#SluggerTalks: Would you vote for a “Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol” Party?

So this is a story with a strong Northern Irish connection. Shane O’Donnell is from Omagh in Co Tyrone, but yesterday he became the first Westminster candidate for a new, single issue party called CISTA (see Guardian here), or Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol.

Tomorrow morning (about 9.15 or so) I’m planning to interview him live from near his base in London to talk about his candidacy in Holborn and St Pancras, about his motivations, and what sort platform he’s standing on.

If you are on Google Plus, you can sign in at the event page here for a reminder and put your own questions to Shane on the Q&A app there, or pick it up direct from Youtube here.

Here’s Shane’s introductory video…

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  • Ernekid

    There’s a sensible 4 part approach towards Cannabis.

    Legalise, Regulate, Educate, Tax.

    The state of Colorado has made a small fortune since they’ve legalised the Cannabis industry. Colorado schools are getting $17 million extra dollars from direct taxation on Cannabis sales.

    It’s time to end the Sisyphean War on Drugs and stop wasting valuable police resources on this pointless moral crusade. Drug consumption is a Health and Social issue not a criminal-justice issue.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Drug consumption is a Health and Social issue not a criminal-justice issue.
    Try telling this to those who are hooked on it and rely on the underworld to get their intake. Are you suggesting to legalise all drugs and to hell with the consequences?

  • Ernekid

    Well Joe, If the drugs industry was legal you wouldn’t have to rely on the underworld as you could do what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers did and pop down to chemist or tobacconist and get our weekly supply of codeine or morphine in carefully measured safe and regulated dosages to take in the privacy of our own homes.

    Alcohol and tobacco kill millions annually yet we willingly accept them as the social norm as we are socially conditioned to and we are aware of the fact that state finances rely on taxation on these products. Nobody calls for the prohibition of these products as we know that it’ll only create a black market revenue stream for criminal gangs. Yet we accept the illegal nature of the drug market even though all it does is create a wealth stream for the underworld.

    Lots of people are hooked on alcohol and tobacco, yet we accept this and the massive social harm it does. To have some society damaging drugs legal and others illegal is hypocrisy of the highest order.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Tobacco has very much become taboo within the UK and ROI and is certainly not considered socially acceptable anymore. There are ample health warnings regarding it and warnings are now beginning to come with the alcohol too, however medially it’s been proven that alcohol in moderation can be of benefit to those that consume it.

  • Ernekid

    Cannabis in moderation can be of benefit to those that consume it, as it can help you relax, question those in authority and help get the creative and artistic juices flowing.
    After all everything in moderation!

    You could argue that Cannabis legalisation would only be a societal good. Instead of going out, drinking too much, smashing up a bus shelter, starting a fight and winding up in A and E, people will sit in, have a spliff with friends, order a pizza and watch classic Sci Fi.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    It’s also been suggested that it can cause long term mental deficiencies. On a minor supportive note for what you’re saying, isn’t there a drugs that’s good for easing arthritis?

  • Ernekid

    Cannabis has been proven in medical trials to be great for helping MS sufferers , alleviating arthritis pain, helping back pain and easing Menstrual cramps. It’s a cheap and natural medication for those who need it

  • Mirrorballman

    Washington DC has now legalised cannabis. There is a growing movement worldwide to do the same. It should be legal here and will probably be in most of Europe within 10 years. Though no party would ever get elected in either England or Ireland who advocated doing so….We are too blue…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    What are the side effects?

  • Neil

    A subject close to my own heart. I recall many years ago when Ballymena was dealing with a massive heroin problem for such a small town. When one would try and get some cannabis the salesperson would invariably attempt a bit of cross selling.

    “You should try this stuff here dude. It’ll get you 100 times more stoned than that smoke, it’s cheaper to get wiped and I’ll give this wee bit for free.”

    I also remember a chap who had managed to get clear of heroin, gone cold turkey and come out clean. He was walking up William Street when one of the many suppliers drove past, rolled his window down and flicked a wee wrap of heroin onto the pavement and drove on. Worth it you see from his perspective because while you may end up wasting a certain amount of drugs, every so often some poor mug will be tempted into one last dance, and that’s it, they’re back on the gear full time. Pays itself back in no time.

