The changes being mooted a few weeks back in the Legalise Cannabis Alliance seem to have been approved, it now has a leader – Peter Reynolds – and there are some strongly encouraging signs that the long overdue reforms are about to be made. Most of the planned changes are certainly to be welcomed although one is perhaps a bit dubious, but may not be without merit if its done properly.

It can’t be stressed enough how much we need a proper, credible cannabis law reform campaign. The LCA as was had run out of steam years ago and really should have been put out of its misery by now. Still, better late than never.

The most public problem is that the truly awful  image presented by the website reflects badly on the campaign  and this is accepted by the  Peter Reynolds. He wrote on the LCA forum

Let me be crystal clear here, without any personal criticism of anybody, the website is a joke. If we want to stand any chance of making any progress it needs to be radically updated and overhauled.

Peter is absolutely right, but it goes further than that. The LCA website is the public face of the cannabis law reform in the UK – just tap “legalise cannabis” into your favourite search engine and you’ll find it. What you find when you go there could almost have been written by our most vicious opponents as a satire on the cannabis law reform effort, it reflects badly not just on the LCA, but on all of us.

Now that it is accepted that change is needed and indeed promised please, this embarrassment should be taken down. After all the LCA website serves no purpose now, the old campaign is finished and a new, revitalised campaign is to emerge with an entirely different image and message.

What should be done in the interim, while the new campaign is put together is to take the old site offline and replace it with a holding page telling people what’s planned. That way the site stays online and promotes its new image when it’s ready. The holding site could include a forum, but cut down greatly from the present offering and perhaps Peter could link to his blog. This would benefit not just the “NewLCA”, but all of us in the law reform movement.

Apart from the website issue though the promised changes are indeed exciting and a cause for hope. According to Peters blog

There is an exciting new campaign in development on the theme of “Reform. Regulate. Realise”. I am working with Professor David Nutt, Transform and IDMU to ensure the credibility of our message. I promise you will see the details soon

Everything it seems, is up for grabs, even the name is to change and it’s good to know that organisations like Transform and the IDMU are involved along with Professor Nutt, this should ensure the “New LCA” as Peter is calling it (as a working title for now) has an agenda which will be worth taking seriously.

A campaign which focuses on the need to regulate the cannabis trade will have a very powerful appeal, perhaps not so much to cannabis users but to the people who really matter in so-called “middle England”, the vast majority of people who don’t use cannabis and quite possibly don’t much like it, but do agree with the need to properly control what is a massive and highly profitable industry presently largely  in the hands of organised crime.

We are also promised a better image, people well versed in the issues capable of being interviewed by serious news programmes. Transform has done well of course and Steve Rolls has made a name for himself by arguing the general drug  law reform case, but it is about time we had people able to go on Newsnight and put the cannabis specific case for reform against the usual suspects from the prohibition lobby who have had an almost free run up to now. Prohibition is actually very vulnerable to the control and regulate massage, most people know the dangers of the uncontrolled illegal trade created by prohibition, yet somehow the government still manages to promote the cause of the problem by using fear of the mess their own policy has created.

All this is exciting stuff and if it comes off it will be a real game changer. There is a lot of support out there for cannabis law reform – not for “free the weed” but for a properly controlled and regulated trade which actually protects the people at risk. So the proposed changes are not only welcome, but will be actively supported by this site as we at last seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet.

It will also benefit the many people who use cannabis not for fun but for medical reasons and this is something Peter seems to be well aware of. In the past the medical aspects have been used almost as an excuse to legalise cannabis, perhaps this needs turning round so that the reason to regulate the cannabis trade is to protect and serve these ill people – the same basic message but with a different motivation.

The other development is , well, perhaps less certain to be a good idea. The “NewLCA”, once it’s sorted it’s name and constitution out, is to reform as a political party in order to contest elections. That was the original reason for the formation of the LCA and back in 1998 it was a good idea. It may still work, especially if the message is put clearly and in a way people can actually relate to, but it also carries with it a huge potential danger – not just for the “NewLCA”, but for all of us who want to support the law reform effort.

The reason to stand in elections is to raise the issue in the political arena, to get cannabis law reform onto the agenda and to put it in the news. It’s not an idea without merit but the problem of course is that by standing in elections, you are actually trying to get people to show their support by voting for you. As a single issue party the odds are that it will be difficult to get support in the ballot box; people vote for all sorts of reasons but cannabis is unlikely to be a major consideration really.

What standing in elections can show, in a very public way if you get a small vote, is that you don’t have support for your idea even if you do really but it’s just not a priority at election time. It is all too easy, as has happened in the past, for the cannabis candidate to be ranked alongside the raving loony and that doesn’t help anything. Thing is, would I vote for a cannabis law reform candidate? I’m afraid the answer is probably “no” and if they can’t get someone like me to vote for them its going to be a struggle to be taken seriously.

So much depends on the way this is played, it could be a powerful way to promote the campaign or it could prove a dead end idea and a millstone around out necks. Personally I’m not convinced it’s a good tactic but time will tell.

Those reservations aside though I am more hopeful than ever before that the “NewLCA” will make a breakthrough and move the cannabis law reform debate up a gear. At last, it looks set become something that can be taken seriously. Peter has his work cut out to get all this in place to be ready for the May local elections, which is his target.

But please guys, do something about the LCA website!