Cannabis has hardly been out of the news at all over the past 10-15 years and yet there is no really high profile law reform campaign in this country. We do have a good and quite effective anti-prohibition campaign in the form of Transform of course, but not really one dedicated to cannabis. It’s not for want of trying.

A quick google for “legalise cannabis” turns up the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, the LCA, a group which has been in existence for around 12 years but which few seem to have heard of and many of those who have don’t hold in great esteem. This might all be about to change, interesting things are happening. Maybe.

The LCA came into being as a political party dedicated to promoting cannabis law reform through the ballot box. This was an idea that had been discussed amongst a group of people for some time and finally got its act together for the 1997 general election when Howard Marks stood in several seats around the country. The fact that one person can stand in more than one seat did cause a few raised eyebrows at the time, but it was allowed under the rules. In the event it turned into something of a damp squib but gave birth to the LCA proper which launched a year or so later.

For a while in the early 2000’s things seemed to be going quite well for the cannabis law reform movement, there were big marches in London and the downgrading to class C was seen – wrongly as it turned out – as the first moves toward eventual legalisation. The LCA hardly went from strength to strength though, and by 2005 it was pretty clear the political party idea had run its course.

To be fair it had never really been the idea to actually win seats, the real value of a single issue party like the LCA is to make cannabis law reform an issue at election time which threatened to take votes from parties which supported prohibition. In close seats this could have made a difference but in all truthfulness it didn’t come close.

So the idea of being a political party was eventually dropped and the LCA became a pressure group, a re-born “Legalise cannabis Campaign” in effect. This should have been the time for a root and branch rethink, a new image and a re-launch. Instead nothing changed and all efforts to change the LCA were resisted, the result was stagnation and a drift into irrelevance. Worse though was the total lack of oversight into what was put out in the name of the LCA and a huge number of well intentioned but depressingly awful videos were put up on youtube. The LCA had an enormous image problem and never seemed aware of it.

Towards the end of last year things seem to have come to a head with resignations of some of the long term activists and a realisation that the alliance is going nowhere fast, something was needing to be done and it has been proposed to re-list the LCA as a political party once more. Into all this steps Peter Reynolds.

Peter Reynolds is a new name on the law reform scene; he first came to prominence last September when the confusion over the legality of importing medical cannabis from Holland occurred (Peter Reynolds blog). From this he went on to create the British Medical Cannabis Register (BMCR) which caused much bad feeling and has been covered in this blog at some length (here). Peter has been promoting himself as a long term cannabis campaigner for a few months now with varying degrees of success on different forums. He is a person of uncompromising opinions with a very strong personality which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. As he wrote on the LCA forum

I was a member of the original Legalise Cannabis Campaign and have spent more than 30 years writing about and campaigning for cannabis law reform.

Oddly given this claim he seems to have a very small footprint, there being virtually no google records of him before around 1998 when he first seems to have discovered the internet and no-one I have yet spoken to from within the group of activists I’m aware of has ever heard of him until recently.

As to his claims of a professional career his biography doesn’t really help.

In 2004 he established Leading Edge Personal Technology as “the magazine for technology enthusiasts”.

And Hotfrog lists him as the editor. Another of his blogs from April 2009 points to a dead URL for the site, however a quick google turns the publication up here, but it doesn’t seem to have been updated since December 2009  so presumably it was short lived and has closed down?

Against this criticism though is the fact that Peter is happy to put his name and personal details very much to the fore, anyone can campaign from behind a mask of anonymity but that certainly isn’t Peters style.  His willingness to publish his contact details is admirable, although possibly somewhat naive given the nature of the internet and he may come to regret this in a few years. But it’s true that a willingness to be upfront is important for anyone who wants to be taken seriously and the campaign certainly needs someone like that as a frontman.

Peter also has a clear idea of what needs to be done in order to create a cannabis law reform campaign suitable for the purpose. He understands the need for a proper image and a leader who the press can call on to speak for the organisation. He certainly looks the part and has a good interview technique which comes over well on TV.

Up to now the LCA has supposedly never had a leader, although of course it has had one in the form of Alun Buffry who has been the main driving force behind it all for the past 12 years or more. Peter is now making an effort to take over the LCA and wants to become its leader and has made no secret of his wish to impose changes. The LCA forum is discussing it all and anyone interested in the future of cannabis law reform campaigning is encouraged to read it to see what’s happening, the outcome could be very important. It says a lot about the LCA that such an important thread has thus far attracted so little comment, at the time of writing only 20 people have voted in favour of the move to re-register the LCA as a political party, three against and a handful of other votes. Peter is right, the whole outfit needs to change.

What isn’t totally clear is why Peter is so eager to take the LCA over given its reputation? He is fully aware of the image problem and that it is a serious issue. The LCA brand isn’t quite toxic, but to say it’s not well regarded is an understatement. There is stuff all over the net which carries the LCA name which can’t be removed and would haunt any attempt at a serious re-launch and re branding exercise. In all honesty it would probably be better to start an entirely new campaign with a fresh set of objectives with the good will of the current LCA, rather than try to breath new life into the tired bones.

Perhaps if this all comes off though there could be a sober, suited up clear headed person available to argue the case against the likes of EURAD or Talking About Cannabis at the head of an organisation which is taken seriously . The cannabis law reform movement certainly needs and deserves something like that. Whether Peter can pull it off and make the changes needed if he does remain to be seen.