    Obviously the intention was to get as many people hooked on skeg as possible, due to the money that can be made from a single dedicated addict. I have no idea how many young people started out with a wee smoke (cannabis) and ended up, due to the legal system, dealing with some immoral scumbag who successfully converted them from a casual smoker into a full on smack head. It seems very obvious to me that the best way to prevent young people from coming into contact with the kind of unscrupulous dealer who would put that kind of effort into destroying people’s lives for money would be to have the government in charge. Then the kids can try cannabis without having to refuse harder, more profitable drugs – they’re gonna try it anyway, so we may as well try and control the situation.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I dunno if it’s safer than alcohol but for all the expense and bother we go to in order to ‘control’ it why not just legalise it, tax the life out of it and ostracise cannabis smokers the way we’ve ostracised smokers?

    Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean that we’d tolerate doctors, firemen, rig workers or wot-not having it in their system.

    People may screw their life up on it eventually but same goes for people who drink too much, eat too much or what ever other vice they may prefer.

  • Tochais Siorai

    As Ernekid said Colorado looks to be the way to go. And of course legalisation has to be accompanied by serious quality control regulation. At the minute there can be literally almost anything in resin bought on the street and the bstrength of any cannabis product varies enormously. Some of the skunk going around now can do some serious damage.

    Joe. Seriously. Those who support proper regulation aim to take the control and supply of what are now illegal drugs away from the ‘underworld.’ If organised crime doesn’t have a product to sell then they’re out of business. Think Prohibition USA, it didn’t work then for alcohol , it doesn’t work now for cannabis (and other illegal drugs for that matter ach sin scéal eile).

  • Neil

    Feeling relaxed and eating wotsits.

  • Ernekid

    There has been studies that argue that long term heavy use s can result in mental health problems but in my experience people who get stoned all the time have mental health problems to start out with, It’s a chicken and egg situation.

    It’s inconclusive what the effects of moderate use is, but the occasional intake of cannabis is likely no more damaging that the occasional glass of wine or pint of beer. Moderation is the key though.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Very good point Neil, it removes the ‘super size me’ aspect of drug dealing.

  • Mirrorballman

    Great post Neil…

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I’ve yet to have an answer on side effects and what about drugs such as heroin which is where the real money is – should this be legalised?

  • ManOfKent

    The LRET model only works when you have a market with limited products and no or few readily available alternatives. The recreational drug market has a multitude of products with new (unregulated) ones becoming available every day. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that recreational drugs are partially driven by fashionability. Under such circumstances the LRET model will fail every time for the simple reason it will continually be by-passed. There is no business case under which a government sponsored regulated drugs regime could compete with those that were still illegal (especially if the government slap a tax on top of the price).

    Therefore as there will always be an illegal market, there will always be a criminal aspect to recreational drugs just as there is with nicotine products and alcohol products. That there will be vastly more drug related products that will remain ‘controlled’ and therefore illegal for recreational use and there will always be age restrictions means there will always be a significant crime related element to its consideration. As much as self indulgent inconsiderate junkies might argue the opposite there aint nothing that will change that reality. There are little or no savings for Government from legalising drugs.

    Other than that after the Kings College report it is pretty clear that whatever junkies say that the regulatory, bureaucratic, criminal, social, financial and health considerations are way too big for the electorate to suffer. Controlled drugs must remain controlled.

    PS As for Colorado read this (of course Drug Consumption is not a criminal justice issue):

    Crime Is Up in Colorado: What That Tells Us About Pot Legalization and, Perhaps More Importantly, Lazy Reporting


  • Joe_Hoggs

    You see, it plays with your taste buds, now if you had said McCoys I would have been swayed.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Of course there are side effects, some good some bad, as there are with alcohol and indeed most drugs. Some of the side effects are the whole point of taking a recreational drug.

    Whether cannabis is legal or not won’t stop people using it but it will take enormous profits away from organised crime and into the national exchequer, it will prevent it being a gateway drug because some scumbag pusher wants to sell a stronger more profitable drug and it will, admittedly from a libertarian point of view, allow people to make their own choices. You might argue that legalisation will increase social acceptance and more people will use it. But is that such a bad thing? It would certainly hit alcohol sales if that happened. The evidence in places like Holland however appears to be the opposite. Certainly if you go into a coffee shop in Amsterdam it seems to be mostly a tourist thing.

    Heroin is a different ball game and a separate type argument on a number of levels but on balance I would legalise it for registered addicts. Again, it takes the money away from crime gangs.

