Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

A Tale Of Two Conferences

with 33 comments

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

It was at its best as the brave Clark French and Cure Ukay gave their personal testimonies as medicinal cannabis users at the European Student Drug Policy Reform Conference.  It was at its worst when Peter Hitchens confronted me and Sir Ian Gilmore  at the University of Bedfordshire “A Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?” debate.

The Cannabis Panel

I am so proud to have been associated with both Clark’s and Cure’s contributions at the Manchester conference last weekend.  There were tears in the audience as first Clark, who has MS, then Cure, who has Crohn’s,  explained the reality of their daily lives and the relief that cannabis provides.  The following day, Clark had a relapse and he hobbled to the front to explain, his legs in spasm.  He went outside to take his medicine and literally skipped back into the conference hall.  It was like watching Christ telling someone to take up his bed and walk.  It was intensely moving.  It refreshed my enthusiasm.  It reignited my rage.  They are both warriors for the cause of great courage and dedication.  They are my inspiration.

The conference was a worthy and well-organised event.  Lembit Opik gave a barnstorming speech which had them whooping and cheering in the aisles. There were fascinating contributions from Sebastian Saville and Niamh Eastwood of Release, Darryl Bickler of the Drug Equality Alliance, Chris Hallam and Tom Lloyd of the  International Drug Policy Consortium.  There were very practical workshops on campaigning and an engrossing lecture from Chris Rose of Campaign Strategies.  I know I’m biased but I think Clark and Cure were the stars of the show!

And so to London on Wednesday evening for the debate at Kings College University, near Waterloo.  As I walked into the lecture theatre, there was Peter Hitchens chatting with Sir Ian Gilmore. I marched straight up and introduced myself, explaining to Hitchens that I am responsible for the four Press Complaints Commission complaints that he is currently facing.  I enquired after his brother’s health and he gave me a long and detailed explanation about Christopher’s oseophageal cancer.  He was extremely courteous to me.  I took my seat directly in front of him.

Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?

Hitchens spoke first.  He is the arch dissembler, presenting facts in such a way that he draws you towards a false conclusion. To be fair, he is a fine speaker but at the heart of his argument is an intellectual vacuum.

Sir Ian Gilmore, ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians went next.  He was quiet and dignified and presented a very scientific approach to harm reduction. Finally, Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside, stood in for David Blunkett. He was an entertaining speaker. I always rather like intelligent policemen.  They have a difficult job to do and I think the good ones are very valuable to society.

So to questions…and I was fidgeting in my seat with impatience!  I had my go, talked about the harms of prohibition, about taking the more pragmatic approach with a regulated system and the evil injustice of the denial of medicinal cannabis.  Right in front of me Hitchens was visibly seething. When I pointed out that his brother is a passionate advocate of medical marijuana he snapped.  He pointed at me, glared and shouted “Leave my brother out of it!”.

Steve Rolles from Transform spoke as did Harry Shapiro from Drugscope. Tom Lloyd, who had also spoken in Manchester contributed and there were many other intelligent observations and comments.  Hitchens was clearly unhappy.

We went back to the panel and Hitchens was aggressive in his response, gesturing at me and talking of  “idiots” and accusing Sir Ian of talking “drivel”.  I heckled him. he promised to “deal with you later” with another Alan Sugar-style stab of the  finger.  Sir Ian was next and he rather politely suggested that “Peter has his head in the sand” – at which Hitchens exploded!

He grabbed his coat and bag and made as if to leave.  It was a very deliberate flounce in high dudgeon.  Later it was suggested he did it for dramatic effect but no, it made him look foolish.  He was flummoxed by the opposition.

The chairman, ex-BBC presenter John Silverman, skillfully restrained him and persuaded him to stay.  In his closing statement Hitchens quoted some statistics from Portugal in an effort to disprove that country’s success with decriminalisation.  It would be against the rules for me to accuse him of anything more than dissembling but no one in the room recognised any truth in his figures.

It was an entertaining evening and a good opportunity to raise the profile of  CLEAR.  I’m back next week for another session entitled “How the World’s View of the Drugs ‘war’ is Changing”.

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33 Responses

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  1. Great stuff pity it could not be recorded for tv or web cast i would have loved to watch. maybe next time someone can get cameras in to record it.
    Keep up the good work guys we are all behind you

    a quiet man

    April 2, 2011 at 1:01 am

    • if they’ll let me in and i can get there ill record the audio or film it! Thats what i do!

