Perfect Sound Forever


Surplus Festival 2016 in WalesKozfest 2017 in England

Prospects of Legalization
& How It Affects Festivals & the Music Biz
Article and photos by Jack Gold-Molina
(December 2017)

According to Simon Booth, in his 2007 article "Inspirational Variations? Culture and Leadership in England," there is a general belief in England that people should be able to do what they want as long as others aren't adversely affected. "There is a streak of individualism to be found," he wrote. "To some, this can be explained by simple characteristics such as the fact that being an island there has been an emphasis on self-reliance. Others would suggest that an explanation can best be found in the legal system and the long tradition of liberalism going back to the Bill of Rights in 1688, which has provided a degree of personal liberty not found elsewhere. At the same time, it would be equally true to say that there is also an acceptance of community values that governments have attempted to support in a variety of ways."

This is in contrast to American culture, which can be traced back to about 1580 during the Colonial era, and is originally derived from the pursuit of commerce. According to Michael Hoppe and Rabi Bhaghat, in their 2007 article "Leadership in the United States of America: The Leader as Cultural Hero," this era saw the development of a group of independent settlements and small-scale enterprises created initially by men and women who were escaping religious intolerance, or who were seeking adventure or wealth. The people in these settlements were primarily concerned with producing goods that would be sent to their home countries of England, France, or Spain.

American culture is rooted in the belief that the individual has the right to pursue his or her happiness. There is the obligation and expectation to take care of oneself, and to distinguish oneself through one's own personal achievements. Hoppe and Bhagat wrote that the United States is "celebrated for its technological advances and admired or loathed for its political or military might... Moreover, its cultural, economic, and military imprint is felt throughout the world. Its influence is mostly welcomed, but often also strongly resisted."

An example of the individualism of the British, according to Booth, is in their attitude toward obeying the law when comes to matters of conscience. A survey done in 1995 found that 36% would obey the law even if it clearly went against their conscience, whereas 57% would actually follow their conscience rather than obey the law. Another important example of individualism in the United Kingdom is the changing attitudes toward some "soft drugs" and the legalization of cannabis. According to Booth, from the period of 1983 to 1995, those wishing to keep cannabis illegal declined from 78% to 58%, while those wishing for a change in the law had risen from 12% to 31%. These results indicated "growing support for the right of the individual to make choices in this area."

It is common knowledge that the use of cannabis is prevalent in artistic and musical communities. The successful legalization of marijuana in many states in the U.S. has been spearheaded by artists, musicians and activists. Those who suffer from chronic, often debilitating pain and/or illness now have the freedom of using medical and recreational grade marijuana products or simply smoking pot as an effective alternative to prescription medications. This has made things significantly easier for many artists/musicians to perform at their full creative potential, and to lead healthier lifestyles.

With respect to the research, the views and attitudes of organizers, artists and attendees toward getting involved with independent music festivals in the United Kingdom and the United States are quite different. Since the days of The Summer of Love, Woodstock, and the early free festivals in the UK and Europe, the culture has been forced to change because of money, hostilities toward organizers, artists and attendees, and the sociopolitical landscape. While many independent festivals in the UK and Europe have managed to carry on the ethos of the early free festivals, in the U.S., commerce is largely still king, and it shows in the competitive attitudes of the promoters and musicians trying to maintain their bottom line. While there are exceptions Seaprog, Northwest Psych Fest and the Ballard Jazz Festival in Seattle, for example, all imbibe a strong sense of community the quote made famous at Woodstock in 1969 was, "It's a free concert FROM NOW ON." To be fair, Isle of Wight 1970 wasn't made free until attendees tore down the fences and the organizers had no other choice. Also, most large festivals today simply don't reflect the same ethos that the smaller ones do, regardless of location or musical genre.

The following table reflects the current contrasting views and attitudes in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Views and attitudes toward music festivals in the United Kingdom versus the United States
United Kingdom United States
People care about each other and value their relationships; there is a deep sense of tribe and respect for the land. Very competitive; people are typically concerned with business, money, and immediate gratification.
Cultivating of peace and love toward one another; people go out of their way to help others, even people they don't know; people make efforts to get to know each other and become friends. People typically avoid helping others unless there is something in it for them; people form cliques and treat outsiders badly.
Rich, extensive artistic and musical history and folklore dating back more than 40,000 years; history is considered important and is highly valued; deep respect for heritage their own as well as that of other cultures. Minimal folklore; musical history is mostly associated with 20th and 21st century mainstream blues, jazz, rock, and pop music which are primarily driven by commercial interests; immediate gratification is more important to people than heritage or understanding history.
Musical and artistic talent and creativity are highly valued and respected; artists and musicians feel like they are contributing toward making other people's live better a lesson learned through resilience and years of hard work. Music is viewed as a cutthroat business to please crowds and get people to buy tickets, alcohol, and merchandise; self-proclaimed "artists" and "musicians" work hard to try to sell themselves often at the expense of others.
Strict adherence to ordinances regarding proper permits, licenses, and safety. While adherence is a requirement, history has demonstrated carelessness and a lack of regard for safety with deadly consequences.
Social usage of alcohol, attendees drink responsibly and look out for each other; responsible recreational use of cannabis, which is valued for its natural healing properties; festival sites are kept clean throughout the events, attendees "leave no trace" behind when events have ended. Hard drinking, hostile behavior and intimidation; rampant illicit drug use and drug dealing; potential for gun violence, which leads to death; inappropriate sexual behavior; attendees typically don't take responsibility for keeping festival sites clean, sites resemble disaster areas after events have ended.

