Over the past 18 months or so CLEAR – and in particular its leader, Peter Reynolds – has been the focus of a particularly nasty campaign dedicated to undermining the work of CLEAR. Central to this campaign is a particularly vile website called “Peter Reynolds Watch” (PRW) – if you’re really curious you can see the site here.

The site accuses Peter Reynolds of all sorts of evil traits – especially of being an anti Semitic homophobic racist, although it seems to have deleted all the posts which used to make the allegations of homophobia and racism, along with various other claims of moral dodgyness. probably because they were carried by this site before it was founded in late 2012. Yes, PRW has been going quite a but longer than it admits to.

Anyway, the point of all this is to highlight the latest post from James Collins  on PRW- James is a regular contributor to both PRW and NORML UK – and it’s interesting to contrast it with the last post he made to NORML UK.

The latest PRW post is entitled “CLEAR wants you to go to prison” Posted on September 16, 2013. (here)

This is a “report” about a recent bit of direct action campaigning carried out by CLEAR and organised by Peter Reynolds. What actually happened was a medicinal cannabis user arranged for a prescription written by his GP, arrangements were made to collect  a supply of Bedrocan (pharmaceutical grade herbal cannabis) from Holland, which the medicinal user went over to collect. On return to this country the cannabis was declared at red channel in customs and all the paperwork was presented. The result of this was that after some delay the customs waved the supply through, meaning it was imported legally. That is not open to doubt, it was passed by UK customs, it was legally imported.

Now, let’s make something clear, there is still a problem with the misuse of drugs Act which makes cannabis illegal to possess, so the person could still face possession charges, something the person is and always has been fully aware of. However, given the cannabis was imported legally on the advice of a doctor it would be most unlikely a possession charge would produce much more than a discharge. At all times the person concerned did his/her best to comply with the law, the economics of the deal rule out any profit motive from dealing, so no supply charge could be brought or would stick.

The PWR account of this is, as might be expected, hysterically inaccurate

CLEAR has recently announced a new means by which, they claim, citizens of the United Kingdom can now legally obtain cannabis medicine with a prescription.  The end has come.  Prohibition is over and Peter Reynolds is solely responsible.  Everyone rejoice!!

and

Sounds like a bottle of snake oil to me.  Even CLEAR says it isn’t 100%, although they seem hesitant to admit that the consequences of failure could be a serious criminal charge for attempting to smuggle contraband through customs.

Except of course, that is exactly what didn’t happen, the goods were declared at customs, not smuggled through. It is that which makes this special and not,er, “a bottle of snake oil”.

In fact CLEAR has claimed, correctly, that cannabis on prescription was legally imported into the UK. It does therefore represent a significant development.  James Collins calls this a “loophole”, which is in fact another way of saying “a legal way to do something”. Exploiting loopholes of course is what campaigning groups are supposed to do. Exploiting “loopholes” is not a crime.

James Collins also makes the accusation that CLEAR is making money from this, which is untrue. In fact what is happening is CLEAR has a medicinal users group within its membership and joining CLEAR costs £5 for concessionaires – yes, a whole fiver (or £10 is you’re working). The medicinal group are not only following this “loophole” route but are also engaged with various MP’s in the organisation of a Parliamentary delegation, about which I’ll say no more for now.

Fact is it has been a long, slow process to get this far and there’s a lot of work to do yet, it’s not the sort of campaigning James and his mates are capable of, they prefer a different approach. Anyone going down this “loophole” route is fully aware of the potential problems, not least of all because they have to give all their details – name, address etc – to the customs officer when they make their declaration.

James claims this is a re-run of the Pinky Starr effort a few years ago, which Peter Reynolds also organised (see here). It wasn’t, it is something entirely different. That attempt involved the Schenegen agreement, this was nothing to do with Schenegen. Pinky Starr unwisely did not declare his import at customs either.

In his article on NORML UK recently (here) James shows his support for Smoke Outs – gatherings where people openly smoke cannabis in public places. James writes:

There has never been a better time for smoke outs.  There has never been a better time for protest and civil disobedience.  The auspice of medical cannabis has flown out the door and the battle for full medical and recreational access is being fought.  It’s not only being fought, it’s being won.  Inertia is, for the first time since the prohibition of cannabis begun, finally in favor of the cannabis movement.

We’ll skip lightly over the conflation of medicinal and recreational use here and also the strange use of the phrase “auspice of medical cannabis has flown out the door”, which implies protection or support for medical cannabis has gone away, which is exactly not the point he is trying to make.

As I explained in my last article (here) I do personally have some sympathy for the idea of direct action to defy bad laws and smoke-outs (or “smoke ins” as we called them not so long ago) are nothing new, but there are problems with the way they are happening in this country – the use of tobacco and involvement of young people being two issues I highlighted.

James Collins seems to think it’s fine to encourage people to come to these events, using the argument that  a mass movement will overthrow the law. It implies safety in numbers, an unstoppable force. Yeah maybe, but of course people could get busted – it’ll happen eventually, perhaps being done for dealing as well. James was very concerned in his PRW post about the effects of getting busted

but anyone who knows someone who has been arrested knows how lengthy and stressful the arrest and trial process is.

A concern not expressed for the mass of people – probably mostly naive young people – James wants to come to his smoke-outs. So I do wonder who is being most callous in their use of people here? Is it CLEAR who provide a medicinal user with the help to tread a very thin line of legality to get their medicine, ensuring that every step of the way they do their level best to remain within the law and where the end user is fully aware of the risks they are taking, or NORML UK and James Collins who encourage people to the smokeout demos selling the idealistic concept that mass protest will work, despite the fact it hasn’t done so in 40 years of trying in this country?

One thing is very clear from Jame’s article on NORML UK, it isn’t actually written from the British perspective at all, it’s American through and through.

Slow normalization has worked magnificently over the last 10 years or so.  Cannabis has come out of the closet in a very major way.  If you’re old enough you will remember a time that one did not simply buy premade “blunt wraps” with a pot leaf on the package down at the 7-11.

Yeah, I noticed that in Norwich the other day…  not!

I remember a time when one did not simply spark up a joint in public.  You went and hid behind a dumpster, and you were afraid somebody would smell it.  Now I see people walk through the streets of major cities with a five-paper cone in hand like it wasn’t a big deal.

A dumpster is a skip if you’re confused. But really? This person is writing about another place, another culture. Yes it sounds great, but ‘taint here.

Now I don’t know if James Collins is American, but that article on NORML UK clearly is. The spelling is American English and the events he describes are those which have happened Stateside, not here. So either James is American (or Canadian), writing in ignorance of the actual situation this side of the pond, or he’s lifted an article by someone else without really thinking about it too much. Google doesn’t show this article anywhere else, so my money is on James being in North America, judging from the article in NORML UK he’s writing about a country, a culture  and a legal system (the UK) he doesn’t really understand. The writing in the PRW article is also a little American in style.

NORML-UK is the UK branch of the American cannabis law reform campaign of course, which might explain the connection. Either way, James Collins is inconsistent in his views and seems to have an agenda he isn’t being totally open about, he seems to be out to harm CLEAR, that’s for sure.

If you want to join CLEAR – looky here