      Cure Ukay

      April 2, 2011 at 1:04 am

      • Hi,

        It has been recorded and will be online soon, so watch this space.

        Kind regards,

        Adam
        SSDP UK Board

        Adam Moniz

        April 4, 2011 at 12:01 am

      • Thanks for that Adam. I can confirm that the University of Bedfordshire told me today that the video of the “Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?” debate should be online in about a month. Subscribe here and you’ll find out first!

        Peter Reynolds

        April 4, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    • Why is it that what Peter Hitchens calls the ‘dope lobby’ has the reasoned, rational arguments on its side, and the likes of Hitchens indulge in spittle-flying hate-mongering? Perhaps it’s because he knows he doesn’t have a rational argument? In any case, I’ve recently had words with him on my blog and he seems to imagine that he’s in some sort of danger. I’m not sure he’s altogether sane.

      Mark

      August 5, 2011 at 12:08 pm

  2. It was a pleasure to spend such a weekend with you and Clark, Peter. I look forward to the next time!

    I think it is fantastic that you made public reference to Hitchens family hypocracy. if only Clark or I had been able to see his reaction to you.

    Make sure you point out that we specifically need Highgrade cannabis, like Bedrocan, not the ‘woodstock weed’ our parents smoked – it just doesnt do the job.
    What state is Chris Hitchens in?

    Cure Ukay

    April 2, 2011 at 1:03 am

    • According to an interview in The Times this week, he’s at stage four and there isn’t a stage five. Peter Hitchens didn’t seem too optimistic either.

      Peter Reynolds

      April 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

  3. Ha! Ha! I like this! Hitting the ground with both feet running, and putting the boot straight into Peter Hitchens!

    pjmcneill

    April 2, 2011 at 1:10 am

    • Sorry, that sounds so violent. I’m not a violent person, but I like that image.

      pjmcneill

      April 2, 2011 at 1:13 am

  4. Peter Hitchens always claims to have evidence behind his spectacular claims about cannabis but when pressed always seems to fall back on empty (and dubious, given the medical situation) moralism.

    A great shame this is not available on film.

    Sam

    April 2, 2011 at 1:49 am

  5. Audio & video would have been awesome, I for one think AV is a must for all future events, we would also then have great records to referance & with social networking it would also help to rally more people, well worth the effort I think.

    Urmmmm I wonder, what did he say about Portugal ?

    Thanks Peter, Clark & Cure UKey

    mFuk

    April 2, 2011 at 8:04 am

  6. Thanks for the write up Peter, a very interesting read. Please let me know how I can get involved as well the next time!

    Nuff Said

    April 2, 2011 at 9:45 am

  7. Excellent work!
    I am looking forward to hearing all about next weeks meeting,
    I agree AV would be good, if its allowed in the meeting?

    cannajan

    April 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

    • The debate was filmed but I don’t know by who or what plans there are for its use. I’ll try to find out. There were many people filming at the SSSDP conference too. Again, I’l try to find out about it.

      Peter Reynolds

      April 2, 2011 at 10:20 am

  8. We’ll no doubt be seeing an article in the mail completely twisting this out of all proportion. That’s why a video would be desirable at these sorts of things

    Ed

    April 2, 2011 at 10:09 am

  9. “Reducing demand for prosecution of drug users, restricting supply of unlawful prosecutions, building recovery of the whole nation with the money saved from ending prohibition: supporting law makers and law enforcers to live a prohibition-free life”

    Julian

    April 2, 2011 at 10:56 am

  10. Ha! So glad you stuck it to Hitchens!! I’m surprised he even debated (wasn’t Raabe meant to be there too?) as any prohib gets shot down pretty quick these days if there are more than 2 brain cells in the audience/rebuttal. The arrogance of the man, following the same dishonest tactics (I imagine as I was not there) with Portugal as Baroness Neville-Jones did in the house of Lords debate… if the facts don’t fit.. fit the facts.

    It can only go on so long… that is why the anti corner had people who are involved with the effects of prohibition who know what they are talking about, whereas the for corner had ‘opinionated’ people who can’t back up their ideology with facts… which is why you don’t get any self-respecting person to agree with prohibition in a public setting like that – and that, in itself, is a small victory..

