01 Jan The CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform Campaign In 2013

A very happy New Year to all CLEAR members and supporters.

2012 was a tumultuous year which saw great progress in the development of the cannabis campaign and, most importantly, the introduction of responsible and intelligent legal regulation in Colorado and Washington state.

Derek Williams, CLEAR website editor and member of our executive committee, has already published an excellent review of the main events of 2012. My purpose here is to look forward to what we aim to achieve in 2013.

I must, however, thank all those on the executive committee for their hard work, loyalty and courage: Joel Dalais, Buster Dawson, Alan Hobday, Mark Palmer, Graham Smith, Jan Wells and Derek Williams. Special thanks also to the CLEAR media team and all the Comment Warriors who have worked so hard to tell the truth and confront the media’s insatiable appetite for misinformation and scare stories about cannabis.

CLEAR is the largest membership-based drug reform group that Britain has ever seen. Despite treacherous attempts to sabotage our work we have stayed focused, on message and we are the voice of responsible, evidence-based cannabis law reform in Britain. Other groups represent the ‘stoner’ community but these are only a tiny proportion of the millions of cannabis users in Britain. CLEAR will continue to engage in the mainstream political process. We will not discredit the arguments for reform by indulging in the sort of cannabis evangelism that has held back progress for so long. There is more than enough evidence on our side without resorting to ‘hemp will save the world’ or ‘cannabis cures cancer’. These distortions and wild exaggerations make fools of those who advance them. Our arguments will always be based on science and evidence.

We have much work yet to do following the completion of the HASC drugs inquiry. Much as with Leveson, its recommendations were the very minimum that could reasonably follow from the evidence yet were rejected out of hand by an out of touch, arrogant and incoherent coalition government. Unlike Leveson, the evidence heard was partial, unbalanced and ruthlessly cherry picked to avoid upsetting the political establishment. Most worrying was its absolute failure to consider the interests of the vast majority of non-problematic drug users and Keith Vaz’ shameful denial that medicinal cannabis was an issue it should have considered. Despite us maintaining a dialogue with the committee for more than a year on medicinal use, it was only after the inquiry finished that Vaz claimed it was not within its remit. Yet again, Home and Health are passing the buck back and forth while hundreds of thousands suffer and live in fear of punishment merely for seeking to relieve their pain or disability.

Our Comment Warriors campaign will continue and we intend to co-ordinate it with efforts to engage the new Police and Crime Commissioners in setting more intelligent priorities for law enforcement resources.

Our pledge never to allow untruths about cannabis to be published without challenge also continues. We await with interest the replacement for the discredited and useless Press Complaints Commission. However, whilst it remain the only avenue for complaints we will continue to use it. We will also continue to make formal complaints to the police when officers step over the line from their duty into politicking and propaganda.

Joel Dalais will be heading up a new membership and fundraising drive. We can do nothing without funding and the party still relies too much on executive committee members paying their own travelling expenses as well as giving their time for free. We are in the process of applying for substantial, long-term funding from several grant-making institutions.

If the HASC drugs inquiry was our main focus through 2012, then in 2013 we have a plan to communicate directly with the general public and the media. This will involve significant monthly expenditure, more than ever seen before by the cannabis campaign. We will need your help and your money to make this succeed.

We also intend to ramp up our efforts to co-ordinate the lobbying of MPs. Many have tried but failed to make this work effectively. We aim to get in front of ministers within the coming year, to look in the eyes of those in charge at the Home Office and Department of Health and interrupt their game of ping pong with the issue of medicinal cannabis.

In order to develop these plans further we will hold a two-day strategic planning meeting later this month for the executive committee. At that time we will also finalise plans for our first national conference which will take place in the spring.

Thank you for your support and encouragement through the past year. Never before have the prospects for legalisation been so realistic. This is entirely because of the professional, business-like approach taken by our colleagues in the US. CLEAR is the only group pursuing reform in Britain in an equivalent and effective fashion.

By the end of this month we will have set out clearly what you can do to help. Please join with us, dig deep to provide the financial support necessary for success and let’s all have high expectations for what we can achieve. I guarantee you that everyone at CLEAR will dedicate themselves and all their efforts as never before.