The future of cannabis law reform campaigning reprise: The LCA reborn?

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.


UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.

27 thoughts on “The future of cannabis law reform campaigning reprise: The LCA reborn?

  1. I hope this all works out in best interest of the cause, but from a pr perspective I think its best not played out in public. I cant see any useful purpose in public bickering.

  2. I’d agree that there is an image problem and that a new name/organisation might be best. A broader church is needed, not perceived to be just cannabis users but mothers that want sellers that require ID, all those concerned by prohibition making it more dangerous than it needs to be, policemen and taxpayers whose resources are wasted, brave MPs and MEPs, those against a nanny state…

    The importance of international ties should also not be underestimated. Legalising cannabis simply isn’t going to happen without withdrawing from or modifying our commitments to the UN conventions and we’d need a lot of international support to let that happen without repercussions. Maybe things will be different after some US states legalise it in 2012 but building support throughout the EU and beyond is nonetheless important.

    As for elections, I think a lot rests on whether the Lib Dems get the political reform they want. Under AV, single-issue parties are quite feasible. If a few million or hundred thousand give their first preference to a legalise cannabis party, without fear of wasting their vote, that sends a strong message to parties that want to attract those votes.
    Moreover, if the Lords becomes mostly elected through proportional representation (presumably on 1st preferences if AV passes) an anti-prohibition party would actually gain representation.

  3. I whole heartedly agree with Steve. We must place principles before personalities. This means no public bickering!

  4. We do need a public debate though, and in fact the LCA is asking for one, just go to their activists forum and you’ll see several threads about it – all started by the LCA management.

    Just what sort of mass movement campaign do people who want law reform actually want to see? Now is your chance to tell them.

    This doesn’t mean bickering, any mistakes made in the past were honest mistakes, but they should be acknowledged and learned from. Learning from mistakes makes us stronger, not weaker.

  5. I think they certainly need reorganisation and a change in tactics if they want to be taken seriously. The press release claiming that their few hundred postcards caused Labour to lose the May 2010 election, for example, was quite bizzare.

  6. It’s all very well saying no more bickerring, lets have consensus etc – but given the current state of play all that would achieve is less debate unless we truly had consensus.

    As I disagree with much of what so may people have to say, especially the misuse of certain terms and language, I for one want to keep the debate open. Really there is nothing homogenous about drug users, they are just people with differnt ideas, many of whom would like to see some reform.

    Derek’s piece certainly raises more questions about Peter’s more recent arrival that he describes and his adamant insistence that his track record speaks for itself. I can’t see how you can both promote him as a likely leader and insinuate that he an undercover agent at the same time. He hasn’t won many over everyone with his wish to get a database of cannabis users and to get his hands of the LCA. Anyway – judge the manuy by his ideas, given he is so completely and deservingly rude to people like James Brokenshire, it’s hard to believe he is a government agent.

    My only gripe is that like so many others, he hears what I have said about law and language, yet forgets or ignores it. If only everyone would do exactly what I would say then we would have perfect harmony! Actually that is supposed to be ironic, but I am also only concerned with principles and not personalities. If people get teh principles right, then I am with them 100%, no matter who they are.

  7. I believe from the argument just forwarded that Sunshineband could very well be Darryl Bicker. DEA Drug Equality Alliance.

  8. I’m sorry Sunshine. “that” Sunshine Band is just my terrible English Grammar, fused with my ineptness. I didn’t check my comment before posting. Didn’t mean to be rude. Just stupid.

  9. Bickering bad, debate good. Bickering stems from bruised egos and causes entrenchment, debate stems from sticking to the issues and engenders progress. Debate is therefore welcome, so we must drop our egos and engage.

  10. Fine, bicker and criticise from the outside whilst doing so little yourself – for all that has or has not changed in the last ten to fifteen years in the UK regarding cannabis law, UKCIA is equally responsible, possibly more so since ukcia existence pre-dated the formation of LCA by several years, has attracted far less publicity and doesn’t seem to have spoken to Government at all.

    But if campaigners could step aside from their ego and make the effort of working together on projects, then far more can be achieved.

    LCA as a political party offers a platform to cannabis campaigners from all walks of life, political persuasions, beliefs, lifestyles and so on – and many have taken up that offer and stood for election, including Derek himself.

    For those that wish such a platform, LCA is open and welcomes activists. For those that do not, well that’s fine too.

    LCA never set out to represent anyone, but to enable people to represent themselves and it seems pointless to me that those that choose not to spend their time bickering about those that do, as if they think they can somehow boost their own egos, somehow suggesting that they are better than others – yet they don’t show it..

    If LCA decides to elect and leader / and / or re-register, that decision will be made by LCA Members – of course people can try to influence that from outside, but if somebody really wants to make changes they ought to join.

    As for prominent members of LCA resigning, for Peter Reynolds being some kind of infiltrator, for LCA refusing to change, for “LCA videos” on YouTube, it shows that in fact the author knows far less than he pretends to know.

  11. >>
    As for prominent members of LCA resigning, for Peter Reynolds being some kind of infiltrator, for LCA refusing to change, for “LCA videos” on YouTube, it shows that in fact the author knows far less than he pretends to know.

