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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘political party

Cameron On Cannabis Part 4

with 144 comments

You can see the previous instalment here: Cameron On Cannabis Part 3

I received a further reply from Mr Cameron’s office.

Click To Enlarge

As a reminder, there are four crucial issues involved:

Mr Cameron, Do You Care?

Mr Cameron said that cannabis is:

1.”incredibly damaging”

2. “very, very toxic”

3. “and leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems”

And then, with regard to medicinal cannabis, he said:

4. “That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.”

These are all inaccurate and false statements. Mr Cameron should correct them immediately.

So I have written to him again.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Since I wrote to you about your Al Jazeera YouTube interview and your statements about cannabis, the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has changed its name to Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR) and registered as a political party.

We are determined to put cannabis back on the political agenda and to expose the misinformation and propaganda that maintains prohibition.  We are a new, energetic team of professionals. We know the media and we know the science.  We are not going to put up with the irrational and scaremongering attitude to this issue which has persisted for so long.

The statements you made about cannabis in your interview were inaccurate and misleading.  That is incontrovertible fact.  You must correct them. You are the prime minister of our nation and you must speak the truth.

In your reply dated 7th March you said that “…the Home Office is best placed to respond…” but you spoke the words and we have determined by Freedom of Information request (Home Office reference CR17931) that you were not advised by the Home Office on this question.  These were your words and yours alone.  Please Mr Cameron, will you now meet with me so that I can explain to you the scientific facts and the awful injustice, particularly to the sick and unwell, as well as the waste of billions in public money that your government’s policies sustain?

It cannot stand that our prime minister can speak untruths without correcting them.  Please deal with this Mr Cameron. This is not going away.  Cannabis is used by millions of British citizens every day, in many cases for the very effective relief of illness. We are reasonable, responsible, respectable citizens and we demand that you give this issue proper attention!

Please meet me Mr Cameron. Authoritative research proves that a tax and regulate regime for cannabis would produce a net £6 billion per annum benefit for Britain and massively reduce all health and social harms.

Most importantly though, please correct the inaccurate and misleading statements you made on YouTube.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds

Many thanks to my commenter, Bob the Wisemaster, who made the FOI request. The full response from the Home Office, disavowing any knowledge of Mr Cameron’s words can be seen here.

What next? More letters to Mr Cameron please. Write to him again. Tell him that he must correct his inaccurate statements. Keep up the pressure!

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The Politics Of Cannabis

with 37 comments

Originally Published In ISMOKE Magazine Issue 1

Cannabis is a political issue.  Make no mistake about it.  The scientific, moral, medical and health arguments have all been won.  What we need to do now is find a way to make change happen.

It’s in the prohibitionists’ interests to keep debating all the ins and outs and going through the evidence because it diverts from the imperative for change. We have to keep repeating the truth.  We have to cut through their deception and scaremongering but above all, we have to demand action.

In the US, they’ve gone way, way past the silly and irrelevant arguments about cannabis being dangerous or harmful. We like to think that we’re smarter, a more mature democracy but so many Brits are still suckers for a Daily Mail scare story. The propaganda and bigotry still prevails here.  In America they simply accept that if you abuse or misuse something it may cause you harm. They rarely even mention the psychosis theory.  Even after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting and the stories of Jared Loughner’s marijuana use, his friends were quick to step forward and say he’d stopped some time ago and actually seemed worse and more unstable without self-medicating on cannabis.  More importantly than that, the US media reported what his friends said rather than hushing it up because it wasn’t sensational enough.

Peter Hitchens, the Mail On Sunday columnist wrote a disgusting rant about the shooting, blaming it all on cannabis and having nothing to do with the truth at all. Now the US media are ridiculing him about Britain’s Reefer Madness.  He really is an example of the very worst in journalism.  The truth means nothing to him.  He is a liar and a mendacious frightener of the vulnerable, the elderly, of children and their parents.  You will be interested to know that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has drawn a line in the sand.  We will no longer let such nonsense go unchallenged.  A formal complaint is being made in the LCA’s name to the Press Complaints Commission.  It will be the first of many.  We will no longer allow the British media to distribute lies without calling them to account.

The War On Prohibition Can Be Won!

Prohibition is fundamentally immoral.  It is nothing less than the unjustified oppression of a section of society.  It is as pernicious and evil as racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of prejudice. It says that, irrespective of facts, evidence, science or justice, just because we disagree with you, we will make your activity illegal. We will criminalise you, imprison you, ruin your career, endanger your family, smear you with unjustified innuendo and suspicion. We will cause you far more harm than the activity you choose ever will.

