The Peter Reynolds situation is not CLEAR at all

The Core Team has not voted to consider this an official statement and it should thus be considered an opinion from one of our bloggers.

There’s been a lot of turmoil in the cannabis community recently. Clear, the Cannabis Law Reform Party, has been rocked by resignations, suspensions and persistent accusations that Peter Reynolds has homophobic, racist, sexist, and reactionary beliefs. At the moment there is a stand-off between Peter Reynolds and two remaining stalwarts, and four former members of the Clear Executive who regard themselves as unlawfully expelled and have taken control of the party website to declare that Peter Reynolds has been sacked. This is paralysing the wider cannabis community as much as it is Clear, as they watch riveted as some of the most inventive and bizarre slurs are flung about with abandon.

Peter Reynolds in 2011

We won’t pretend that we at Re:Vision haven’t watched with dismay as one of our own trustees has been insulted and traduced. We haven’t issued our own statement stating an intention to cease working with Clear because we never started in the first place and we didn’t think it would help to weigh in. But we do have something to say about the current situation.

Whether you believe that Peter Reynolds has expressed discriminatory views or not, it is clear that a very, very large number of people believe that he does. This has distracted the entire cause for some time as people have, quite rightly, objected repeatedly to these statements.  When objections were first raised, a proper investigation should have been conducted and and its results made known. The majority of the people who were involved in this decision not to do this has now left and have expressed regret, but even now, there are still people who are arguing that concerns over whether Peter Reynolds has been discriminatory or not are unimportant to the role that he holds. But these are very important issues towards the people who they are affected by: black people, LGBT people, women, and disabled people. Especially disabled and unwell people, who are present in our movement in such disproportionate numbers.

In the cannabis community, and the drug law reform community, we all know there’s a significant number of people who use the drugs that we’re campaigning to have controlled and regulated, some are medicinal users, some recreational. It’s not that surprising. Some are public about it, some aren’t. All rely on the rest of us not calling up the cops to let them know what they’ve got and where they’ve got it. I’ve always thought it something of a no-brainer that if I don’t consider something a crime, then I don’t report it. For someone to break that code, for someone to threaten people who use cannabis for severe and chronic illness with police action, and then to claim they represent three million cannabis users, is not being consistent, politically or morally.

Peter Reynolds in 2012

We don’t know what is going to become of this situation as Mr. Reynolds’ response to a poll showing over three hundred people calling for his resignation was to announce to the entire Clear Facebook base that he would be taking Chris Bovey to court in order to acquire control of the Clear domain name. This is hardly professional. We would thus implore every remaining supporter of Peter Reynolds and his claim to the leadership of Clear that they focus on how this looks to the wider public, thousands of whom are now reading articles and watching videos about this, and to consider proper review of Mr. Reynolds’ actions and how they reflect on the party.

It is important that as the good work of millions of drug law reform activists all over the world began to bear fruit, we all support the effort of each other and Re:Vision looks forward to working with other like-minded drug policy organisations in the future.

Commission on Narcotic Drugs celebrates failure

Currently taking place in Vienna, is the 55th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). This commission, which was established at the very first meeting of the League of Nations in 1920, is the central arena for discussion on drug policy and, more importantly, where many decisions about international drug policy are unofficially made. Whilst this may appear to be a genuine chance to promote, and potentially see, real change in international drug policy, it is not the case. The CND, in actuality, is more of a chance for those attending – summarised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as “Ministers and top counter-narcotics officials from the 53 Member States of the Commission” – to cement old opinions and minimally tweak pre-existing policies to appear harder or softer on specific drugs, as has been the case for many years. Though members may be aware of the nearby Drug Peace Festival, it will likely be ignored with a hard-line attitude pushed throughout proceedings.

A chance for change? We doubt it.

One of the scheduled events, which has already taken place, shows precisely how unmoving the CND’s stance on policy is likely to be. Last Tuesday, the members were treated to the most undeserved, self-appreciative pat on the back as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the International Opium Convention, which many see as a precursor to 1961’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Both of these can be fairly argued to be the start point of the failing War on Drugs; An unjust war which, more than any of the drugs it tries to eradicate, has cost lives, damaged the environment and wasted money. Whilst the beginning of this war is being touted as a cause for celebration, the CND cannot be said to be an objective or rational forum to discuss the matter of drug policy.

