Basking in the support of mainstream politicians, leading newspapers and magazines, and other pillars of the establishment, thousands of demonstrators marched through the heart of London on Saturday on behalf of a fashionable political idea that has been a complete non-starter in he United States: legalizing marijuana.
Some of the marchers wore their hair in neon-bright shades of chartreuse, pink and purple, and many lit up hand-rolled “spliffs” - that’s the British version of the American term “joint” - along the way. But the tone was laid-back and orderly; there were no arrests.
The size and the respectability of the march - with a member of Parliament and a nationally prominent editor leading a mile-long serpent of people through the downtown streets - reflects the growing divide between European nations and the United States on the prohibition of marijuana for medical purposes and for recreation.
Over the past 10 years, U.S. drug laws have been made tougher; some states now impose stiff mandatory jail sentences on marijuana offenders. There is no member of Congress who supports legalizing marijuana and minimal media support for the idea.
Europe, meanwhile, has been loosening prohibitions on pot. The Netherlands has legalized possession of amounts up to an ounce; France and some German states have moved to de facto legalization, with users usually given nothing more than a warning by police. Italians passed a referendum calling for legalization, but the highest court voided the vote.