Fundamental to everything that we do is the democratic process. A year ago it was the 68 members of what was then called the Legalise Cannabis Alliance that voted to elect me as leader, to re-register as a political party, to change our name to Cannabis Law Reform and to adopt a new set of aims, objectives and a new constitution. Soon, at our first national conference, members will be able to vote on policies and campaign strategies.
CLEAR is now close to having 10,000 registered supporters. We are almost 800 full members and over 8500 Facebook members. We still need many, many more but we have put the cannabis issue back on the agenda as never before. We have elevated the campaign onto a new level of professionalism and evidence based policy. We are making the truth about cannabis CLEAR more effectively than ever before.
This is something that all of us who have joined together can be very proud of. If you contrast where the UK campaign is now compared to a year ago there has been a transformation. We are focused on the single issue of cannabis but CLEAR is now the largest, membership based, democratically run drug reform group that Britain has ever seen. We are making history.
So, how can we take the campaign forward? What can we achieve? What is the best strategy to create progress?
I believe that cannabis is a mainstream issue. Cannabis policy affects everyone, not just those who use it. Non-users and even those who dislike it are threatened and disadvantaged by prohibition. We all suffer from the crime created by a massively profitable illegal market.
So, to achieve reform, our most important audience must be those who do not use cannabis. They are the people we need to convince. CLEAR is not about promoting a stoner culture or an alternative or underground lifestyle. We say cannabis is not a culture in itself. It transcends many cultures, lifestyles and beliefs. CLEAR is about truth and justice, most importantly for those who need cannabis as medicine. We aim to reform laws which have been imposed on us because of prejudice and false propaganda.
So cannabis users are not the subject of our campaign although their interests are at its heart. Our strategy is to bring the subject into open, rational, informed debate so that progress can be made. To do that, cannabis users have to recognise the fears and uncertainties of the wider community. We have to be seen to be responsible. More than responsible.
The fear that so many feel, that is stoked up by the Daily Mail and by politicians like Charles Walker, is based on lies and propaganda but we have to recognise it. We have to be prepared to accept strict regulation - entirely disproportionate to the facts but as a means to make progress.
That is why responsibility is at the core of the CLEAR campaign.
We must set an example. Gratuitous displays of cannabis use or cultivation achieve nothing. In fact, they work against the cause. It may well be unfair and unjust and infringe our rights on all sorts of levels but if we want change we have to make it happen. Blowing smoke from a joint into a policeman's face never was going to achieve anything and neither are YouTube videos which, in effect, do the same thing.
There are other groups that believe in such protest and confrontation but CLEAR aims to achieve real change in the real world in a practical way. We value and respect other campaigners but it is CLEAR that must set an example and show the wider community that there is nothing to be feared and everything to be gained. Cannabis law reform is about reducing crime, reducing harm, protecting those at risk. Cannabis can be good for Britain.
So yes, that does mean some differences in the emphasis of our campaign. The Cannabis Truth roadshow, taking the truth to town centres and local communities, will be our focus. CLEAR will be represented at every march and protest up and down the country but we will not be sponsoring them. They are not the way to reach the people we need to convince.
If you use cannabis then do so responsibly, with discretion but be relentless about advancing the evidence about its safety, medicinal benefits and the damaging effects of prohibition. This is the CLEAR way forward.
I make no apology for saying that CLEAR must be the acceptable face of cannabis. We recognise that cannabis is now much more potent than it used to be, that the lack of CBD in modern cannabis is potentially harmful, particularly for young people. This is another problem caused by prohibition in exactly the same way as alcohol prohibition led to high strength "hooch". These arguments are crucial in campaigning for a safer, more intelligent, regulated system.
Claiming "rights" or expecting a revolution in cannabis policy is the stuff of dreams. It is unrealistic. If we want to make progress we have to be smart, not held back by stubborn positions.
What can you do? First of all, encourage your friends to join. It costs virtually nothing but means you make your mark. Then - donate! If we had just £10 from every cannabis user in Britain, I promise you, we could change the law tomorrow! Do your bit!
Join the members forum where you can discuss your thoughts and ideas and directly influence policy. Local groups enable you to network with others in your area. These are opportunities to organise against MPs who support prohibition.
Please join us on the roadshow when we visit your area. Write to your MP and register that you have done so on the CLEAR website. Join our Comment Warriors campaign and write to your local newspaper. A little effort from everyone will make a big difference. We are already a significant political force. Let's make it so we can't be ignored!
If you want to see an end to the prohibition of cannabis then the way forward is CLEAR. Join. Join in. Contribute. Tell the truth politely. Set an example. Work for understanding, not for division.
In unity, with courage, together, we will make the truth about cannabis CLEAR.