  • Practically_Family

    No I wouldn’t, it’s simply not important enough to me. But I would look
    favourably upon decriminalisation/legalisation as a policy.

    I think it’s coming to be honest. I’m told that the form is if Washington
    DC legislates a particular way, the other 50 States follow. If the US
    ends it’s “War on Cannabis” the war is over.

  • Practically_Family

    I think you’d be surprised. Locally we’d oppose it of course, who needs it when you have prayer?

    But England & the Republic? I imagine you’ll find an attitude similar to that which appears to hold sway where it’s been legalised in the US. “half the population are at it anyway, we might as well make the trade legitimate and taxable”.

  • Practically_Family

    I had a flirtation with it in my late teens and frankly don’t enjoy it as much as I do vin rouge. I can however see the attraction in certain cirumstances. When I found out my father was terminally ill, after 48 hours of grinding my tetth every waking minute I called on a friend who I knew would have a little green and played the sympathy card to an extent in order to, calm my nerves shall we say, drink in the same circumstances would have been inadvisable.

    Now, that said. Most of the lads I “hung” with when I was a teen were at least casual users, they largely still are. I have at least two acquaintances, who used to be very close friends actually, who smell of weed 24/7. So why did I stop? First of all I’m inately lazy and the amount of running about that used to have to be done in order to secure what would invariably have been resin at the time was too much work for me for too little effect. Second, even when smoking myself, I could find stoner behaviour irritating. much as I find drunks annoying when I’m sober. This though continued even when I was stoned myself. The affected apathy pissed me off, still does. I fully realise the hypocricy inolved in both occasionally seeking the mellowing influence of the green and simultaneously being annoyed by it in others, what can I say? I’m a hypocrite. The third and biggest factor in my giving up though was being close to someone who had a pre-existing and previously unrecognised mental health condition aggrivated by cannabis use, that was really quite scary and while it wasn’t a direct result of drug use, he became so bound up in cannabis culture (for wnat of a better term) that the illness and the drug were indistinguishable, still are as it happens.

  • chrisjones2

    I don’t care if its safer or not. And they should do ecstasy at the same time. If people wish to kill themselves then let them do it with drink or drugs tobacco petrol or floor polish. Spend the money wasted on a war against crime on education / prevention.

    But here’s the rub. Once you legalise it, the product liability insurance costs will be so high that who will dare manufacture it? At the first opportunity all the psychotic smack heads will sue them claiming they didn’t realize that smoking 200g of skunk a day could be harmful man and the more they smoked the less they could understand the risks

    Better to leave it to all those Chinese entrepreneurs who are supporting the economy by renting premises across the country

  • chrisjones2

    “Cannabis in moderation can be of benefit to those that consume it, as it can help you relax, question those in authority and help get the creative and artistic juices flowing.”

    You have been smoking too much weed my friend

  • chrisjones2

    Agreed ….where they need it and use as an analgesic

    Cocaine has a similar use

  • Practically_Family

    It’s not particularly difficult to grow. Although you won’t be producing skunk in a window box.

  • chrisjones2
  • chrisjones2

    Lordy …next they will be suggesting abortion on demand and gay marriage

    Is this all part of a plot to get the DUP to adopt the Catholic Church as their official religion. The Peace Process’s Arnhem?

  • eiregain

    its correlation and causation at its worst. Usually those with pre existing addiction problems and/or mental problems are those labelled as a typical pot heads. The type of people whos lives would be ruined by alcohol or gambling or cocaine, if cannabis wasn’t their vice.
    It is by far the lesser of many many evils, and could be argued to be beneficial in many circumstances.

    There is no debate in the question of which is more dangerous alcohol or cannabis!

    Its surprising to see a reasoned discussion on the issue and very encouraging to see both sides come together over what is now an accepted part of society, and discussion on a better way of approaching drug addiction. (even Chris seems to be on board, in his own way of course)

    In what dimension of reality can we see this manifesting into a real change in law and society? Catholics and Protestants representatives alike are equally scared of endorsing it.

    I don’t advocate full blown legalisation (even though its proven to work better than a war on drugs, in the past and currently across Europe AND would generate large sums of money for the state) but decriminalization and proper support are clearly the pathways to helping people beat addiction.

