|Peter Reynolds Watch|
By Kevin John Braid
Special to Toke of the Town
The murky world of far-Right politics has never been associated with marijuana legalization. That is, until recently, in the UK, where a small political party, CLEAR, campaigning for cannabis law reform in Britain, has been marred with controversy by its leader, Peter Reynolds. Reynolds is a self-confessed Tory (that’s like a US Republican) and former member of the UK Freedom Party, a breakaway party from the far right British National Party (BNP).
It all started back in early 2011 when the members of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA), a longstanding pressure group in the UK campaigning to end prohibition of marijuana in Britain, voted to register as an official political party, who then subsequently elected Peter Reynolds as the party leader. Boasting a seemingly impressive C.V., Reynolds came into the UK cannabis scene promising to clean up the image and make great progress with politicians to get a change of law brought about in Britain.
Reynolds acted fast, removing the old LCA web site and changing the name to Cannabis Law Reform or CLEAR for short. A fancy new web site soon appeared with lots of articles and promises being published on a regular basis. The party’s Facebook likes increased and membership fees were reduced to as little as £1 ($1.60) which saw the membership rise. There was a genuine feeling amongst many a new credible campaigning force for marijuana legalization was born in the UK.
However, behind the scenes all was not as it seemed. Longtime former LCA activists were threatened and even expelled from the party for disagreeing with Reynolds. Alun Buffry, the founder of the old LCA, was publicly slandered by Reynolds and threatened with the police and legal action, which over the ensuing year was to become a common trait of Reynolds; we’ll come to that in more detail later.
|Peter Reynolds Watch|
Winston Matthews, a longtime medicinal cannabis user and LCA activist, was also expelled from CLEAR by Reynolds. Many will be familiar with Winston who was sent to prison earlier this year for 16 months for repeatedly growing his own medicine. This didn’t stop Reynolds shamelessly trying to cash in on Winston’s plight, using his story for CLEAR’s own publicity, even pledging to donate £50 ($80) to the Free Winston Campaign fund, which we are told was never received.
By the summer of 2011 many old LCA activists were no longer involved with CLEAR and Reynolds had appointed a new team to his Exec, the committee that is supposed to run the party and oversee its general business.
On the face of it, the future was looking bright for Reynolds and CLEAR. However, some activists had already started to smell a rat and checks were made into the claims on Reynolds’ Curriculum Vitae he had made public at the time he hijacked the LCA. The various investigations confirmed these suspicions, although even the fiercest critics of Reynolds were surprised to find out his entire C.V. appeared to be completely fabricated.
Checks were made with Saatchi & Saatchi, a renowned London based global advertising agency who Reynolds claimed to have worked for, but they had never heard of him. Back issues of the Independent newspaper were trawled through in search of a regular newspaper column he claimed to have written for them, but to no avail. A Freedom of Information Request was made asking any record of a report entitled “Unaffordable Prejudice” that Reynolds claimed to have submitted to the UK Parliament back in 1983, however, they said “have no records of Peter Reynolds writing to the Home Affairs Committee in 1983 on cannabis laws.”
Questions started to be publicly raised about Peter Reynolds, his responses to these questions were perhaps more revealing about the man than the questions themselves. Those who raised legitimate concerns and questions were dubbed “trolls and liars”, repeatedly threatened with the police (including medicinal users) and generally abused by Reynolds in the most vicious of ways.
The flippant and abusive reaction from Reynolds did not quell his critics. Quite the contrary, it made them all the more adamant to expose him. At the end of 2011, a blog written by Reynolds had come to light which contained deeply racist and homophobic views.
In his blog he wrote about “evil Jews”, decribed homosexuals as “perverts” and labelled the entire nation of Pakistan as “wicked” and “evil.” In one now infamous blog post, Reynolds claimed he was not a racist, citing that his “oldest friend is a jet black Jamaican” only to follow with a diatribe compaining there was “barely a white face to be seen” in London and writing he felt “isolated in his own country” and that there are “too many of them.”
Reynolds’ reaction was to delete his blog and again call anyone who questioned him a “troll and liar.” More threats of legal action and calls to the police followed. It has been confirmed Reynolds has threatened to call the police on almost 20 activists, even publishing a confirmed UK Crime Reference Number on his blog, as proof he did this.
|Peter Reynolds Watch|
|Peter Reynolds calls student blogger, Sarah McCulloch a “genetically confused, half women, half werewolf” (some details blacked out for privacy reasons).|
The fact the leader of Cannabis Law Reform has actually phoned the police on people — many of who are medicinal users of marijuana — has quite rightly disgusted and outraged virtually the entire British cannabis community.
