The joy of being a blogger, especially an anonymous blogger- is that you can just sit back and opine about the state of the world without having to actually do anything about anything. And so I turn my attention to the UK, and the reform movement back home.

At the weekend, the UK Cannabis Internet Activist (UKCIA) posted about changes afoot in the Legalise Cannabis Alliance. I didn’t even know there was a Legalise Cannabis Alliance, and I’m an über-geek in the glorious world of drug policy reform.

The UKCIA reports that the changes include a leader-Peter Reynolds, a new campaign: “Reform, Regulate, and Realise”, and a new website (at some point). The Legalise Cannabis Alliance is re-registering as a political party and  Peter Reynolds is planning on standing in the next election. Now, from my comfy position as armchair critic, let me offer my thoughts:

Firstly, the campaign: Reform, Regulate, and Realise. On Pete Reynolds’ blog, I found that the message behind this is:

REFORM the law and end prohibition.

REGULATE production and supply based on facts and evidence.

REALISE the huge benefits as medicine and as a new source of £billions in tax revenue.

I’m all for the first two.The third, well, it leaves me a bit ‘meh’. I’ve already offered my thoughts on medical marijuana elsewhere in this blog, but I think the medical marijuana movement has limited potency in the UK. I’m probably a fairly typical representative of Socially Aware Joe Public, and stories like this don’t really register in my mind in a way that makes me want to get up off my lazy arse and do anything about the injustice. Campaigners are competing for my limited levels of ‘give a fuck’ with things like human rights abuses and climate change on the one hand, and cute kittens saying funny things on LOLCats on the other. Perhaps there’s a swathe of Daily Mail reading Middle Englanders that feel differently. I don’t know. I’ll check with my mum.

As for the second claim, of “a new source of £billions in tax revenue”. Really??? I want to see numbers. I want to know where that money is going to come from, and how you’ve calculated that figure. I would love to know how much police time is spent on cannabis arrests, on pot farm raids, on testifying in court for cannabis trials. I want to know how much money is spent on prison for cannabis dealers, and probation for those not incarcerated. If the campaign is only to legalise cannabis, and not other drugs, then I want these figures to reflect that. I also want to know what the business model is for generating these £billions in revenue. If it isn’t £billions, we shouldn’t claim that it is.

Secondly, the website. The new LCA leader declares that the website is a ‘joke‘, while the UKCIA declares that it “could almost have been written by our most vicious opponents as a satire on the cannabis law reform effort.” Yep.They’re right.

Thirdly, the decision to register as a political party. I have to say, I can’t see the point in this. The Green Party already stand for legalization of cannabis, and the only people who would vote for the LCA would probably vote Green anyway. Unless AV voting is in place for the next election (will it be?) this is a waste of what I imagine are seriously limited resources. Secondly, with the UK going through its most significant political transformation in decades, this is not the time for a single issue candidate to try to gain attention. The name of the debate at the moment is money. How can we, as a nation, save money, and what should the government spend our money on? We don’t need to elect a member of parliament to raise those questions. We already have Paul Flynn. What we need to do is make the politicians that we’ve already elected acknowledge these questions as part of  mainstream political debate.

To do that, the campaign needs to be slick, professional and focused. On Pete Reynolds’ blog he refers to internecine struggles between competing factions. I’m sure every campaign movement has them, but they need to be kept away from the public eye. As do bearded hippies in sandals and conspiracy theories about Big Pharma. We need clear, easily communicated messages about what is wrong, what needs to change, and what the benefits of that change will be. We need targeted actions around specific events, with funky communications strategies that will let the message go viral. There is definitely a well of untapped activism. The Facebook protests against David Nutt’s sacking, the Sun’s recent poll on legalization, and all the below-the-line comments on drug policy articles in online newspapers are evidence of that. But to get people out of their armchairs, and motivated to do something, the movement has to up its game. How they should do that? Hmmm…I’ll save that for another post.