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Freedom Leaf Travel: Budless in Britain


In her first dispatch from England, Freedom Leaf’s intrepid world traveler Beth Mann says a good stash is hard to find in Britain.

Pot has always naturally fallen into my lap. I don’t find it; it finds me. But now that I’m living in the United Kingdom for a spell, I’ve been forced to wonder if my marijuana magnetism has run its course, or if most people in England don’t actually partake.

Maybe I’m stereotyping, but they hardly fit the profile. Could the well-mannered and slightly stuffy Brits really be as pot-friendly as my hardcore hippie friends in Colorado or my surfer-stoner posse in California?

Doing some research, I found that “cannabis is widely used throughout the U.K., by people of all ages and from all socio-economic backgrounds.” Thanks, Wikipedia. A good start, but what about the U.K.’s star pot-smokers? Who are their Snoop Doggs or Willie Nelsons? Other than Queen Victoria, who used tincture of cannabis to relieve cramps, there’s Paul McCartney.

England hasn’t progressed much in the legalization department. Like the U.S., it’s kept marijuana woefully stuck in a classification where it doesn’t belong (Class B, along with amphetamines), which has led to hundreds of thousands of arrests over the years.

For a brief period (2004-2009), marijuana was reclassified to Class C (considered less harmful, with no criminal penalties for possession). But the prime minister at the time, Gordon Brown, led a scare campaign against so-called stronger “skunk,” and cannabis was moved back to Class B.

Arrests for cannabis possession in England and Wales have fallen by 46% since 2010. Unfortunately, as in the U.S., there’s a distinct racial disparity among arrestees. A 2014 report by the London School of Economics and the drug-law-reform group Release noted that, in London, blacks caught with cannabis were more than five times likely to face criminal charges than whites.

But a cultural counterforce to prohibition continues to grow. In April 2016, 47% of Brits polled by The Independent favored legalizing the sale of cannabis through licensed shops. Taxation from sales and savings on criminal-justice costs could tally up to £1 billion a year (about $1.24 billion), according to a report from the Adam Smith Institute and Volteface.

The U.K.’s European neighbors continue to make progress on pot. Germany recently legalized for medical purposes, the Netherlands began tolerating cannabis coffeeshops decades ago and Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001.

But in spite of the burgeoning social and political changes regarding cannabis in the U.K., this writer can’t manage to score a nickel bag. Does anyone have Paul McCartney’s number?

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