One such blogger, Sarah McCulloch, a 22-year-old theology student and trustee of the Re:Vision Drug Policy Network, dared to question Reynolds’ homophobic and racist views in her blog. The response of Reynolds would be laughable if it were not for the fact he was in charge of an organization claiming to be the largest marijuana reform group in the United Kingdom. Reynolds retorted she was an “egotistical, genetically confused, half women, half werewolf,” merely for asking perfectly legitimate questions.
The controversy generated by Peter Reynolds and CLEAR was now well known on most UK cannabis forums and Facebook pages, however, any mention of it or criticisms of Reynolds on either CLEAR’s web site or their Facebook page were swiftly and ruthlessly censored or deleted, with the respective users being banned by Reynolds and not surprisingly branded as “trolls and liars.”
These vicious attacks by Reynolds and his refusal to go naturally led to more digging by what had now become a concerted campaign for his removal as the leader of CLEAR. Later one activist commented the only good thing Reynolds had achieved was the “uniting of UK cannabis activists who hadn’t spoken for years who had come together in their desire to get rid of Peter Reynolds.”
|Peter Reynolds Watch|
|Screen shot of Reynolds’ sleazy dating ad on a fetish site asking for young girls to play the role of “sex
We mentioned earlier Reynolds’ homophobic remarks in his blog where he described gays as “perverts” and claimed the fashion industry had become “infected by homosexuals” who wanted to dress women up like “pretty boys.” Many found these quite controversial views not fitting of someone who claimed to represent pot smokers.
It had come to light Reynolds had been using an Internet handle “lovepeaceguru’ and had been posting on swingers’ and BDSM web sites requesting young girls to play the role of “sex slave” and to “dress up as school girls.” Accusations of hypocrisy followed, given Reynolds had publicly branded homosexuals as “perverts.” Revelations of online personals on S&M web sites asking for submissive young girls have opened up Reynolds as a figure of ridicule in the UK.
|CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform|
By the beginning of 2012 several members of the CLEAR Executive Committee had resigned, including Des Humphrey, a wheelchair-bound medicinal user who left on account of Reynolds’ views, which he said were incompatible with his own. Des is a former soldier in the British Army, Welsh karate champion and rugby player, but that didn’t stop Reynolds branding the former serving soldier a “coward” after he left the CLEAR Exec.
Naturally, Des was also threatened with the police and legal action by Reynolds. Another Exec member, Sanj Chowdhary, was expelled from the Party by Reynolds for trying to seek a resolution to the problems created by Reynolds’ controversial remarks and leadership style.
Despite the fact 17 British Members of Parliament had de-friended Reynolds on Facebook and every single drug reform group in the UK had stated they would not work with CLEAR while Reynolds remained leader, he refused to budge calling all critics “trolls and liars.” It all came to a head when in March 2012, Mark Palmer, Reynolds’ deputy leader resigned, and two of the four remaining members of the CLEAR Exec, Chris Bovey and Greg de Hoedt, called for a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Peter Reynolds.
Was the end of the despotic leadership of Peter Reynolds finally in sight?… Er, no, as Reynolds proclaimed the vote invalid, since he had suspended Greg de Hoedt from the CLEAR Executive Committee, when Chris Bovey, the other Exec member who tabled the no confidence vote, told Reynolds he could not do that, Reynolds simply announced he was suspended too.
|Peter Reynolds Watch|
|Mark Palmer, Reynold’s deputy, confirms his resignation from CLEAR — yet Reynolds claims he didn’t resign.|
The amusing story of Reynolds’ despotic control of the CLEAR Exec and his abusive behavior towards anyone who dares to be critical of him inspired one activist to make this hilarious parody posted on Youtube, which has so far received over 2,000 hits.
The debacle surrounding Peter Reynolds and his leadership of CLEAR has it seems forced his hand into calling for a vote of confidence in his leadership, although, since it is a vote by email being run by his appointed Exec few expect it to be fair or democratic.
One thing for sure is the cause of Cannabis Law Reform in the UK will never be taken seriously while the far right and Peter Reynolds are at the helm.
|Kevin John Braid|
|Kevin John Braid, the author of this article, visiting Amsterdam|
Editor’s note: Kevin John Braid is an artist, writer and activist who was born in Scotland, grew up in the U.S.A. (California and Arizona), lived in England for a few years, and now lives in Poland. He has spent many years fighting against marijuana prohibition, and is a lover of books, cooking and Nietzsche.