It is pretty well accepted now, worldwide, that Nixon’s war on drugs can never be won.  It makes Vietnam or Afghanistan look like a little skirmish in some backwater.  It has been responsible for far more death, misery and destruction than any war since Nixon first declared it.  There are still those who cling to its ambitions, like our favourite preppy, baby face minister James Brokenshire   But he is rather like one of those Japanese soldiers, found on some remote Pacific island, thirty years after his Emperor surrendered – still dangerous, still committed to his cause but hopelessly out of touch, in need of re-education, a very, very sad case.

The war on prohibition is now in full flow and this is a campaign that can and must be won.  It is a war that has right and justice and common sense on its side.  It is time that we marshall our forces, determine our strategy, plan our tactics and hold fast to our courage as we advance on the enemy.  I believe that this year or next marijuana will be legalised in at least one state in America.  Once the dam is broken, progress will begin to roll out all over the world.

I believe that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance is the standard around which we should rally.  We are responsible, respectable, reasonable citizens and we need to unite to fight the war on prohibition.

What is vital is that the LCA communicates its messages effectively to the right people. It seems to me that one of, if not the most important audience is members of parliament. They, after all, are the only people who can actually change the law. We therefore have to play their game by their rules.

In the documentary “In Pot We Trust”, Aaron of the Marijuana Policy Project says that one man in short hair and a suit, lobbying congressmen can achieve more than hundreds marching in the street.  I think he’s right.

The LCA must re-launch its campaign.  We must overhaul our image, update the logo and the website.  We must become conscious of our communications, control and deliver our messages with ruthless effect, use all the spin doctor tricks and techniques, just as any other political party or pressure group.

I will put on a suit and tie for the LCA because that’s what is needed to make progress with politicians, through the media and, most importantly, with the great God of public opinion.

I think we also have to consider our name.  Not throw it out for the sake of something new but recognise that “Legalise” is a word that frightens people.  They think it means an uncontrolled free for all, whereas what we argue for is fact and evidence based regulation.  We also need to consider the word cannabis.  People are frightened to have it on their Facebook profile and concerned that it may come up in a Google search when they’re applying for a new job.  We have to consider these things.  I would argue that instead of saying “Legalise Cannabis”, we might say “End Prohibition”.

So we do need to become much more professional about our communications and image. Anything put out in our name needs to be “on message” in every sense of the phrase – look, feel, content, style, etc. Each target audience needs to be addressed on its terms. We need an analysis and a plan for each individual MP and constituency. We need a rota of pro-active media communications. We need to enlist the help of celebrities who support our cause.  This needs to be done consistently and repeatedly. We need a team of people all over the country working together with a plan to succeed.

I also believe that we should re-register as a political party and field candidates in every byelection.  In fact, I would propose that we field the same candidate in every byelection and we build.the campaign and awareness over time.  I don’t expect us to win a seat in parliament but I do expect us to start being taken seriously. I want to see us on Newsnight and on Question Time.  When Debra Bell is asked for a quote or is interviewed about a cannabis story, I want us to be quoted as well and to be on the other side of the TV sofa facing down her mischief and misinformation.

Cannabis is a political issue.  If we get our act together and get serious about the war on prohibition, get serious about achieving results, explain the facts, expose the lies, then we can prevail. We can see the truth revealed.  We can win!

Legalise Cannabis Alliance Votes To Return To Politics

with 7 comments

Last week the LCA announced the result of its membership ballot – that it would re-register as a political party and elect a leader.

Stuart Warwick

Two candidates are standing for the leadership:  Stuart Warwick and myself.  Voting will close on 14th February 2011 and the result will be announced a few days later.

At a meeting last Sunday, a new management committee was formed consisting of:

Don Barnard, PR & Political Liaison
Alun Buffry, Treasurer & Coordinator
Mark Palmer, IT & Media Development
Peter Reynolds, Speaker
Janice Wells, Secretary

Two official spokespersons were appointed:

Chris Baldwin
Stuart Warwick

Alun Buffry, co-founder of the LCA,  said:

“In 2006, LCA members voted to de-register as a political party in the mistaken belief that the Liberal Democrats and Greens would take up the complex issues surrounding the cannabis plant.  Sadly that did not happen.  Now, LCA members have voted to re-register as a political party.  The LCA will once again offer voters a platform to register their discontent over the unjust prosecution of victimless users of cannabis.”

