An interesting development has occurred in recent months which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and it hasn’t been pretty. For the past several months there has been a campaign waged against the leader of CLEAR, Peter Reynolds. which has taken the form of a “cyber bullying” campaign. What makes this perhaps even more strange is the fact that I have known quite a few of the people involved for a considerable period because they are people who have been involved in the law reform campaign for years.
I first came across Peter Reynolds about 18 months ago because of a BBC programme being made about medical cannabis. Peter had somehow arranged for “Pinky” (a well-known person on the cannabis scene) to travel to Holland in order to bring back some medically prescribed cannabis (see here). Peter was starting up the ill-fated medical cannabis register, the BMCR, and it’s fair to say I fell out with him at the time – I made no secret of it and it’s all explained in this blog . It’s true to say I was somewhat wary of Peter originally. However, this was to change.
The other group worth mentioning at this point isn’t a campaign group at all, but a website dedicated to growing cannabis: UK420. Given the nature of the site and it’s – er – ‘main reason for being’ it’s always prefered to keep a low profile but recent events have come close to getting it unwanted attention. At one time UK420 had the best activist forum (members only, you have to subscribe to view it). It was a place where everyone met and discussed things and there are some well-known law reform activists there. Like all forums UK420 has its regulars and some have been posting there just about everyday for years. Over time however it became a place dominated by arguments and insults and bickering. The LCA were the first to feel the wrath of UK420 members and for many years the “old guard” of the LCA were treated with derision on UK420, but perhaps not without good reason.
I had split company with the LCA back in 2006. Now I can’t really say this any other way but the LCA were a joke. It was almost as if they had gone out of their way to make the cannabis law reform campaign look daft, presenting the worst image of cannabis users they were the awful “unwashed hippy” stereotype writ large. It had become the the focus of ridicule – not just on UK420 – and it needed to be put out of its misery.
So it was with some interest I noticed that in late 2010 Peter Reynolds pops up in the LCA and is immediately promoted to spokesman. How that came about was down to the “main man” at the LCA, someone who I have known ever since my involvement with the CLCIA. It’s fair to say we have never really hit it off and although we both support cannabis law reform, we seem to do so for totally opposite reasons. Add to this his perhaps unusual characteristic of trusting people he doesn’t know more than those he does made him a difficult person to work with. Again, this all history and for anyone interested in the death throes of the LCA, it’s all here
The really important if very small-town point to all this is that the LCA generated a steady stream of alienated people who often migrated to UK420 where they either became additional objects of ridicule themselves or settled into the community.
Peter Reynolds had already engaged the wrath of UK420 before he appeared on the LCA. All this is really so small-town , given the millions of cannabis users out there, plus the unknown millions of non-users who support some kind of law reform it is little short of stunning how often the same names seem to crop up.
Anyway, Peter had arrived at the LCA like a gale and within a short period of time had stood for election as leader and had taken control. This was possible incidentally because despite existing for over 10 years and claiming to be the main cannabis law reform campaign in the country the LCA only had around 70 members, which perhaps shows how much of a joke it had become.
Peter didn’t waste time, he did what was needed and revamped the LCA into a modern, professional campaign called CLEAR. Frankly, I was impressed and when I was asked to take on the CLEAR website in late summer, I did so willingly. Since then I have got to know Peter as a real person, not as someone on the end of a computer terminal. I do not agree with a lot of Peter’s politics, but then I don’t agree with a lot of people’s politics and that doesn’t stop me working with them in my professional life. We do agree on the sort of law reform campaign that’s needed, the sort of image it needs to convey and the aims and objectives the campaign should have.
For the first time we have, in CLEAR, a cannabis law reform campaign worthy of the name. From the start this seems to have annoyed some people. Very shortly after CLEAR was formed a hate site appeared (Peter Reynolds watch), this was shut down but soon re-appeared. Unknown to the rest of us Peter was getting a constant stream of hate posts for some months. Just before Christmas the ex-main man of the LCA starts a page on Facebook demanding Peter step down from CLEAR.
A strange – and frankly almost suspicious – thing then happened. People who had only months before been at each others throats for years joined forces to dig the dirt on Peter Reynolds. All the usual suspects were there, people well-known from UK420 in particular, but also people who had been ridiculed in tha past on UK420 and even the old guard from the LCA; the very best of enemies united in the single cause of attacking the leader of the most successful cannabis law reform campaign this country had ever seen.
Now it has to be admitted that Peter did give them some free ammunition. Before his involvement in the cannabis law reform movement, he had been a serial blogger and some of his comments were, perhaps, written in a language which some might have considered ill-advised. He discussed thorny issues such as immigration, saying how communities he had known as a kid had changed due to mass immigration, he touched on that hot potato that is the Arab-Israel conflict and more besides. These were his personal blogs and has always claimed they were written to be controversial. They were also known about before he stood for election at the old LCA.
It has to be said that Peter had written a lot of blogs, of which only a handful contained these controversial comments, but what we got was a Facebook campaign against him based on them which claimed to show proof that he was a raging homophobic racist, all run and coordinated by the newly united band of previous enemies who have been joined by others in a campaign which can only be described as obsessive.
Over the months Peter Reynolds has been accused of being:
A Police informer A Homophobe A racist A sex pervert In cahoots with big pharma
And probably a whole wedge of other things besides.
Things first came to a bit of a head on Christmas eve, when I was away from home visiting the rellies for at the festive period. I took a break from the enforced festivities and checked the CLEAR site where I saw that Peter posted a very aggressive comment, when I saw it I phoned him and it was then I discovered the extent of the campaign he’d been enduring for months. He was, it transpired, under a hell of a lot of lot of stress because of it.