A group of Australian cannabis activists took to the streets of Sydney in a motorcade of military vehicles to protest the failed War on Drugs and policies that punish drivers who are found to have THC in their system. Known collectively as the Who Are We Hurting? Army, the group of activists staged their protest on 4/20, the global cannabis community’s high holiday. The contingent of military vehicles including a tank traveled by the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, two well-known landmarks in the Australian city that served as the backdrop for a protest on April 20, 2022, that featured cannabis imagery projected on the iconic structures.
The organizers of last year’s 4/20 protest, Alec Zammitt and Will Stolk, have been criminally charged for their actions under a law that bans the projection of commercial images on the Sydney Opera House. The pair are on bail pending prosecution for their actions, which they maintain are a constitutionally protected protest of cannabis prohibition in Australia.
For this year’s demonstration, the group of activists secured a fleet of armored military vehicles to travel throughout Sydney to deliver facts about cannabis directly to Australian news outlets. The protest also aimed to highlight the failures of the cannabis policy in the Australian state of New South Wales, which penalizes drivers who are found to have THC in their system. Under the law, drivers found to have THC in their system are subject to criminal penalties including license suspension or revocation, stiff fines and imprisonment. Zammitt said that the military-style action was designed to highlight the harmful policies of the failed War on Drugs.
“This visual statement aims to highlight the need for a new approach to drug-driving policy, one that prioritizes harm reduction and treatment over punishment and incarceration,” Zammitt said in a statement to the press.
The activists note that a 2019 study by Sydney University’s Lambert Initiative, a research program investigating the medical potential of cannabis, found that while drivers under the influence of high-potency THC products exhibited more lane weaving, other measures showed that intoxicated drivers were somewhat safer. Intoxicated drivers tended “to leave a larger gap between them and the car in front” and showed “no tendency to speed,” according to the research.
“Driving with THC, shouldn’t make you an enemy,” Zammitt added. “Driving laws need change. Cannabis patients deserve equal range.”
The protest was also designed to educate the public about the benefits of cannabis legalization, including enhanced personal freedom and the potential for new sources of revenue for public services that could come with regulating and taxing commercial cannabis production and sales.
“We want to publicize the discussion around cannabis in Australia and ask the government, who would be hurt by an amnesty?” said fellow cannabis activist Stolk. “We also want to educate the Australian taxpayer on the benefits of fully legalizing cannabis in Australia. There is a huge amount of money that will flow into the coffers of the Australian government, for use in healthcare, schools, and roads, from the tax excise that will be taken from legalized cannabis.”
“We also want to highlight the fact that the 75-plus year war on drugs hasn’t worked and has cost the taxpayer billions of dollars fighting a war that cannot and will not ever be won,” Stolk continued.
The cannabis policy reform movement in Australia got a new boost recently when the Legalise Cannabis NSW party elected Jeremy Buckingham as its first member of Parliament. Buckingham, a former Green Party member, said that he will spend much of his time in office advocating for the legalization of cannabis and related policy reforms.
“I am honored to have been elected as the first MP for the Legalise Cannabis NSW party,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to advancing the cause of drug law reform and working towards a more just and equitable society. I look forward to working with my colleagues in parliament and with the broader community to make this vision a reality.”