Don Barnard added:

“I am over the moon that the membership has voted to get politically active again. I look forward to raising concerns about the dubious reasons for complete prohibition of the cannabis plant with government and parliamentarians.”


For myself, I am excited to be involved in the management committee and the leadership election.  Whatever the outcome, I will do my utmost to represent the LCA, its members and all cannabis users to the best of my ability.  It is time that the discrimination against millions of British citizens who choose to use cannabis was put back on the political agenda.  No longer can the misinformation and false propaganda put out by government ministers go unchallenged.

The Cannabis Campaign In 2011

with 85 comments

I believe that we can make real progress this year towards ending the prohibition of cannabis.

What we have to do, each and every one of us, individually, is take responsibility.

We have to stop complaining and start campaigning.

However just our cause, however unjust our opposition, no one is going to give us the right to cannabis.  We are going to have to take it.  Take it back from those who took it away from us.

Many of us can point to years and years of fighting for the cause but it is never enough!  We have to keep on. We have to welcome new campaigners and encourage them, not take the view that we’ve seen it all before, done it ourselves and why aren’t we getting the credit?   We have to welcome our fellow citizens to the war against prohibition, support them, bolster their confidence, build them up, not knock them down.

If the millions of people in Britain who use cannabis were to join together and be counted, we could make change happen!  I don’t know whether there are two million of us or ten million.  That’s how widely the estimates vary.  The Home Office used to say six millon use cannabis regularly.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is an outrage to democracy and justice that we are denied legal and properly regulated access to cannabis, whether we use it for medicine, relaxation or spiritual fulfilment.

We don’t all have to be campaigners but we do all have to be counted.  If we want change, we have to be prepared, at least, to sign petitions, to write the occasional letter, to put our heads above the parapet.  It’s so easy nowadays.  It can all be done online in the blink of an eye but more of us need to do it and keep doing it until politicians understand that they can bully us into silence no longer.

One of the problems of the online world, of Facebook, the forums and blogs, is that we’re just preaching to the converted all the time.  We may feel that we’re getting our message across but it’s to the same people over and over again.  When you see the disgusting response that Bob Ainsworth had to his brave initiative just before Christmas, when you see James Brokenshire smugly trotting out his prohibitionist agenda, when you see Cameron and his poodle backtracking on all their enlightened and liberal ideas, then you realise that the forces of darkness are set against us.   The war on drugs, which Brokenshire fights so enthusiastically,  is another Vietnam. It can never be won because it is, in fact, a war on democracy but there will be many casualties along the way.  Brokenshire counts the high level of adulteration of drugs on the street as a measure of success.  This is the sort of thinking that we are up against.  It is perverted.  It is evil.  It denies truth and science and justice.

It denies people in constant pain and suffering access to the medicine that they need.  Even if a doctor has prescribed cannabis, ignorant, professional political oiks who have never done a day’s real work in in their lives, think they know best.  Instead they force people towards expensive pharmaceutical products with horrendous side effects but huge profits for their co-conspirators in the corrupt world of Big Pharma and its self-important regulators.   As was seen so clearly in America in the last century, prohibition is fundamentally immoral and self-defeating yet our cowardly politicians hide behind it, preferring inaction, oppression and lies to the truth.

So I have asked myself, what can we do to break this stranglehold that politicians have on the truth?  How can we counter the crass and appalling propaganda that the Daily Mail puts out?  Why does the media love the story of Debra Bell, the mother who blames cannabis for her delinquent and dishonest son?  Why is the truth about cannabis so rarely told?  Where is the voice of the millions who know the truth?

I return to the divisions there are within our cause.  Just as in California, where the growers sabotaged Proposition 19, so we have our own subversive and destructive elements. We have a breakaway group here, an independent campaigner there.  We have medicinal users who are eloquent and persuasive on their own account but will not work with others.  We have hugely courageous individuals who have campaigned and put their freedom on the line but will not reconcile themselves to co-operation.  We have to cut through this.  We have to unite, to generate a momentum that means we cannot be ignored.

That is why, just before Christmas, I decided to join the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.  I was a member of the original Legalise Cannabis Campaign and I saw how the LCA made strenuous efforts, particularly around the 2005 general election. I believe it was right and effective to put forward our views on the political stage.  This is what we must do again.