    Jake

    April 2, 2011 at 11:47 am

    • The Hitchens and Raabe against Tom Lloyd and Bob Ainsworth debate is on 17th May. I’ll be there. Who else is coming?

      http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/pages/policyfightclub.cgi

      Peter Reynolds

      April 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      • Peter,

        A little something you may wish to mention next time you meet your namesake without a brain …

        i.e. further acceptance of the medicinal effects of cannabis:

        http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/healthprofessional

        Cupid Stunt

        April 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      • Normal posted an item about that particular page recently, seems theres been some “editing” going on.

        http://blog.norml.org/2011/03/30/national-cancer-institute-scrubs-anti-tumoral-effect-of-cannabinoids-from-website/

        jimbob

        April 2, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      • *NORML .., sry

        jimbob

        April 2, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      • I have just sent the following to the National Cancer Institute, using the email form on their site:

        “I was browsing the NORML (National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) website recently, when I saw a reference to the possible antitumor effect of cannabis that had been noted on your site, and then subsequently expunged.

        Various studies have shown the value of cannabis in shrinking tumors, and in the absence of legal methods of procuring this medicine, patients are endeavoring to acquire it illegally, or to produce their own, in the form of Rick Simpson’s so-called Hemp Oil.

        Rather than surreptitiously sweeping these encouraging research findings under the carpet, should you not be proclaiming this discovery, and pressuring the government and medical establishment to advance this research, with the aim of developing an effective legal medicine in the fight against cancer?

        Shame on you.”

        pjmcneill

        April 3, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      • I did mention that very fact, that the US National Cancer Institute has recognised the anti-cancer effects of cannabinoids and, as I recall, it prompted a sort of spat out “Pah!”

        I’m trying to paint the picture for you now. There he is about 15 feet directly in front of me. I think I was in the third row of banked seating but there was no one between he and I. There was plenty of eye contact and we were swapping expressions of disagreement. What a wheeze! Much more fun than leaving comments on Mail Online!

        Peter Reynolds

        April 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      • Ah, my mistake Peter (I heard Hitchens and a constable and thought it was that one) – still, another chance for you to hold him/them to account!!

        Jake

        April 2, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      • OMG Raabe…, what a nutter, I’d suggest letting him have enough evangelist rope.., he will do the rest for you.

        jimbob

        April 2, 2011 at 1:38 pm

  11. People like Peter Hitchins better wake up, if they think they can patronise there readership and audiences any longer, and there is more to come, sorry but the thought of P Hitchens grabbing for his favourite toy to try make the truth go away is entertaining me. Can remember when he was on R2.

    Great report and keep up the excellent work.

    L Catt

    April 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    • Lol L Catt – I doubt he is patronising his ‘readership’… it is the DM after all… :-p. But that is part of the problem, people believe what they read, get angry and riled up by it, act out against it – but they very rarely question it… and ultimately support biased and outright bad legislation. Holding him to account via the PCC is probably one of the better methods to educate his readership (as Peter is doing)..

      Jake

      April 2, 2011 at 1:58 pm

  12. Yes I agree he is just trying to earn a dishonest crust by saying what the DM want him to say for the last 50 years the only voice was the Media , They decide what the question was and the told us the answers. if any other compound had any kind of effect on cancer then it would be wall to wall 24 hr headlines as of now i have heard nothing on the news or in the papers this has been my only source of information, the net. But what a source now we can confront the mainstream media by bypassing them and show a more truthful view by viewing the evidence ourselves , Remember this donkey Hitchens promised that the world would end if sinn fein ever got a say in the government of N.Ireland well they became the government and another election looms guess what the world is still here, so just another error for him to add to the record and dont expect him to change, any human being that can watch his own brother suffer because of the legal system and take payment for maintaining and supporting that system is the lowest type of scum in my book, I do recognise a Donkey when i see one misbehave and i know you dont blame the Donkey you blame the farmer but you cant help wanting to kick that Donkey thank God cannabis does not make you violent.

    a quiet man

    April 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

  13. When CLEAR says ‘end to cannabis prohibition’, that this means the primary concern is the general recreational user and their rights to be able to operate on the basis of minimal interference. I think we should not assume a right to tax persons for cannabis property grown privately, except perhaps where commercial operations are sought to operate a licensed regulated product or service for profit.

    Darryl Bickler

    April 4, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    • I would agree with that Darryl. I think a reasonable system would allow up to six mature plants per person but it shouldn’t be taxed. I could accept a small personal licence fee if pushed. Tax would only be applied on commercial sales together with VAT.

      Our primary concern isn’t “the general recreational user”. It’s specifically – to end prohibition. Period.

      Peter Reynolds

      April 4, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      • I do believe you’re ahead of the lawyer there, Peter!

        pjmcneill

        April 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm


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