In March 2016, Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, requested a motion in the British House of Commons to introduce a bill to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 "to provide for the lawful production, packaging, marketing, sale, purchase, possession and consumption of herbal cannabis in specific circumstances by certain persons." According to Lamb, since former President of the United States Richard Nixon launched his "war on drugs" in 1971, billions of dollars each year have gone to organized crime, profits from the drug trade have funded terrorism, thousands of people have lost their lives, and thousands of people every year are criminalized for drug use. Lamb stated, "No criminal is interested in people's welfare. When someone chooses to buy cannabis, they have no idea what they are buying or how potent the product is. Any idea that we can protect people by keeping it illegal is fanciful. No one now believes we can win the war on drugs, so a public policy intended to protect people from harm is achieving precisely the opposite. Many people with mentally ill health resort to cannabis as a relief from the pain they suffer, and then we criminalize them. We criminalize multiple sclerosis sufferers and many others who use cannabis to relieve pain. There is real hypocrisy here."

Britain's Liberal Democrat party commissioned a panel of independent experts to advise on a rational approach to legalization. The report was published on March 8, 2016, and the bill that Lamb was requesting to introduce sought to implement its approach. The preliminary goal of the proposed framework was that of "protecting and enhancing public health and community safety, with a particular focus on the health and well-being of vulnerable and marginalized groups." The report also stated that the expectation is that sales could raise up to 1 billion in tax revenue.

Under the current laws in the United Kingdom, all forms of cannabis are illegal and anyone using the drug could be charged with possession. Tens of thousands of people who smoke marijuana do it simply to "take the edge off" of their chronic pain and to relieve other symptoms. According to Michael Barnes M.D. and Jennifer Barnes DPsychol, in their 2016 report entitled "Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use," up to 46% of the population in the UK experiences chronic pain, and severe pain occurs in about 11% of adults and 8% of children. Severe chronic pain adversely affects many aspects of people's lives, including employment, relationships, daily activities, mood, sleep, and general health and well-being.

People are in dire need of alternative medications, particularly to replace opioids for treating pain. Opioids are extremely addictive and because of their side effects, can make people horribly ill and even cause death, particularly when mixed with other drugs or alcohol. For example, prescription painkiller tramadol is an opiate that was linked to the deaths of 33 people in Northern Ireland in 2015. State Pathologist for NI Jack Crane, according to a 2016 ITV News report, stated that people don't realize how potentially risky taking it is. Because it is a prescription drug, people automatically assume that it is safe. For those whose pain is too great and they are forced to rely on prescription opioid pills or patches, smoking street grade pot could, even as a substitution, cause an overdose, and medical grade marijuana is not available to them.

Cannabis has been used in the treatment of pain for centuries. Many states in the U.S. recognize its medical benefits, and currently, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana specifically for medical use. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized adult-use recreational marijuana. The active ingredients in medical marijuana strains, THC, cannabinol (CBN), and cannabidiol (CBD), are commonly used to treat cancer, chronic pain, depression, joint pain, and multiple sclerosis. This is only a partial list.

Shalom H. Schwartz and colleagues, in their research on the nature of human values that was published between 1990-1994, wrote that cultural value dimensions reflect core solutions that emerge as nations attempt to cope with societal problems. Such problems include the following:

At one pole of these cultural value dimensions was conservativism, which Schwartz defined as, "those values likely to be important in societies based on close-knit harmonious relations, in which the interests of the person are not viewed as distinct from those of the group. All of these values emphasize maintenance of the status quo, propriety, and avoidance of actions or inclinations of individuals that might disturb the traditional order... Cultures that emphasize conservativism values are primarily concerned with security, conformity, and tradition."

At the other end of these dimensions were values that related to "intellectual and affective autonomy," which Schwartz defined as, "those values likely to be important in societies that view the person as an autonomous entity entitled to pursue his or her individual interests and desires. Two related aspects of autonomy appear to be distinguishable: a more intellectual emphasis on self-direction and a more affective emphasis on stimulation and hedonism."

It is inevitable that people will smoke marijuana as long as it is available, regardless of what the laws are. The current laws in the UK do, however, block medical research into the health benefits of cannabis. In the pursuit of art, music, or simply general well-being, the presence of extreme pain is a hindrance. While people continue to seek alternatives to prescription medications, whether it be marijuana, physical therapy, or simply enduring pain or illness for as long as possible, the fight continues in the courts to legalize marijuana. Legalization hasn't deterred crime in the U.S., and there is the reality that extreme usage and abuse can cause irreversible brain damage. The questions that we need to ask seem to be: how willing are we to lead healthy lives, and how do we achieve those ends?

Barnes, M. & Barnes, J. (2016). Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use.
Booth, S. (2007). Inspirational Variations? Culture and Leadership in England.
Clay, R. (2013). That's just rude: Psychologists are finding that boorish behavior can have a lasting effect on well-being.
Hoppe, M.H. & Bhagat, R.S. (2007). Leadership in the United States of America: The Leader as Cultural Hero.
ITV News (2016). Tramadol: Risks and Addiction.
Lamb, N. (2016). Cannabis (Legalisation and Regulation).
Porath, C. & Pearson, C. (2013). The Price of Incivility. (2017). 29 Legal Marijuana States and DC: Laws, Fees and Possession Limits.
Roberts, M. (2016). MPs call for medical cannabis to be made legal.
United Patients Group (2014). THC, THCA, CBD, CBC, CBN: Medical Marijuana Composition, The Chemicals in Cannabis.
Wallace, A. (2017). Colorado bill allowing medical marijuana for PTSD sails through Senate.

Also see related articles on Early Music Festivals in the United Kingdom series and Later Music Festivals in the United Kingdom

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