Blog

Bring your skills to the party

We’ve been overwhelmed by the response we’ve received in the wake of our launch over the past week. Many of you have been emailing in offering to get involved. Volunteers will be vital in our campaign. We really appreciate your support.

Since so many of have you expressed an interest in helping out, we thought it would be useful to share the best ways you can contribute to our cause.

The easiest way to help is to use your skills. If you are a photographer or cameraman we’d love to have you at our events getting valuable coverage and sharing it on the web. 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.

We will gradually build up a ’skills bank’ of people and resources that our candidates can draw on, ultimately looking to incorporate it as a feature on our website.

Any help at all would go a long way. One of the most useful things you can do is to promote the cause socially. Whether that be online or in person, the more attention this issue gets the more likely it is that we can make a difference.
In the coming weeks we will have more events in the works. We want you to turn out in force. Now is the time to demonstrate that the case for a review of cannabis law has backing and that the British people want reform.

Do get in touch with ideas and suggestions at isaac@cista.org.

The debate over "skunk"

Jon Snow had a bad experience with skunk

Skunk - a highly potent form of cannabis, hit the news this week, with journalists Matthew Parris and Jon Snow - neither cannabis consumers, writing about their experiments with the substance as part of Channel 4’s upcoming “Drugs Live” programme. Snow consumed a very large amount of skunk (the equivalent of, say, a teetotaller drinking half a bottle of vodka) and, unsurprisingly, did not enjoy the experience, to say the very least.

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday published an article claiming a new study  showed that skunk, a highly potent variation of cannabis, increases users’ chances of psychosis by up to three times. The newspaper also alleged that the study, carried out by King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry report showed that cannabis is at fault for one in four new cases of serious mental disorders.

However, a reading of the academic paper shows that claims were more reserved than the Mail on Sunday would have it. The researchers say that stronger variations of skunk “might have a more detrimental effect on mental health than use of a weaker form” - a claim that is hardly surprising as it is applicable to most substances.

Furthermore, as science writer Suzi Gage noted in the Guardian, “correlation isn’t causation.”

Whilst there have been several studies pointing out the correlation between those who suffer from psychosis and those who take the stronger strains of skunk in high quantities, causality is far from clear.

On a more positive note, it is encouraging that the cited report found no link whatsoever between hash and psychosis, with one of the researchers at King’s saying he recommended it to his patients.

The difference in potency between skunk and hash and in turn the potential harms of taking one over the other provides inherent support for CISTA’s campaign to have cannabis properly regulated. Danny Kuschlik of the Transform Drugs Policy Foundation points out: “Skunk is a product of prohibition itself. The iron law of prohibition is that it will produce the most potent variety, just like crack in the cocaine market. It's pure economics. The economics of a deregulated market determines that the most potent, high yield, highest profit version will dominate. And that's what skunk is."

The problem that we in CISTA, academics, law enforcement officials and other countries recognise is that making cannabis illegal also makes it impossible to regulate.

In the Netherlands, by contrast, high strength skunk has been banned and is being treated differently to other safer forms of cannabis, which people can still consume. Isn’t that a more sensible approach than leaving the potency of substances to be dictated by people who are outside the law?

Do you know how safe cannabis is?



What do British people know about cannabis? A recent poll showed that 70 per cent of people believe that cannabis is equally as harmful, if not more so, than alcohol. In actual fact, cannabis is much safer, but only 18 per cent of people polled by CISTA said they believed that to be the case.

  

The above graph, published by the Economist and based on the study "Drug harms in the UK: a multi-criteria decision analysis" shows us that alcohol use is much more likely than cannabis to be a factor when others are harmed. Alcohol is also significantly more likely to be a factor when people cause harm to themselves.

And yet cannabis use is disproportionately maligned in the media. A 2010 report published by the UK Drug Policy Commission found that 42.7% of all stories involving  cannabis linked it to crime. Meanwhile reports pointing out positive consequences arising from cannabis, or even consequences "less harmful than thought", comprised five per cent or less of total coverage.