The LCA is to re-register as a political party and, in due course, I hope to stand as a parliamentary candidate.  Realistically, I don’t expect to be elected but I do expect to make our voice heard. I expect our opinions and our views to be respected and given proper consideration.  When the Daily Mail or the BBC turns to Debra Bell for comment, I expect them to turn to us as well.  When Mrs Bell is on the TV sofa, I want to be alongside her.  I want the opportunity to speak the truth in the face of propaganda.  If they want to put up eminent professors and doctors as well then I encourage it.  Science and independent reason is on our side.  The intellectual and scientific debate has been won many times over.  Now we must win the political battle and the truth is our strongest weapon.  All we have to do is shine the light on it so that the scare stories, the hysteria and the propaganda shrink back into the shadows.

We will be a single issue party with a commitment to de-register once we have achieved our aims.  I urge you all to join the LCA.  I’m going to do everything I can to make it easier to join. Possibly we need to make it cheaper.  Certainly we need to do everything we can to encourage as many people as possible to stand up and be counted.  We need to be able to accept card payments, operate direct debits.  We need as many as possible to join whether or not they use cannabis. We need to reform the law, regulate supply and distribution and realise the huge benefits as a medicine, as a gentle pleasure and as a new source of billions in tax revenue.  That’s the way forward.  Reform, regulate and realise.

One of the most repulsive images I saw last year was the fat, conceited Simon Heffer chortling into his glass of wine and saying that we need to “get nasty” in the war on drugs.  Well I’ve got news for the pompous, hypocritical boozer and for James Brokenshire and his cronies, nobody’s going to be getting nasty from this side.  We’re just going to tell the truth.  And we’re going to keep on telling the truth until it drowns out their lies.  We’re going to tell the truth again and again and again until we get the right to our drug of choice, to the plant that creates peace not violence, to the plant that heals that doesn’t kill, to the plant that we have a right to use and enjoy as we please.

Was Tony Blair A Force For Good?

with 11 comments

My Non-Appearance On Sunday Morning Live

Since Wednesday the BBC had been in touch every day.  This morning they started calling me and testing my webcam and sound from 8.30am.  They had me sitting at my desk from 9.45am, 15 minutes before the programme started.   I was warned I could be in shot at anytime.  I drank too much coffee.  I did get a little nervous and jittery.  I was desperate for a cigarette even though I gave up six months ago!

Who was that suave, debonair, good looking chap in the crisp white shirt on the background screens?  Yours truly of course, waiting patiently for my big moment, trying not to sneer or laugh too raucously at the ridiculous first discussion on animals.

I had my notes blu-tacked to the window frame right behind my webcam, adjusted so that viewers would never lose deep, seductive eye contact with me.

“We’re coming to you now Peter”

“Stand by”

I fancy I can see Susanna Reid flushing slightly in anticipation of introducing me…

“Uh, sorry Peter, we’re not going to be able to come to you.  Out of time I’m afraid.”

Such are the trials and tribulations of my life!  Suddenly the programme was over.

You'll Get Your Chance, Gorgeous

Turning to far more important things, the dogs and I set off for the hills.  My mobile rang and it was Anna from the BBC, apologising and promising me dinner and a hot night with Susanna all at the corporation’s expense.  “No, sorry, I can’t be bought off.  Call me tomorrow. I’m too busy now.”

On the panel in the studio had been Mary Whitehouse’s successor, frumpy Anne Atkins and the utter jerk, Francis Beckett.   What a prat?  Why would anyone want to listen to his obnoxious, ill considered views, delivered with all the grace of a blind, three legged rhino?

Was Tony Blair a force for good?  This was the question I was supposed to be answering.  The BBC had come to me as a result of this article.  I had, of course, considered my response and this is what I intended to say.

Was Tony Blair A Force For Good?

I do not count myself as a Tony Blair supporter.  I never voted for him.  In fact, at all those elections I deliberately spoiled my ballot papers writing “no suitable candidate” across them.  I am an admirer though.

I think you have to give him credit for a number of things.  He rescued Labour from its madness and turned it into a credible and electable political party.  That was good for democracy.  He finished off the good work that Margaret Thatcher had done on the unions.  He was her true successor.  Now the only nutters that we have left are Tweedledum and Twitterdee from Unite and the mad and bad Bob Crowe from the railways.

You have to give him huge credit for Northern Ireland, for Kosovo and Sierra Leone.  I think he was also responsible for a fundamental change in British politics in that he reconciled caring with competition.  For the first time it was accepted that you could have a social conscience but still believe in business and the free market.

