We had a Chai Latté with a legalise weed MP hopeful

All they want is to legalise weed


Let’s face it, the General Election talk is getting a bit boring. And you have deadlines. And Russell Brand keeps telling you not to bother anyway, well he was at one point anyway.

Between Ed Miliband memes and the most recent UKIP scandal, it’s easy to lose track of who’s actually worth getting out of bed and voting for. In spite of this, CISTA has been a buzz word around campus for the last few weeks.

Launched in February this year, Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (“CISTA”), presents a manifesto focussed solely on the legalisation of marijuana. Every thing else will be decided by the community through regular panel meetings and voting.

Shane's campaign barge

Shane’s campaign barge

Described as the “fastest growing political party in the UK”, CISTA are fielding 32 candidates on May 7th, including in UCL’s Holborn and St. Pancras constituency.

We decided to find out more from local candidate for CISTA, alumni of Queens University Belfast, and full-time hipster: Shane O’Donnell. Shane doesn’t drink, so we met at Leicester Square’s Caffé Nero to discuss all things Cannabis.

He’s legit with leaflets and everything

We sit down for a chat. Shane, speaking in a melodic Irish accent, tells us about his life in politics. The 32-year-old works as a retail manager in Camden, and used to be an active member of the Conservative Party.

He left over issues with their refusal to consider Cannabis legalisation. Upon hearing of CISTA’s launch, Shane quickly joined the new party. Having smoked Cannabis since the age of 17 and seeing “no harm in it”.

Cannabis is increasingly becoming legalised globally. A notable example was the near-total legalisation of Cannabis in Uruguay in August 2014 as well as U.S states such as Colorado and California legalising it for both recreational and medicinal purposes. CISTA hopes to follow this example, claiming the “‘War on Drugs’ has been lost”.

So alternative

So alternative

Shane explains an initial benefit would be that those who had been prosecuted would no longer be illegitimate for work, and could pursue their ambitions.

Furthermore, the money raised in tax receipts (which The Independent cites at 1.25bn) could be spent on substance education that would help to ensure safe consumption. He said: “You only need to google cannabis to see its health benefits.”

Shane spends most of his time working in Camden, which he feels has been sadly left to “deteriorate”. He believes it could massively benefit from the business investment that legalising weed would provide.

With an open, bohemian atmosphere as well as an already pretty open acceptance of cannabis consumption, Shane comments that our North London borough has the potential to be the “Amsterdam of the UK” (only with fewer canals).

Phat joint brah

Shane becomes animated when we raise his “favourite subject”; the links between Cannabis and mental health issues. Recent reports have declared a threefold increase in hospitalisations at Kings Hospital for psychotic episodes from consumption of “Skunk” – a strain of cannabis that contains more THC (the psychoactive substance which causes the ‘high’) than other strains.

He likens the case of ‘skunk’ to a drinker drinking a bottle of absinthe, and proposes that we consider issues in the wider social setting, rather than blaming the drug alone. Shane claims “Skunk” is the “baby of prohibition” and many young people turn to it after their disillusionment with society, just as people turn to alcohol or other drugs in times of despair.

He said: “Drug Dealers working illegally don’t care about your age, personal circumstances, level of health and so on”. We are told legalisation would result in a better regulation in quality, alongside stringent laws controlling what is accessible. This wouldn’t be a “free for all”, Shane tells us, but a responsibly monitored system.

‘People are surprised when they see me in my bow tie’

Before we wrap up, Shane details his ideal: a society in which people have the freedom of choice to consume Cannabis, and can do so safely. Shane predicts that any currently associated stigma would fade away “once people understand the actual benefits of it”.

What does he think will happen on May 7th? The dream is of course a seat, and Shane promises that he would “work his arse off” in that case. However, CISTA’s primary ambition is simply to raise awareness of the issue. “Current mainstream parties are increasingly alienated from the people”.

Shane leaves on a confident prediction that Cannabis will be legalised by 2017.

Our chai lattes are down to the gunky bits, so we shake Shane’s hand and wish him luck for the election. He adjusts his bowtie, puts his cap back on, and takes off on his campaign.