QEII, the longest reigning monarch in British history has died but her passing also marks a world where Elizabeth’s son, Charles III will be king when cannabis reform becomes reality
Queen Elizabeth II is dead. Long live the King. There are many things that are encapsulated in such a transition of monarchical legacy. When it comes to cannabis, there is a curious arc that transcends the story if not the shift to the next chapter – from Elizabeth to Charles. Namely, the journey from the institution of Prohibition to the beginnings of the end of it.
Here is just one of those connections. The British shaped and controlled the first commercial trade in cannabis (between India and China in the 19th century), not to mention played a hand in its prohibition early in the last century before Elizabeth was even born. But during her lifespan, cannabis was specifically demonized, and on a global basis.
At the time of her death, the transition back is well underway – even in the UK. The second Elizabethan Age will be remembered for many things, including almost certainly, a time when cannabis was outlawed globally.
The Personal is the Political
Like most people, Queen Elizabeth’s passing is personal to me. And part of that feeling is familial. My father too, used the British monarchy as a touchstone, in part because of what he had lost in his native land, and almost certainly because he was educated in an England where Elizabeth grew up too. She was born five years after my father and was a six-year-old when my father landed in the UK, bereft of German citizenship, but educated in one of the country’s top private schools (Bedales). He was a teenager when she became heir apparent to the throne, after the abdication of her uncle.
Beyond this, Philippe was my father’s age, briefly from the same German geography, and also traveled to the UK to be educated at another similar private school, Gordonstoun, founded by an exiled Jew before fighting in WWII.
Beyond this, Elizabeth became queen on my father’s birthday, in 1952. His first wife, my stepmother, the late Eve Arnold OBE, took many pictures of her, starting with her first royal tour – of Jamaica. When we lived in England, during the 1970s, my father wryly educated me about the bloody history of Empire, even as one of the last happy family memories that I have of my family is the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, when he took us to the Thames to watch the fireworks. I was kidnapped out of the country three years later, never to live there again, and stripped of rights to do the same.
By the time Elizabeth died, I had failed to regain British residence rights, but I managed to achieve German citizenship, stripped from my father, and denied to him and many other survivors of the Third Reich who fled (many to the UK), literally since Elizabeth’s ascension to the British throne.
The Queen and Cannabis
Here is another way to look at Elizabeth’s time on the planet.
It encapsulated many things – but one of them was the formal demonization of cannabis. Indeed, the League of Nations put cannabis extract (among other drugs) under international control the year before she was born. The day before she died, the Bermudan government set itself up for a clash with the “Crown” over the legalization of the same.
Cannabis reform is now as inevitable as the transition of the crown from one head to the next. But of course, there are many questions in the room about what steps come next – from Britain and the Commonwealth to global reform.
What Will King Charles III Do About Cannabis? And Does It Really Matter?
There are already plenty of commentaries about the historical implications of the next monarch’s moniker. The first King Charles was beheaded. The second, known as the “fun king” brought back Christmas.
Charles III, when Prince of Wales, infamously made Prince Harry go to drug rehab when he was caught with cannabis as a teenager. And now the UK stands on the brink of cannabis reform. Within the last three years, medical cannabis has become legal via prescription in the UK. In the last year, CBD products have legally gone on sale nationally. A British CBD brand called Trip just raised $12 million after receiving the royal seal of approval by being sold in the Queen’s Windsor shop. The mayor of London has just established the first ever London Drugs Commission to examine the efficacy of British drug laws, including the criminalization of cannabis.
Charles is known for his support of all things green, including homeopathic medicine, not to mention political meddling. It is unlikely that he will lend this royal muscle, no matter how gently muzzled, in supporting the further legalization of cannabis in the UK. It is, however, undoubted that he will be king when full cannabis reform becomes the law of the land (if not the planet).
The Queen’s passing, in other words, is a time of national if not personal mourning and reflection – a time stamp that is publicly recognized as a milestone in global collective personal histories. But that is the thing about endings. They come, just like heirs to the throne, with new beginnings.
Elizabeth II’s tenure on the planet was during a time when Prohibition was not only globally institutionalized, in large part because of British influence, but further seemed like it would never end. Her death, although sad in a nostalgic way for all that we have lost, is also clearly a marker of the beginning of a global transition to a new “golden green” age. Namely one where cannabis the plant, as well as its myriad of uses, is finally restored to legality, and further, on a global basis.
Her son will undoubtedly be king when that happens.
“Fun king,” indeed.