CLEAR is the new cannabis law reform campaign which has grown from the ashes of the old Legalise Cannabis Alliance. This story of how all this came to pass has been covered in this blog with great interest in weeks gone past and now, at last, the new website is online at http://clear-uk.org So how does it stand up?

Well, the first and most obvious comment is that it is a vast improvement over the old LCA effort, not that it was difficult to do that of course. The first impressions are of a well designed site with a striking banner headline which steps through some cannabis issues and invites you to read more.

At the top of the page are buttons which take you to all the really interesting stuff:

About us – what CLEAR is and who runs it.
Aims and objectives – To end the prohibition of cannabis, To promote as a matter of urgency and compassion the prescription of medicinal cannabis by doctors, To introduce a system of regulation for the production and supply of cannabis based on facts and evidence, To encourage the production and use of industrial hemp and To educate and inform about the uses and benefits of cannabis.
Campaigns – CLEAR campaigns you can help with, they do seem to have hit the ground running which is good. Of particular interest here is the “Comment warrior” campaign, getting people to write to newspapers when they see a cannabis article. This was an idea started way back but which seems to have faded in recent years and could be very effective.
News – CLEAR in the news
Video – A rather dull list of worthy cannabis videos. This page would look a lot better if the videos were embedded, rather than having to follow a text link. All the links I clicked took me to Peter Reynolds personal blog. There are some interesting vids here though.
How you can help – how you can join CLEAR
Contact – How to contact CLEAR

There are five issues highlighted with a rotating banner headline;
Cannabis farms
Cannabis and mental health
Medical cannabis
Protecting the young
Tax and regulate.

These Headline features are (I think) supposed to be outlines of the CLEAR campaign points and are apparently issues which CLEAR regards as important, but despite the good graphics they are sadly a little lightweight and more than a little confused in places.

Cannabis farms:

Cannabis Farms are a scourge on society. They are the product of prohibition.

Whoa! There are cannabis farms and cannabis farms out there. What CLEAR is talking about are the criminal run large scale grow-ops, but there are plenty of small scale grows going on which are run by enthusiasts – why no mention of them? There also quite a few non-crim large-ish grow ops around, it isn’t all run by the mob, although a lot of it is.

It is the British government that is responsible for the theft of electricity, the destruction of property, the human trafficking of innocents, the violence, the over-elevated levels of THC and early harvesting that distorts the plant’s natural cannabinoid content.

It is true that the crim-ops are the product of prohibition and the bad things that happen because of them are due to government policy, there are other important issues as well.

Cannabis production has been gifted to organised crime by irrational, self-defeating and idiotic government policy.

True, but this statement really needs more work. It doesn’t explain why (the laws of supply and demand for example) 0r  point out how the police easily shut down the responsible growers, pushing the trade into the arms of ruthless organised criminals. What is the CLEAR line on small scale home growing?

Cannabis and mental health

If this is explaining the CLEAR approach to the mental illness issue it’s very confused and far too defensive.  CLEAR is all about wanting a properly regulated and controlled supply for cannabis, one of the main reasons for wanting this is surely the protection it would provide to vulnerable people, which sort of accepts there are vulnerable people to protect. Now they may be right when they write

Despite hundreds of studies there is still no proven causative link (between cannabis use and mental illness).

but they then go on to say (also correctly)

There is correlation between mental health problems and cannabis use

So there’s an issue here which they seem to accept, but that’s as far as any attempt at an explanation  goes, which fails to get to the nub of the issue. Instead we are told only that other things have a higher risk potential which is arguably irrelevant.

Despite the massive increase in cannabis use in the 60s and 70s, the incidence of psychosis is either stable or declining.  This is a charge against cannabis that cannot be made to stick.

CLEAR accepts there is a correlation – people with mental illness do use a lot of cannabis and people who use a lot of cannabis do seem to be at a greater risk of developing some kinds of psychosis. It is in the nature of mental illness that there are rarely simple causes and effects, its all far more complicated than that and it would have been good to have seen an acceptance of all that here.  We aren’t told how CLEAR’s desired regime would help reduce the problems some mentally ill people have with cannabis and how it would protect that small minority who are at highest risk. That’s a pity, because it would.

But more than that, CLEAR are seemingly talking about cannabis as if it were a single drug, with only one set of properties and of course it isn’t. Different strains having different ratios of THC and CBD (and other constituents) have very different effects on mental illness. Again, all this is a reason to legalise and regulate the sales, but its not mentioned, instead we are simply told

While it is important to be aware of the risk, particularly for young people, a sense of proportion is important too.  Crossing the road is dangerous.

This is simply not good enough. This page is just too glib and utterly fails to put a good case across for how law reform would improve the situation, they fail utterly to make their case. This page needs a re-write urgently, but at least it shows a willingness to deiscuss the issue, so one cheer for that.

Medical cannabis

This page is much better, although far too brief.

Protecting Children

Prohibition provides no protection for children at all. It is easier for them to obtain cannabis than to get hold of cigarettes or alcohol.

Because of course, alcohol and tobacco are controlled drugs although not classed as such while cannabis isn’t controlled, but is classed as being. Simples.

While the brain is still developing, any psychoactive substance has the potential to cause harm. The only ID that a street dealer asks for is a £20 note.

Indeed, a point which could have been made on the mental health page perhaps?

A properly regulated system would mean cannabis was available only through licensed outlets for adults only.

This is proper control of course, but only available from licensed outlets? How about home growing?

Personal cultivation licences would be available and healthcare services and advice provided without fear of arrest or prosecution.

Two issues are mixed up there – quite why the idea of personal cultivation licences are in the same sentence as access to healthcare and advice isn’t obvious. Shouldn’t the cultivation licence issue have been mentioned in the grow op section above?

Children and the vulnerable would be much better protected under regulation. Our political leaders know this perfectly well but they put their personal political advantage and their fear of tabloid headlines above the difficult task of grasping this nettle.  Our prime minister, our home secretary, our drugs minister – simply, they prefer their careers to our children.

Well put.

Tax and regulate

Without going into the figures CLEAR quotes, this is a well argued section showing how a regulated and taxed commercial trade would help the economy.

Below the headline banner are three columns: An invitation to sign up to the CLEAR newsletter, Latest news, a link to the Facebook page, How to donate,  a google news service and “tags” – a somewhat strange list of keywords.

The latest news seems to be the same articles the top button takes you to; news items featuring CLEAR. Actually, isn’t this a CLEAR blog?

The google news service though is a bit strange. Is it really a good idea to have headlines such as “Man jailed for dead body drug burglary – Essex Echo” or “Cannabis-smoking heroin addict almost stabbed millionaire’s wife to death in … – Daily Mail” on the front page? Perhaps this belongs in the Comment Warrior section.

As for the list of keywords, well that’s just plain weird.

Overall the CLEAR site is good, it certainly looks good and has a professional looking design. It’s easy to navigate and simple to use. The only real complaint about content  is with some of the headline sections – particularly the one on mental health – which really do need to be improved.The bulk of the front page is taken up with the three columns though, whereas the most interesting stuff is reached through the relatively small buttons along the top of the page.  Perhaps the google news box and strange “Keywords” box could be replaced by a far more useful “site contents” list?

But at least CLEAR is up and running and a vast improvement on what went before.