On Iraq, clearly it is a good thing that we got rid of Saddam Hussein although, personally, I think we should have assassinated him.  If there was a moral justification for war,  for shock and awe, then there was for assassination.  Even if we had lost thousands of special forces that would have been better than hundreds of thousands of innocents.  I do think that Blair became carried away with George Bush and that was a mistake.  Bush will be forgotten long before Blair.  He was not of the same calibre.  All he had to offer was the might and power of America.

Fundamentally, what you have to ask is did Tony Blair act in good faith?  I believe he did.  I believe he is an honourable man.  Look backwards from Blair to Thatcher and there’s noone else until Churchill and then Lloyd George.  That is the company in which Tony Blair will be remembered.  He is a great man.

I Was There For You Tone!

The one thing I really don’t understand in this man of vision and intelligence is his conversion to Catholicism.  I can just about accept his Christianity although why a man with his intellect needs organised religion I don’t know.  I really can’t understand why he wants to be allied to the institution that has been responsible for more evil over the last 2000 years than any other.  I think it demeans him.  He has far, far more to offer the world than that stupid old bigot the Pope, for instance.  It seems to me the Catholic Church will benefit far more from him than he will from it.   That’s his business though.

A Fundamental Problem At The BBC

with 3 comments

I am very close to being the BBC’s biggest fan.  It is a remarkable and entirely unique institution.  Somehow it occupies a place between the state and the people which I can find no comparison for.  It would be easy to define it as some sort of socialist idea but it is genuinely independent from the state.  I do, however, have some concerns about its accountability.  I am very concerned about the way it handles complaints.

No Complaints Accepted Here

I have grown up with the BBC and I trust it.  In fact, I think that it’s done a better job of maintaining Britishness and values of integrity, tolerance, fairness and justice than any UK government of any political complexion.  That’s why the curmudgeons in all political parties turn against it.  I think Jeremy Hunt’s recent attacks and comments were particularly poorly judged.  He hasn’t a had a good start in government at all has he?

I made a complaint to the BBC recently and I am very, very unhappy about the way it has been handled.   The subject is not relevant here.  I shall write about it in future but for now it would distract from my point.  I am horrified to discover that the BBC does not handle complaints itself.   They are outsourced to Capita in Belfast which describes itself as “the UK’s leading outsourcing company…at the leading edge of redefining and transforming services to the public.”  For me that needs a huge pinch of salt, a mountain in fact and even then I’m choking on it.

Handling complaints should be at the very heart of an organisation.  It is the essence of your brand.  There is no more important management function.  Contracting them out is an abdication of responsibility.  More than that, it is a complete failure of integrity, a massive mistake.   If an organisation is truly committed to meeting its customers’ needs it must be as close to them as possible.  This irresponsibility strikes at the very heart of everything I value about the BBC.  I am deeply disillusioned.

If this disastrous decision had resulted in a well administered service then that might be some consolation but not a bit of it.  It is dreadful.  Every bit as bad as any horror story you’ve heard about British Gas, BT or yes, even a bank.  This is the British consumer experience at its very worst.

Not What It Used To Be

In sharp contrast to the rest of the BBC’s websites, try making a complaint online.  It’s like something from the very early days of the internet with clumsy, badly aligned fields and an archaic feel.  I almost expect to hear a modem whistling away in the background.  From a complainant’s point of view it’s quite useless.  You don’t get any option to save a copy of your complaint or email it to yourself.  You don’t even get an acknowledgement once you’ve completed it so you’re left with a completely unsatisfactory feeling of uncertainty.  Did they get it or not?  Will I get a reply?  When?

It gets worse.  Complaints are lost.  They don’t get answered at all.  They certainly don’t get answered within the 10 working days promised.  One answer I received was just laughable in its anodyne, crass simplicity.  It was nothing more than an patronising acknowledgement of what I was “unhappy about”.

Useless

I could go on even further but I won’t.  It does get even worse and it becomes embarrassingly so when Capita start to trot out the oldest excuse of all about “system problems”.  It is an excruciatingly bad, defining example of appalling customer service.  I’d say it takes the biscuit.

All this is the inevitable result of outsourcing your complaints procedure.  That aspect of business that should be one of your most important tools.  What’s worse is that Capita are absolutely useless at doing the job.

It is no exaggeration to say that, for me, this rocks the very foundations of everything I believed about the BBC to the very core.  It is not the organisation I thought it was.  I feel betrayed.  I am “disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”.   In fact,  I am very, very, very disgusted of Weymouth, Dorset.