Hustings - St Andrews Oxshott, 30th April 2015

Matt Heenan, Oxshott speech, Final Draft

Good evening. It is great to be here and great to be standing as a Surrey candidate at this fascinating general election. It is fascinating because the results are completely unpredictable. CISTA is a new party fielding 32 candidates across the UK. Our core aim is very clear. We are standing for a Royal Commission to review the UK’s drug Laws relating to cannabis.So I am here to raise a hugely important issue that no-one else is talking about. Something that has a huge impact across all society. It affects lives, relationships and families right here in Oxshott. It affects our public services, healthcare and finances, our police resources and our approach to education across Surrey and across the UK. I am talking about the so-called war on the drugs and the ill-conceived policy of prohibition.

It costs around three hundred and sixty million pounds of our money every year and it has completely and utterly failed.  All of us in this church right now are paying for something that is simply not working, and lives are being blighted in the process. 84% of the British public believe that this approach has failed.You can use your vote at this election to send a message that you have had enough. In 2012 the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee looked at drug policy. I tabled evidence.  They concluded a royal commission should be set up.  But politicians backed away from being bold enough to push through their own recommendation.

So what we are talking about is a mainstream political idea. This is not radical. Westminster knows it has to happen. It is common sense. You might recognise a quote from Ghandi, which sums up my reason for standing here today: “The True Measure of Any Society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. I am standing here to represent the most vulnerable of our society. Those that cannot be here themselves as they are suffering from Multiple sclerosis, clinical depression, bipolar disease, epilepsy, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, PTSD, and many other awful diseases. Also people suffering side effects of powerful chemotherapy.Forget the stereotypes. Cannabis is a plant that has tremendous potential to treat a number of medical conditions, but because it is illegal the comprehensive research findings are not given credence.I want patents to have legitimate access to quality assured medicine to relieve suffering.But it’s not up to me.

I am calling for a Royal Commission to look at all the facts available across the world and make an informed decision. A Royal Commission is the only way to guarantee that any findings are acted upon, and not just swept under the carpet by timid politicians.Information would be available to the Royal Commission via organisations like the ACMD, CLEAR, UKCSC, United Patience Alliance, Transform, the UK chapters of NORML and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, The Beckley Foundation, Release and many more.

A Royal Commission may conclude cannabis should no longer be a product for criminals, but that it’s market be regulated as a legal consumer product. Why allow millions to go into the pockets of criminal gangs who supply unregulated and sometimes contaminated and unsafe drugs of unknown potency? We support regulation that is even stricter than that for tobacco and alcohol. Cannabis would be available for medicinal use and also for recreational use at licensed dispensaries. Strict punishments would remain for those selling cannabis without a license, or those selling to customers below the minimum legal age — as is the case with tobacco or alcohol.

From Oxshott to the rest of the UK, we could learn a lot from Colorado. The US state decriminalised cannabis and introduced taxes on its sale in licensed shops in 2013; last year these taxes raised over $40 million, from a population of just 5 million.

Taxing a legal cannabis market will make money to fund things that matter in this country.
We could raise over nine hundred MILLION pounds a year by doing this. Think about it for a minute.

What would each and every one of you in this church like to spend that amount of public money on? Would you fix the NHS? Fund more police officers? Build new schools right here in Surrey? This money is there for the taking.

But right now, all we are doing, just like the Americans during the era of Prohibition, is encouraging criminals and funnelling money into gangs. 

I want to create a regulated market that prohibits underage sale and takes the market out of the hands of criminals.

I am not here to say that cannabis is for everyone. I understand there are questions regarding the effects of cannabis and other substances on the developing brains of our youth. A Royal Commission can answer those questions.

But I am here to say let us choose a different, more humane approach. 

CISTA stands for harm reduction. There must be a better way than the one we have now.
I want to inform and educate young people on the dangers of substance abuse. I want to save money spent on a failed drugs policy and tax a new system that ploughs money back into our public services. And to help those who need access to this medicinal plant. Let’s end the control of the drug gangs and put ourselves in control. If you disagree, please ask me questions. I will not be offended and I understand. But please consider that it really is time for change.

Make you vote count on this huge issue that the other parties ignore. One more quote, words spoken by Haile Selassie:“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most.”So let us act.We do know better.We should no longer remain silent on this.

A vote for CISTA is a Vote to raise awareness of the need for cannabis reform that is DECADES overdue. Thank you.