  • eiregain

    “At the first opportunity all the psychotic smack heads will sue them claiming they didn’t realize that smoking 200g of skunk a day could be harmful man and the more they smoked the less they could understand the risks”

    They still have not found the maximum dose for cannabis, they have tried in labs to make people overdose from medical grade chemicals and it just doesn’t happen. What is so harmful about smoking that much weed? over smoking that much tobacco, or drinking gallons of vodka. Can people get drunk and sue the state and tv channels for advertising the drink that got them mashed up or could have killed them? that wont happen with green.

  • maxwood

    Graphic novel-style illustrated guides will be written helping everyone learn what kinds of exercises, music, talk or handwork to do, or where to go walking after a toke to get most payoff and productivity from cannabis, therefore heroin use will die away (along with Big 2WackGo).

  • chrisjones2

    Cannabis is a drug that has many nasty side effects. Its also smoked in combination with tobacco. . No matter how many warnings you put on it will lead to billions of pounds in claims.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Indeed. When you have a vocal pro-legalisation figure like Ming Flanagan able to get elected as a TD and a MEP in rural Ireland it gives an idea of the popular consensus.

  • Ernekid

    Some choose to smoke it with tobacco as they say they’ll get a longer burn but I’ve used a vaporiser in the past and its much nicer. You don’t have to smoke it at all. We once made some hash shortbread and it was very nice.

    There’s an enormous market of Cannabis infused oils, gels, edibles out there. It’s a fabulously versitile product.

  • JR

    My thinking on this is formed like everyone else s by my own experience. I knew a number of people who were into cannabis growing up. Those who got into it young, ie mid secondary school have to a man underachieved in life, you know the ones. very bright in school, back then doing as well as those who are now doctors or engineers, currently working in the call center, the local phone shop or unemployed. Two that i knew from school suffered from mental health issues and spent time in hospital and another, a cousin has chronic depression.

    I often have to listen to my heavy cannabis using long term unemployed brother in law who lives on his younger sisters couch tell me how harmless cannabis is. A guy who when I met my wife was extremely athletic, a very gifted hurler and was big into marshal arts. I haven’t seen him exercise in years.

    BTW as I understand it 17 million tax revenue in a state with a gdp of 250bn makes no measurable difference.

  • eiregain

    “nasty side effects” name them.
    I guarantee they are based on anecdotal evidence and correlation, over empirical evidence and proven causes of health risk.
    What research has proved cannabis has negative side effects relating to health other than “possible” long term mental health issues? (Which has only ever been suggested not proven)

    Sugar is more dangerous in our society, (and more addictive, more expensive to manage in health system, AND PUSHED ON OUR CHILDREN) than cannabis ever will be.
    Can i claim for being fat from eating too much sugar? How does the introduction of tobacco justify your statement, vaporisers, bongs, pipes, edibles, are more popular in states where its legal than ever before, people are aware of tobaccos health risks. Smoking with tobacco limits the amount of cannabis you can smoke at any one time, so you justification there is flawed.

    In what world could i claim for being a stoner, surely personal responsibilty comes into it the same way ti does with alcoholics and coke heads, if you mess up its your fault and you need to deal with it, the problem is the lack of funded support for such people and the lack of compassionate policing, not that these people may file lawsuits. 😐

  • kieran

    Don’t know where you’re from mate but smoking is far from a taboo anywhere in the UK.. Sure, many people have converted to E CIGS/ vapourisers but they’re still smoking just through a healthier more viable option.. It is in no way a taboo though lol.

  • kieran

    It’s almost certainly safer than alcohol and not just from a medical stand point.. For example we’ve all heard the horror stories of the abusive husband with the drinking problem comes home angry and violent etc, or someone having one too many drinks, gets involved in an argument and sticking a glass into someone. Although it very much depends on the mentality of the person, alcohol regardless remains a depressant and is heavily linked to violent outbursts in both men and women world wide. Cannabis has a much more relaxed approach to a person’s mind set and it is far easier to control your mental state and be attentive when under the influence of marijuana than it is alcohol. Sure with cannabis there is a risk of paranoia etc.. And yeah if you sit alone in a dark room and smoke it daily without ever.engaging in anything that’s bound to happen but for a regular hard working guy who gets up of a morning and does a hard days work, sees friends and family regularly who choses to engage his/ her mind while smoking E.G playing an instrument, reading or even playing a game there poses no more threat than a normal cigarette E.G cancer. The same can be said for alcohol granted but it’s certainly got millions more deaths to account for than the 0 recorded fatalities caused from over using/ dosing on cannabis.

  • kieran

    Side effects? Try hungry, happy and sleepy.