The first four months have been difficult for the CLEAR cannabis law reform campaign. Actually “difficult” counts as one of those massive understatements, along with “interesting”. At the centre of it all has been the leader, Peter Reynolds.

Without going over too much old ground, Peter took over the near-to-death LCA (Legalise Cannabis Alliance) just about a year ago, this blog covered the emergence of the new campaign at the time and you can see the posts listed under “The campaign” sub-heading, along with the story about the subsequent campaign against Peter Reynolds. I had joined as website editor at the end of the summer and saw first hand what was happening within the CLEAR exec.

Thing is, just when it began to look as if the worst were over, it all exploded again in mid March.

As is perhaps usual there are a lot of claims and counter claims flying around on Facebook and I don’t want to fan either side of the flames, but I will give this partial account of where the campaign is as I see it, and how it got there. It is a partial account, simply because there is an awful lot of dust to settle yet. Also unlike certain people, I’m not going to accuse anyone of anything nor am I going to reveal any information or comments given to me in confidence.

CLEAR had an internal e-mail mailing list for the use of the exec which I’d imposed on the members following the initial problems at the start of the year, the idea was to provide a forum for open debate, the simple rule of which was anything went, it was a total free speech zone. The only condition to that was that anything posted to that list and any subject discussed there was confidential to the committee.

I had a private-life problem to deal with for a while, which meant I didn’t take a very active role in the committee discussions. One such discussion lead to the proposal from two members for a confidence vote in Peter to be tabled at the next exec meeting. However, before this could be properly discussed or agreed those two members decided to tell the world – or at least Facebook – about it.

It was about this time that things turned nasty and I had no option but to pull out of the campaign, so I resigned my position as website editor.

Shortly after that there appears to have been an attempt to hijack the website and for a time control of it was lost. However, this was soon resolved – true ownership was never in doubt and easy to prove – and the site was moved to a new host, whereby it came under a denial of service attack. Apparently this has now been sorted out, probably at some expense, but the site is now back up and seems to be running a lot faster than before.

Once the website was sorted out, Peter Reynolds agreed to ask the membership for a vote of confidence. This was done by e-mail to all the members who had joined before an agreed cut off date. The cut off date had been agreed because there had been a campaign on facebook and youtube to encourage people to join CLEAR with the intention of voting against Peter by one of the people removed from the exec.

A total of four e-mails were sent out to members, the first on April 9th announced the intention of running the vote:

Dear Member,

As you probably know, the website has been damaged and offline at some periods but by the end of today it should be fully restored.

The truth is that CLEAR is now the most effective, successful and popular cannabis campaign that Britain has ever seen.  That means we’re attracting jealous and destructive attention, even from some that are supposed to be on the same side..

More than that, we are now the largest, membership based drug reform group ever in Britain.  There are academic thinktanks, charities, pressure groups and various other bodies involved in campaigning but no other group represents real people, both users and non users, with the mandate that CLEAR has.

Of the 731 pages of written evidence to the Home Affairs select committee drugs inquiry, around a third of all the submissions cite CLEAR evidence.

This is a stupendous achievement of which we can all be very proud.  We have mobilised people who never before would have considered submitting evidence to a parliamentary committee.  We are making change happen.

My leadership has come under sustained attack. There has been a vicious hate campaign of lies, abuse, forgeries and false allegations. Recently, those responsible have also turned on my colleagues, Derek Williams, Jan Wells and Mark Palmer.  These brave individuals fight for truth and justice against jealous, ignoble and cowardly bullies.  They are champions of the cause.

Those who waste their energy on opposing us rather than active campaigning have demonstrated that their real ambition is to hijack CLEAR, just as they tried to hijack our website.

Now is the time for a new leadership mandate.  I am calling for a vote of confidence in me.

The vote will take place in about a fortnight’s time.  It will be administered by Jan Wells, the party secretary and treasurer.  Jan will devise a robust process which will be verifiable and subject to audit by any legitimate outside organisation.  It will ensure that all votes are cast by members and that each member can only vote once.

I stand on my record.  I ask you to compare what CLEAR has achieved in the past year against the record of any other group, and particularly against those who are so eager to attack and criticise me.

I am the best man for the job.  I ask all members to vote, to endorse my leadership and the policies I stand for.  It will not end the hatred and the hypocrisy of those who oppose me but it will mean that we can ignore them and continue our work to end the prohibition of cannabis with renewed strength.

I will write again in the next few days with details of how the vote is to be conducted.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds

On April 17th, the vote was announced in an e-mail to members from Jan, the campaign secretary:

Dear Member
I am writing to you all about the vote of confidence in Peter Reynolds and asking you to send in your vote.

You should all have received an email from Peter explaining why we are calling for this vote, we hope it will reaffirm the mandate Peter was given a year ago when he was voted as leader by the membership of the party, then called the LCA. Peter promised to lead a focused campaign, to register as a political party, to improve the website and to increase membership, he has done all this and more.

He has represented Clear at debates, on radio, locally on the cannabis truth roadshow, spoken at events and conferences,  Clear also published an independent review ‘Taxing the UK Cannabis Market’ which we launched at the House of Commons last September.

He continues to complain whenever we find lies about cannabis; his views were sought by the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the British press.

