Melissa joined the University of Leicester in 2015 and is a lecturer in the Law School, having obtained her PhD at the University of Manchester. Melissa’s PhD research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Her research explores how the lens of human rights provides a new perspective on drug control and points towards different ways of regulating drug consumption. Currently, Melissa is writing a research monograph with Routledge on this subject. Melissa’s most recent publications centre upon the religious rights of the Rastafari to consume cannabis and on the health rights of medicinal cannabis consumers. Melissa teaches Criminal Law, an Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning, the Criminal Justice System and Criminology on University of Leicester’s undergraduate Law degree programme.
TITLE: Politicising Human Rights as a tool in the UK’s Cannabis Social Club Movement
Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs) are non-profit regulatory models where cannabis is produced and distributed among a closed circuit of adult cannabis users. Originating in Spain, CSCs now operate globally in different socio-political contexts and under different legal regimes. This paper argues that the CSC phenomenon is a bottom-up process arising from grassroots initiatives. Unlike Spain, Uruguay, Belgium and the USA, the UK currently offers no legal space for the operation of CSCs, yet the UKCSC movement is becoming increasingly active. Taking a comparative approach, the paper will consider how informal de facto regulatory systems can embed, facilitating formal de jure drug policy regimes. Exploring the CSC model specifically has broader implications for the regulation of psychedelics and other controlled psychoactives, since the process of bottom up law making has the potential to legitimate and transform drug policies. As well as exploring how contentious collective action by individuals and CSCs can affect change, this paper draws on case law from other jurisdictions. It considers the potential of the UK judiciary to influence drug policies relating to the CSC movement and beyond. The paper recognises the crucial importance of political power in drug policy design and it questions whether common sense ontologies, the experiential knowledge and engagement of cannabis users and their implicit underlying normative values can challenge traditional structures of power. Ultimately, the paper draws lessons from the CSC model to create better drug policy solutions for society as a whole.