    I can only go by what’s posted on the LCA blog in respect of resignations and I am not suggesting Peter Reynolds is some kind of “infiltrator” either, I simply make the observations I made above, you draw your own conclusions!

    As regards the youtube videos and other stuff around the net I only know what I’ve seen and some of it is awful, sorry but it is.

    One thing you say though is interesting. You say

    LCA never set out to represent anyone,

    Other than by standing in elections of course. Doh! Anyway of course you represent people when you run a public campaign, you represent cannabis users and those of us who want to see real law reform.

    Do LCA spokesmen normally post anonymously?


  12. Ever thought about joining LCA and making changes Derek? You could bring enough supporters with you and get yourself voted in as leader!

    Or else start your own active campaign: campaign against prohibition, I mean, not campaign against the LCA.

    It doesn’t read like you are looking for unity though.

    Do you think Peter will make a good leader?

  13. I’ve been following the proposed changes from the sidelines and I for one agree with Derek’s views on the subject.

    The leader who shall not be questioned, Alun states on the LCA website that Derek “…was banned from this forum for continual abuse of other forum members – so sorry Del, you cannot reply here”

    I know of other activists who were ‘banned for abuse’ by Alun for likewise merely expressing a differing opinion to Alun. I even heard that Sarah Martin is banned on the LCA. Is this correct?

    In my opinion, the sooner Alun steps down from any position of power within the LCA, the better the chance that something can be rescued with the LCA. However, Peter Reynolds has proven time and time again that he does not have the qualities to take on such a role should Alun step down. Peter has the diplomatic qualities of Gordon Brown and has talked down to, insulted and belittled many people who have had the misfortune to debate with him on certain issues.

    Why does the LCA need a leader in any case? Many modern activist groups of today are relatively leaderless yet are very successful. UKUncut is a fine example of this.

    As always, there are far too many rusty, damaged and butthurt egos within the LCA admin team for any realistic change to occur. But I for one am happy that some of these issues are being brought into public debate. I’ve seen others on facebook exhibit similar feelings regarding the subject.

  14. Christ knows how to get the LCA back on track (I’m too young to know if it ever was on track) but I know squabbling about it on blogs and forums makes the whole movement look like egotistical teenagers. There is serious debate that needs to be had, with people that disagree with us, and i can’t see these little snide public digs doing anyone any good.

    I’m no political campaigner, just my two cents.

  15. This bickering is no good but it will go largely unnoticed by the public. I do think that a leader is a good idea – the campaign needs some one who is eloquent and charismatic that can be the face of a campaign and put forward the ideas in the media.

    I think we should consider asking NORML ( if they would like to go international. Plenty of help and resources there to get a good British campaign going ! It will also draw comparisons with what is happening in America and at the moment they are having much more success than us.

  16. Thank you Derek for your appraisal of the LCA and for acknowledging that i have never been the leader of the LCA – quote: “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”

    – I am not sure what you mean by “supposedly” though. But obviously you seem to have regarded me as unelected leader and I thank you for that

    In fact, I co-founded LCA, acted as Nominating Officer until 2006, then as Treasurer – my main work has been in admin.

    Of course there are different types of “leadership” – appointed, elected, by authority, by inspiration and it’s true that LCA never elected or appointed a leader and there has been no leader by authority.

    Within the LCA there have been many “leaders by inspiration”, each with their own following – and obviously to those followers the person is a leader and to those that choose not to follow, they are not their leader : to name a few: Chris Baldwin, Carl Wagner, Mark and Lezley Gibson, Don Barnard, Winston Matthews, Dilys Wood, Clara O, Jack Girling, Patman, John Peacock – each a leader in their own area and some nationally. All leaders by inspiration and I would be honoured to be included.

    There have also been others who entered LCA with what later seemed to be an intent to lead but for one reason or another, were unable to do so, to get a following, and left – many have bickered about the LCA for many years since.

    The LCA has always had open doors to people that want to join and work together, and has supported many people in their chosen campaign direction, both LCA Members and others – donating to ProtestLondon, Release, Transform, THC4MS, Sarah Martin’s runs and the Cannabus project. But like most groups and forums, LCA is not open to people to come along and start off by abusing others – THEY are the people that were banned, not usually by me, but by forum moderators for breaking the forum rules that are clearly visible and which have to be agreed before joining the forum

    Derek, you were one of those people. You never apologised, you removed the link from ukcia to lca and alienated yourself. What you could have tried was a more reasoned and less abusive approach and you may have gained more support for what was basically a sound idea – although telling other campaigners that they are wrong and should campaign only in your way is not likely to inspire people.

    BTW, Sarah Martin is not banned from LCA forum at least under any username I know she has.

    The LCA de-registered as apolitical party in November 2006, at a meeting, and that was mostly due to the way in which politics had changed since 1999, with the Iraq, Afghanistan, ID cards etc issues. And cannabis had been downgraded and activism had started to fall away. I remmebr you yourself, Derek, saying you had not voted LCA in 2005 because you wanted to get rid of Charles Clarke, your MP, so voted Lib Dem instead. Many people were saying that LCA ought not stand against the Lib Dems or Greens – so LCA listened and de-registered. And people say LCA does not listen!

