council has taken the March and Festival to court over alleged minor violations twice in the last six years without managing to win a case, the coalition noted. Accusing the Lambeth council of making "a political football" of the march, the Brixton Cannabis Coalition noted that last year's event attracted only four public complaints, while it was enjoyed by thousands of people.

Claiming to be part of Brixton's progressive and diverse population, the coalition invited the council "to work with us and the police to overcome these issues. However if they refuse and simply try to prohibit the March and Festival then we accuse the Executive of being intolerant of diversity. We note the media's reaction to the Council's ban has already increased the size of the march. Presumably people will want to do something after the march. The question for the Executive is do they want it done licensed or unlicensed. A bit like the sale of cannabis really."

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Issue #378 -- 3/11/05

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