The website is constantly being improved, we have opened a member’s forum and our membership has grown from 60 to 800, this provides much needed cash. Last year Clear spent £13,000, we began our year with £4,500  which funded the re-branding to Clear, we received £8,500 from donations & memberships and this has been spent running our focused campaign. We have had some very generous donations. Thank you all.

We have had some problems, all with people, yes, it is politics!  It began with old LCA who missed the old site and old ways, but that grew into a focused campaign of harassment, which dug into anything they could find to make Peter look bad. It is a sorry saga of exaggeration and misinformation, much is online. The results are lost members, some of whom were on our admin team, some feel Peter has lost too much credibility because of the lies and misinformation; they chose to believe the people who want Clear to fail. Even with these departures Clear has continued to grow, with plenty of new members joining the party.

Peter has the support of the remaining admin team, Mark, Myself and newly appointed Dan Ford, who has been doing such good work with the comment warriors. We believe Peter has the drive and passion that are essential if we are to make a difference in the modern world of campaigning, his record is Clear,  his private opinions are just that, private, they are not Clear’s. We will continue to focus on the real campaign issues, and do whatever it takes to end prohibition.

We have decided that email is the fastest most secure method to run the vote, every member has a unique email address, so one vote per member.

I want you to reply to this email at confidence@clear-uk.org   with your vote, all votes must be received by midnight – April 24th

To make it easy all you have to do is hit reply and write yes or no, then send it back, your vote is important!

1) Yes I have confidence in our present leadership.

Or

2) No, I believe there should be a leadership election.

all the best

Jan – Clear Secretary

This post contained an error with the e-mail address in the body of the text – although the reply-to worked correctly, so another mail was sent out later that night to correct the mistake:

Dear member

The original email contained an error. The return address is

confidence@clear-uk.org

Please reply to that address to cast you vote

[The call to vote mail (with the corrected address) was repeated following this correction]

Peter Reynolds sent a further mail to members on 19th April

Dear Member,

Why I Deserve Your Vote Of Confidence

If you have already voted, then thank you.

If you haven’t, then I am writing to encourage you to do so, whether or not you’re voting for me!

The party needs to speak with a CLEAR voice, so the more members who vote the better.

If you haven’t voted, you can do so by simply replying to this email.  The votes don’t come to me, they go directly to Jan Wells, the party treasurer and secretary.  She is checking each one for valid membership and duplication.

Naturally, I think I deserve your vote.  I believe I am the right man for the job.  I get results.

I invite you to compare my record with that of any other cannabis campaigner.  No one works harder or achieves more in the war against prohibition.  Under my leadership, CLEAR has become the largest, membership-based, drug reform group Britain has ever seen.  We have put the cannabis issue back on the agenda as never before.  Our campaign is professional, evidence-based and tightly focused  We are being taken seriously.  We are no longer regarded in the same light as the Monster Raving Loony party.

We have commissioned the most up to date, independent, expert research on cannabis in Britain.  We have forced the media to stop publishing lies and misinformation about cannabis.  We have taken our campaign right into the Houses of Parliament and we dominate the evidence in the HASC drugs inquiry.

I stand on my record.  Inevitably, I have ruffled feathers and upset some people but I am not here to make friends.  CLEAR is not a cannabis users social club. it is a serious campaign for change. If I had known the abuse and harassment I would be subject to, I would never have started along this path but now I am here I owe a duty to those who have placed their trust in me.

I really don’t know anyone else who is capable of doing the job that I do. Believe me, I’m very interested in finding the right person to succeed me. I would love to find someone to share my workload who has the ability, brains and drive to get on with it and eventually take over.

So please vote!  Have your say!  Speak loud, proud and CLEAR!

Yes I have confidence in our present leadership.

or

No, I believe there should be a leadership election.

Hit reply or email confidence@clear-uk.org and say “Yes” or “No” – all votes must be received by midnight – April 24th.

Thank you for reading.

Peter Reynolds

On 24th April the votes were added up and the result was a new mandate for Peter Reynolds:

For: 236 votes

Against: 101 votes

Total Votes: 337

Turnout 42%

Which gives Peter Reynolds a mandate of 70% of those who voted. It is true that the turnout could have been higher, but that’s the nature of voting. It’s also true that several people complained via facebook that they didn’t get a vote, yet they seemed aware of the election. All I can say with certainty is my vote arrived.

Now of course this result caused a howl of protest from the “fan club” – including a blog by Sarah McCulloch which compared this vote to those held in Zimbabwe, but frankly as far as I’m concerned Peter Reynolds now has a mandate to continue.

Two things come out of all this though. First is he has no skeletons in his cupboard now. Whether or not you agree with his take on the world or any other aspect of Peter Reynolds, he can quite openly talk about his past in a way many of us would perhaps be reluctant to do.

The second is that CLEAR is not a part of the crowd that likes to think of itself as “the cannabis community”, who are perhaps better called “cannabis evangelists”. This is an interesting development, simply because being associated with the stereotypical stoner image is something CLEAR didn’t actually want.

There is more to tell, but it’s best left unsaid for the time being and perhaps for ever. Just how much damage all this has caused to CLEAR only time will tell, but the wheels are still on the wagon, and it’s still rolling along.