In September Jed Bush responded to Kentucky Senator Ran Paul’s teasing during the CNN Republican presidential debate by admitting he smoked cannabis as a teenager in High School. He then immediately apologised to his mom. That it was a routine contemporary political confession, prompted by social media — it was overwhelmingly the most popular question raised when the broadcaster asked viewers to Facebook/tweet in questions for the candidates — did not stop the #JedKush meme taking off and trending.
My friend Rick Edwards who hosts the BBC 3 fortnightly political talk show for young adults Free Speech also asks his viewers to suggest questions for his guests on the programmes Facebook page. Each time they read the submitted questions the top three most popular include one about drugs. So much so they sometimes have to renege on their policy to respect the viewers priorities just to ensure that the other issues can be aired.
Talking about drugs is a bit like consuming drugs, particularly in the UK; it always happens in the margins not the mainstream.
We thought it was time to change that.
Since Bush’s confession, Canada has become the first country on earth to elect a national leader committed to legislating to legalise and regulate cannabis. Just watch how elegantly he makes the case.
On Monday this week the team joined the Irish Justice Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin in the London School of Economics. His speech advocating decriminalisation of small possession of all drugs in the Republic of Ireland, based on the successful ten year policy experiment in Portugal, will come to seen as a ‘red letter’ day for drug reform in Europe.
Yesterday in Mexico, the country’s criminal chamber declared that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute cannabis for their personal use. The UK think tank Transform actively facilitated this case, adding to their global reputation for excellence in advocacy.
This morning’s New York Times leader paints a trajectory of liberalisation of drugs laws in both Latin and North America that is seemingly unstoppable.
Increasingly one sense’s that next year’s California ballot might be the ‘Berlin Wall’ moment for drug’s forty year Cold War.
It is into this world that VolteFace emerges.
It seems like a fine time to launch and and the right moment to facilitate new conversations, not just about the politics of drugs, but the lifestyles and culture associated with drugs.
Our ambition is to commission lively features, promote intelligent commentary and provide breaking news updates. We want to allow new voices to flourish and fresh perspectives be aired, nurturing new journalistic talent alongside the best current writers. We’ll certainly want to address shibboleths, but we are also in the business of winning hearts and minds. We will be constantly innovative in how we curate our content and engage with our community of readers.
You can expect VolteFace to be illuminating and challenging, you are not being invited into a fortified echo chamber.
We don’t intend to celebrate drug use — that space is occupied already — but to be respectful to drug consumers.
VolteFace will necessarily confront issues that have dogged media coverage of drug consumption for decades — parental fears, taboos and stigmatising, -addiction and health effects — and we will do so confidently and honestly.
People are bound to want to characterise VolteFace, when they do so I hope they class us as liberal, rational, compassionate and, above all, intellectually honest platform.
Here in the UK it can feel like the world is moving on ahead of us, it certainly felt that way for many this week. But take a closer look and can you see the contours changing. We are about to enter into a period of radical transformation of policing and prison reform. The public infrastructure within which drug policy is implemented will create all sorts of new opportunities for change and we will be watchful as they do.
You wouldn’t have launched VolteFace if there was something else like it. It is our fervent hope that we are building a brand you will love to return to and stories you will be inspired to share with your world.