If you would like to see a drug policy which is more concerned with reducing harm than spreading paranoia, check out our website at revisiondrugs.org and join our Facebook.

Operation Broadley: The North West’s short term approach on drugs.

In a move that seems to be replicated in at least one UK city every year, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) announced last week that they intend to cause a cannabis drought. Operation Broadley, which involves the police forces of Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Manchester, Merseyside and North Wales, along with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan), aims to cause a cannabis drought in the North West and the imprisonment of many involved in the trade. Whilst this is nothing new – police forces constantly promise a drought of one drug or another – there is an additional distressing element to the strategy, as the main idea seem to be the encouragement of spying on your neighbours.

The press release announcing Operation Broadley, which is full of all the sensationalist language you might expect, calls on the public to “report their suspicions” that a property is being used for cannabis production. Amongst the suspicious signs that we’re told to be ever vigilant of are:

  • Properties that receive short visits.
  • Properties that nobody seems to live in.
  • Gardening equipment and compost.

Could he be a drug dealer?

Whilst this alone should worry you due to the climate of suspicion and fear that it creates, whether you agree with drug law reform or not, you should also be worried about the short-sightedness of this approach. Two key figures involved in Operation Broadley discuss the problem of criminal gangs and their control of the drug market. The Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable, Terry Sweeney, had this to say:

“Criminals involved in running these cannabis farms are part of organised gangs prepared to use extreme violence and intimidation to protect and expand their illegal business interests.”

Whilst Titan’s Detective Superintendent, John Lyons, spoke in almost identical terms:

“An increasing number of people who grow cannabis are directly funding dangerous, organised criminal gangs. These gangs are often responsible for gun crime, violence and intimidation across the North West.”

Re:Vision agrees with Terry Sweeney and John Lyons that the criminal control of drugs is a dangerous thing, however, that is where our agreement ends. By taking the approach of Operation Broadley, the best that they can hope for is a short-term drop in the supply of cannabis. Demand will not have dropped in the slightest and as such, the market will be very valuable to any budding dealers who can raise prices and fund criminals themselves; possibly even the same ones higher up the chain. The higher the risk of being imprisoned for selling something the higher the reward for selling it is going to be; whilst it continues to be in prohibition, this is true of cannabis.

Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney

Even if the North West police forces and Titan do manage to implement a momentary famine on cannabis, this is just a matter of one recreational drug. Black markets will swarm with plentiful supplies of other, harder and potentially more dangerous drugs. Users will seek other ways to get their high. They could turn be tempted by other prohibited drugs. They could turn to alcohol, which Professor David Nutt claims is more harmful than just about any prohibited drug. Worse still can be the tailored substitutes that appear where the gap in the market is; In Russia, when heroin supplies were cut drastically, many users turned to the devastatingly harmful krokodil, a drug made from legally obtained items that literally rots the skin.

Re:Vision suggests an alternative to the measures set in action in Operation Broadley. We suggest that the best way to eliminate criminals from the market is the control and regulation of cannabis – and, beyond Operation Broadley, all drugs. This would mean that cannabis would no longer be prohibited and all suppliers would have to be licensed, and importantly they would have to prove that their supply was safe. Although this alone would not necessarily stop the black market, with the product already proven to be without impurities and prices being reasonable, customers would have no reason to support the illegal sales. Plus, Greater Manchester Police would be able to spend the money wasted on Operation Blackout – on top of any benefits gained through the taxation of cannabis – on something a little more pressing.

Perhaps Terry Sweeney puts it best in the press release when he says:

“The people of Greater Manchester can help to stop these evil people planting their seeds of destruction.”

This is indeed true, but not in the way Terry Sweeney intended. If you want to see a world where criminal gangs do not make large amounts of money from the drug market, then the most sensible thing you can do is support the movement for control and regulation. To find out more, visit our website at revisiondrugs.org and join our Facebook.