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Stay away from that stuff?

Yesterday Buzzfeed ran a story about the Labour Shadow Minister Rachel Reeves’ visit to a school in North London. The article, emblazoned with the headline 'Stay Away From That Stuff’, demonstrates the troubling way in which current MPs are tackling what they call the “War on Drugs”. Most of all, this story gives an illuminating insight into the tactics being deployed to “educate” students in the schooling system.

It’s very worrying that we have MPs running into schools shouting about the dangers of drug consumption; taking it upon themselves to answer questions on a subject they frankly don’t have much experience with. In many ways, its a frightening damnation of the countless millions of pounds and decades of research qualified researchers and scientists have put into understanding the true benefits, and risks, of such substances.

By the second sentence, we have the author attacking a party’s policy that has been proven in many other countries to minimise the harms associated with the consumption of illegal (or decriminalised) substances. Then, by the third sentence, we're hit with the inevitable scaremongering of cannabis-induced psychosis. This is more the kind of thing you'd expect to see belted across the front pages of the Daily Mail.

Reeves is subtly perpetuating the gateway theory: “And often things started to go wrong because people started smoking weed and using other drugs…” This is a problem that would be solved by regulation. If a child chooses to approach a street dealer looking to buy cannabis, that dealer will more than likely offer that child other hard substances. And remember – the only ID required is a bank note.

If MPs are going go into schools warning students of the risks posed by the abuse of cannabis - or any other substance - then they should do their research. We should be educating children about the mechanics of cannabis, its therapeutic benefits, and the core science of the plant’s cannabinoids such as THC9, THC8, CBD, CBDA, CBN, THCVA etc. The list goes on. How when grown responsibly, the therapeutic benefits of cannabis cast a dark shadow over the poorly grown high THC low CBD strains of cannabis we see flooding the streets – something that would resemble moonshine if it were compared to an alcohol equivalent.

There are thousands upon thousands of patients living in the UK that depend on cannabinoid therapy to survive and make their days more bearable. Scaring students away from cannabis instead of educating them is only putting them at far greater risk. Moreover, it stops them from being able to make sensible, evidence-based decisions.

The research is there. Countries all over the world are proving that cannabis is a safe medicinal plant, leaving the UK trailing behind like never before.

It's time to reschedule, it's time to regulate and it’s time to educate.

Debunking Skunk

The debate about cannabis in this country has been conducted at an abysmally low level. The politicians refuse even to listen to the evidence: when their appointed advisor tried to tell them the truth about the relative harm of cannabis they sacked him. In this important area of public health and personal freedom they prefer to base their policies on ill-informed nonsense.

One manifestation of the nonsense is the ongoing hysteria about “skunk”. Reading the sensationalist press (which seems to be how the government get their information now) you are led to believe that a new menace has emerged, skunk, a terrifyingly potent form of cannabis.

This is a false and dangerously misleading notion, and it needs to be debunked. I can think of at least three different reasons why it’s a mistake to talk about “super-potent skunk”.

First: potency depends on many factors: for a start, many different varieties are sold as “skunk”, in one sense it has become a generic term for herbal cannabis.The market in cannabis seeds isn’t regulated like the market in vegetable seeds, and sellers can make almost any claim they like. Then there’s the question of how it was grown, there are many different factors in play here, the germination method, the quality of care during the months of growth, lighting, fertilisers, pest and disease control, harvesting, trimming and curing.

Second: other varieties and forms of cannabis can be just as “potent” as the strongest skunk. Hashish is made by taking the active ingredients off the leaves, so its potency is as variable as the potency of the plants it comes from. Weight for weight, hashish must be more “potent” than the herbal form, it’s more concentrated. While it’s true that hash is often adulterated and therefore less potent, it would be a mistake to believe that this is always the case.

Third: opponents of cannabis liberalisation have seized on the myth of potent skunk as a means of justifying the continuing prohibition. Skunk is characterised as a new substance with new risks. This is false: throughout the last 40 years in the UK it has been possible to obtain cannabis which has all the effects, desirable and undesirable, of the strongest “skunk” you can get today. Taking too much cannabis in any form can be unpleasant. Cannabis in any form varies in potency. People using it need reliable, factual information. The unregulated market makes that impossible.

CISTA announces new candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central

We're very happy to announce new candidate Ali Majid. A barber and father of two, 23 year-old Ali, will be standing in his hometown of Stoke. He'll be contesting the seat against Liam Ascough of the Conservatives, the Green Party's Jan Zablocki and incumbent Labour MP Tristram Hunt.

Ali was in the audience during Channel 4's Drugs Live programme and caught the whole thing on the CISTA Instagram. You can check out his pictures here, including this great one with grape-loving Jennie Bond.

A prominent member of his local community, Ali intends to emphasize the benefits of medical use and education in his campaign.

CISTA announces first Scottish candidate

We are delighted to announce that Yvonne Maclean, 41, has resigned her membership from the Scottish National Party to stand as an MP for CISTA.

Yvonne Mclean will stand in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency. The seat will be contested by Tom Greatrex MP (Labour), Margaret Ferrier (SNP) and Tony Hughes (Liberal Democrats). 

A mother of one, Yvonne joined the SNP prior to the Scottish Independent Referendum. As a lifelong resident of the area, she knows the constituency well and aims to hold the SNP to account for ignoring the wishes of many voters who are calling for a reform to drug policy.

Yvonne said: 

The Independence Referendum empowered the Scottish electorate and opened the political landscape to a new generation. The SNP have demonstrated that they’re not prepared to tackle our outdated drug policy, which impacts a great many people across Scotland and the UK. I consume cannabis for medicinal reasons and I strongly believe that the UK must reassess our current drug laws. A Royal Commission to review our drug policy is the sensible, common sense step in the right direction.  I’m standing to hold the SNP to account and put this issue firmly on the political agenda. Together we can influence change and end our outdated drug laws, which criminalise a large section of society and ignore the benefits that a regulated, taxed cannabis market would bring.”

Every day more people are coming forward to stand as CISTA candidates right across the UK.

Join the party today

Stand in May - apply to be a candidate

Bring your skills to the party

Bring Your Skills to the Party Part II

As CISTA continues to grow, so have offers from volunteers. From web developers to DJs, filmmakers to singer-songwriters, those wishing to bring their skills to the party have been remarkably varied. This response has been incredibly encouraging.

Volunteers are crucial to our campaign. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to support us and our increasing network of candidates.

If you are a photographer or cameraman we’d love to have you at our events getting valuable coverage and sharing it online. Into graphic design? Get creative and help us make posters and stickers to spread the word in shop-windows, high streets and public places. If you have an area of expertise you think could aid us in some way we’d love to hear from you.

Along with having a ‘skills-bank’ feature for our website in the works, we will be putting on a get-together for volunteers next Wednesday. Our space on Tottenham Court Road will play host to a range of enthusiastic, practical supporters.

Keep the messages coming. Continuing at this rate, we have a real chance of getting our voices heard on this issue. And together we’ll build not just an ordinary party, but a creative movement for change.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can contact me at isaac@cista.org.