Legalisation of cannabis, however, has already had a hugely positive impact on societies.

In Denver, Colorado, where cannabis was legalised just over a year ago, there has has been a 15% reduction in crime. Meanwhile road accidents in the first year of legalised cannabis were at some of their lowest levels in recent history. Some academics have claimed that cannabis legalisation correlates with an 8-11% decrease in fatalities from motoring accidents.

This shows that legalisation of cannabis can in fact have an immediate beneficial effect.

Why a political party?

There have been lots of posts - and no little scepticism - expressing why we have decided to form a political party rather than supporting existing campaign groups. Many of you have cited the lack of historic success of single-issue parties in the UK, the quirks of the UK first-past-the-post system that mitigates against smaller parties and the Green's existing manifesto commitment to legalising cannabis.

We have weighed up each of these issues before choosing to take forward the establishment of a political party. Our reckoning is that this is the best way to bring the compelling evidence in support of changes to law to mainstream public attention. We intend to hold parties such as the Greens and the Liberal Democrats to account for policies they espouse in their manifestos and bring forward new distinctive voices and personalities to support reform.

Our focus at this stage remains finding high quality candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds who can represent us in what is going to be a long campaign. We will also be reaching out to all the other political parties in the coming weeks as we consider our constituency policy - we have no intention of splitting the vote by standing in seats such as Brighton Pavilion and Cambridge. Caroline Lucas (Greens) and Julian Huppert (Lib Dems), who are vocally pro-legalisation, both have a chance of winning.

The success of the campaign in Colorado was founded on both the breadth and diversity of its support. We want to emulate that. We recognise that we have to do much more to reach out to those who have been at the vanguard of activism over the past decade or more and we are building up our resources to do that. This engagement will take many forms; across meet ups, social media and mainstream media.

Over the next week we will be bolstering our social media presence/content across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube. At the same time, we will be making subtle changes to our branding based on the feedback we have had in the week since we launched (thanks everyone) and readying ourselves for more mainstream media coverage. We are also intending to reach out to the different regions of the UK to fix meetings with our friends and followers.

Some of you have also raised the question of "Why a Royal Commission?". We have a settled view on this and are consulting with the Institute for Government on how best to create a new approach to Royal Commissions in the digital age not just in terms of creating cross-party consensus, but also allowing the public to fully engage with the process.

Momentum is the key in all political campaigns and we intend to up our game week-on-week.

You are keeping us on our toes as we grow. Please join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Becoming a CISTA candidate

Most of our candidates will never have run for parliament before... so here’s what being a CISTA candidate will actually involve.

Knocking on doors
Winning votes starts with spending time talking to the people who live on your street. And then the street after that. And the street after that. Convincing them that cannabis legalisation makes sense. You’ll help the people you talk put a name to a cause, give them a chance to voice their concerns and supply them with the good solid facts they need to make up their minds.

Social media
We know that knocking on doors won’t reach everyone. So you’ll use facebook and twitter to spread stories, stats and information to people around the country. Creating a buzz online is key to getting politicians to engage with cannabis legalisation this election.

Workshops and training
Whether you’ve never spoken in public before or are a hardened cannabis activist, CISTA will offer you support. We can help with everything from paperwork and media training to crowdfunding, which we’re currently looking into. We know you may be in full time work or study, and that you are not a career politician, so we’ll be helping you make being a candidate work around your other commitments.

Holding politicians to account
We all know that many MPs and candidates are scared of vocally supporting cannabis legalisation, even though they might privately support it. By challenging them at hustings, in your local news and on the doorsteps of voters you can force them to confront the fact that legalisation makes sense.

Volunteering
We need volunteers. We’re looking for people who can makes 30 second videos saying why they support cannabis legalisation. Whether you’re a medicinal user, a recreational or occasional user, or concerned about safety in your area we want to share your message.

Please get in contact with Candidate Liason at yara@cista.org if you are interested in standing for CISTA as a candidate.