    Personally i see that as a mistake and hope LCA Members decide to re-register, maybe even elect a leader. Since de-registering, LCA seems to have lost focus.

    For sure activism has died down, particularly in the last few years – you can see LCA press, published letters and other achievements on the LCA web site.

    You will notice less letters being published – of course that applies to you too derek, you have had far less letters published since the early day – no criticism, the press do regard it all as old hat – or maybe you just write less. I can’t say that ukcia or your good self have made the news much either. That’s down to the press probably or else lack of trying?

    But Derek, you are wrong to say “Towards the end of last year things seem to have come to a head with resignations of some of the long term activists” – simply not true.

    What is true is that Chris Baldwin resigned from his post of Campaign Coordinator – he is still an active member of LCA. Nobody else has resigned and actually this month we have had a good number of new members.

    As regards the “a huge number of well intentioned but depressingly awful videos were put up on youtube” – well hardly a “huge number” and actually put up by individuals having their say, amateurs with digital cameras at home. Maybe you think LCA ought to try to stiffle those people because they are not as fit or as smart or as well-educated as you, but then again, we don’t have anything to compare, because they are the only few!

    For sure, LCA has always offered a platform to independent people that agreed to “follow” a set of Principles and Aims and has never told anybody how to dress, wear their hair, speak or what to say. I know you don’t like that approach Derek, I remember what you did to the late Mick Pryce at that TV show way back in the late 1990’s

    So Derek, whether you are in or outside of LCA, if you want to lead by inspiration, how you do that will produce a set of followers and a whole lot of criticism. But i don’t think you will do that by trying to belittle others.

    Your essential point that LCA is in need of change, is fair – everything needs to be changed sometimes. I think though you could have written a much more inspirational article and made much more of your stance.

    IF indeed you think LCA – or a new campaign for that matter – needs a leader: quote “Perhaps if this all comes off though there could be a sober, suited up clear headed person …. The cannabis law reform movement certainly needs and deserves something like that”

    DO YOU think that, and most importantly

    DEREK in particular- and anyone else – WHO WOULD YOU NOMINATE?


    Because if everyone agree to follow the same “leader” then we will be better united – whether to success or to fail, in this campaign.

    Maybe then we can all get back to campaigning for what we want, campaigning to change the law and the anti-LCA campaign will stop campaigning against campaigners!

  17. Alun that was really a bit long for me to answer, but thanks for posting under your own name this time.

    What I will say is the comments made by Peter Reynolds and others on your forum about the need to fundamentally change the LCA in the thread I mentioned above (here) are comments I wholeheartedly agree with.

    Whether Peter is the right person to take over the LCA is a matter of judgement for you to make based on his record, which as I’ve mentioned above doesn’t really seem to exist much before about 2008, despite his claims of being an active campaigner for the past 20 years. I would love to be proven wrong on that incidentally because I really can’t explain it.

    I do draw your attention to my observations about Peters role in the development of the BMCR as well, which was not a good experience sadly.

    But what I want to see is a businesslike cannabis law reform campaign along the lines described by Peter on your forum. The website needs a revamp, the image needs a total makeover and it needs a management in charge that is accountable.

    Good luck.


  18. Alun – “BTW, Sarah Martin is not banned from LCA forum at least under any username I know she has.”

    Yes she was banned. Username: sarahbear.

  19. Terrible to See Such . Im Sure the Enemy loves it.Who Cares?. Cannabis is Legal. Disregard the Fools Brothers. Truth is Out!. Band together Brotherts. Its So important more than before, Beleave Me. Do not be divided as teh Shitstem wish. Band together.

  20. this thread achieves nothing positive and simply forces the edge deeper.

    Derek, I’ll keep it short, one question, not about LCA but about a “new united campaign front” – who would you like to see as leader?

    It’s not up to me in this question, it is up to you – who would you support as a leader of a new united campaign front that you support, based totally upon your ideas of how it should be run and how it should campaign?

    Is there any cannabis focused campaign in the UK that you think worth building on and if so which one, since clearly you don’t think anything could be built on lca?

  21. The UKCIA newsblog is here to comment on stories in the cannabis law reform campaign, the developments in the LCA the past week have made you news.

    At this time I don’t have a name of anyone I would want as leader, but I know what kind of leadership I want because what I want to see is a campaign which is properly run and focused.

    As it is now Peter is making the case for change on your forum quite well. I am amazed at how quickly he has arrived at the LCA and been promoted to officer post however, but that’s been your (Aluns) judgement.

    If you really want me to suggest ideas for the LCA, allow me to post on your forum.

  22. If you would like to post on LCA forum all you have ever had to do is ask and agree to stick with the rules of the forum that you agreed when you registered, that means no abuse of other forum members, no spam etc, they are clearly visible.

    email if you agree and would like your account re-activated. Doesn’t bother me either way, i know you too well Derek

  23. United We Stand. We know the Rest. Im sure the Politicos love such divide. Alll i have to say

    Peace Declan

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