Viewing posts by Paul Birch


So we have contested our first General Election - less that three months after we formed ourselves into a political party. 
It has been quite a few months. It is important to now say thank you. 
Firstly, to our candidates who took the message for drugs policy reform out to every part of the UK. 
Secondly, to the almost 8,500 people who used their votes to back us in 32 seats - if we extrapolate this to every seat in Westminster we would have won in excess of 160,000 votes. 
Finally to you our members, our many volunteers and our fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter, where 98% of your comments have been positive and supportive. You have collectively drowned out the odd cynical, negative commenters with your goodwill and enthusiasm. 
Our first stage-post has been reached. We have now to build, learn, organise and plan ahead. You have, each of you, helped us make our mark. Over the coming days we will take our time to reflect, assess and prioritise how we move forward. Already elections are on the horizon next year in London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 
During the course of next week we will reach out to you and share our initial thoughts and ideas. There is lots we can build upon and of course much that can be improved on. We need to be much, much better at recruiting volunteers to our cause. No political campaign has succeeded and no cause has ever been won without an army of passionate, but disciplined and reliable volunteering. Now we have contested an election, the call for volunteering should be easier in the future. 
We will need your help in future campaigns to box leaflets, deliver them, canvass and drive people around etc. 
We also want to develop a new bigger, better membership offer and we will send more details regarding this very soon. 
Lastly, please take a look at this crowdfunding campaign to support a new documentary about the medicinal use of cannabis. You can donate here and read more about the film here. The team behind it URGENTLY need your support. There are just 33 hours to go...
My very best, 

Our Election Strategy - Collaborating with Lib Dems & Greens

Many of you have expressed concern with regard to CISTA candidates standing against Green and Liberal Democrats in May. After some consideration, we have decided not to stand in constituencies where Liberal Democrats and Greens are the incumbent MPs. Both of these parties have expressed their support for the reform and review of Britain’s drug laws relating to cannabis and other drugs.

We are making steady progress with regard to recruitment of candidates and expect to be fielding at up to 100 candidates in May. With this number we'll get a Party Political Broadcast ! 

Please do keep encouraging people to join the party and #StandInMay. 

Welcome to CISTA: Stand in May

We're heartened and thrilled that hundreds of people have joined us in the first week. CISTA has emerged as a real political force.

The focus for us now is continuing to field candidates. If you're interesting in standing you can sign up here.

Over the last week we've had people of all ages and backgrounds coming forward asking to stand and explaining why cannabis legalisation is important to them. All candidates will be standing locally where they live or work.

We are building a diverse party that really represents the UK. Our candidates aren't career politicians - most will be in full time work or study - so we'll be providing a support network and training for whatever needs they have. Whether it's public speaking, social media or crowdfunding.

We will be supporting MPs from all parties who have proven their committment to reforming Britain's drug laws. So we will not stand candidates in constituencies with an existing MP who supports cannabis legalisation - so that means not challenging seats with current Lib Dem and Green MPs.

Please do get in touch if you have any questions, and share widely!

Paul Birch,

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.