Beyond Cannabis

Beyond Cannabis

Not Just About Cannabis Reform – It’s about Changing the World

Alexander Betsos

For ten years we have lived under Stephen Harper and his abhorrent approach to dealing with drug related issues. For the first time in 10 years the Liberals have Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy have watched with awe, and a bit of fear, as you expressed your positions on drug reform. We also created a ‘report card’ for youth, scoring each of the parties on their approach to drug policy, highlighting that the Liberal’s progressive approach to a legal, regulated cannabis was an impressive step in the right direction. Now that the Liberals have won, it is time to address the wide variety of social problems that have been neglected.

But cannabis reform is not enough. As the famous neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart once said, “It’s not about cannabis reform; it’s about changing the world.” The previous Canadian governments positions on drugs put a lot of people’s lives at risk, and now its time to change it.

Prime Minister Trudeau, you have positioned yourself as the voice of reason, the one who will respond to the science of the day, and bring in key stakeholders, NGO’s and others into the conversation. While you have accepted that the science of cannabis means it is not “infinitely worse” than tobacco, and recognized that illegal markets for cannabis only provide easier access to youth. However, you have not acknowledged the science demonstrating that the drug war is a war on the people both waged inside our country and outside. As young people in Canada know all too well, possession and trafficking charges are detrimental to future successes, even after being expunged, can have lasting effects on our ability to find meaningful work.

Secondly, we can see from research in psychology and sociology that addiction is connected to larger social problems, as broken down by Johann Hari. The basic premise is that those who used substances in ways that tend to be dangerous are missing the social bonding and solidarity of their communities. On top of that, most people do not end up needing to seek treatment for drug or alcohol use. By continuing to have substance use carry penalties, we endanger the long term growth of a lot of individuals who will now not be eligible for a lot of social services.

To this end, we urge you to also consider repealing Bill C-2. By doing so, we can actually begin to help the people who need it most. Bill C-2 was a bill designed to stop another supervised safe injection site, such as Insite in Vancouver, from being created in Canada. Canada’s work in this field, supported by over 60 peer reviewed studies, has been lauded by the international community. However, in more recent years, ideological distaste, rather than pragmatism and science have limited access to safe injection sites in cities outside of Vancouver, creating unequal access for all Canadians to this life saving service.

Coupled with Health Canada’s choice to violate research ethics, and take away access to hydromorphone, which is an opiate similar to heroin but not but not completely illegal in the same way heroin is. The National study SALOME was conducted in order to help people get off of heroin and put their lives back together. By being given access to hydromorphone the participants in the study were able to put their lives back together, something that was torn away from them when they were not allowed to continue to receive hydromorphone. As a student currently looking to do graduate work in the future, I have been taught that as researchers, we have an ethical responsibility when we work with at risk populations to minimize any risks to their safety and wellbeing, and hopefully even make their lives better. By removing the access these people had to hydromorphone, we have violated their rights as research participants, and frankly, as human beings.

Speaking of human rights, the UN, has just argued that criminalizing substance users is a violation of their human rights. The Deputy High Commissioner for UN Human Rights has argued that drugs should be decriminalized “because criminalization of possession and use has been shown to cause significant obstacles to the right to health.” Now with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also promoting decriminalization, although they have been muffled, it seems clearer than ever that Real Change can only occur if we accept the current scientific and ethical concerns involved in our failed war on the people who consume substances. With people dying annually in countries which manufacture the drugs, real change seems to be one that would lead to a Just Society for those who need it most. I believe we can work towards these sensible policies together.

Justin Trudeau, you have said you support harm reduction. This is welcome news, because we need your help. The people who died at Veld Music Festival need your help, the people dying from fentanyl need your help. There are models that already exist; as we have tried to work under the radar for fear of a conservative clampdown on NGO’s. For the children of this generation, and the next; we need to talk.

We just need to be part of the conversation.

Reform Conference

Reform Conference

CSSDP wants to support you to attend the Reform Conference!

This coming November, the International Drug Policy Reform Conference is taking place in Washington, D.C. For three days, the conference will bring together students, activists, scholars, researchers, and public officials around topics including criminal justice reform, cannabis reform, harm reduction, movement building, international drug policy, psychedelics, and youth policy. Click here to see the final program.

In addition, there will be a simulation of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem which is set to take place in New York City in April 2016. This Model UNGASS will help students become familiar with global drug policy reform and serve as a platform to amplify the voices of youth drug policy reformers.

CSSDP will have several representatives at the Reform Conference, and we are looking to provide support in the form of a bursary to other Canadian students and youth who will be attending the conference. Preference will be given to applicants who are actively involved in a CSSDP chapter, as well as those who can contribute to our coverage by writing a blog post on a session or day of the conference or helping out with tabling or social media. As well, participating in the Model UNGASS held by SSDP is a requirement to receive this funding. Bursary amounts will be partly determined by your expected cost for attending the conference. If you have any questions or concerns, please send an email to CSSDP Co-Chair Gonzo Nieto at gonzo@cssdp.org.

The bursary application can be found here.

Call for Board Members

Call for Board Members

Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy is looking to appoint five interim board members! We are seeking passionate and motivated youth and students who are interested in addressing and working against the harms done by drug policies. The duration of this appointment is until our March 2016 Annual General Meeting, at which point those interested in remaining on the board may choose to run for a full two-year term. 

As a member of the board, you’ll be equipped to advance CSSDP’s objectives at the local, national, and international levels. Board members are required to attend monthly board meetings and participate in two committees, in addition to maintaining active involvement in their local chapter. This involves a commitment of 8-16 hours per month (2-4 hours per week) on average. From time to time, board members have the opportunity to represent CSSDP at conferences, make presentations to members of the government, attend drug meetings at the United Nations, and more! You truly get what you put into it! See the list of our current board members. If you have any questions, email CSSDP Co-Chair Gonzo Nieto at gonzo@cssdp.org.

To be eligible to run for board, you must meet two of the three following criteria:

  1. Must be a youth, defined as under the age of 30
  2. Must be a student
  3. Must be an active participant in a chapter or have attended a national conference and annual general meeting in the past year.

If you are unsure about your eligibility, please send an email to gonzo@cssdp.org with your question or concern.

If you are eligible, you can nominate yourself by submitting a simple video—nothing fancy, can be a webcam or cellphone video and just a minute or two—about who you are, why you want to join the board, any relevant experience you might have, etc. to gonzo@cssdp.org. Your application will only be viewed internally by the board, but if you prefer, you can submit this information in writing. Please be sure to include “Interim Board Application” in the email title. 

The deadline is Friday, November 12, 2015, at midnight so get your application in before then! We’re excited to meet our new board members! 🙂

920 Toronto

920 Toronto

Daniel Greig

The first ever 920 was a success! The 920 Coalition, a network of nonprofit organizations and like-minded individuals, coordinated over 30 events worldwide to raise awareness and inform the public about psilocybin’s properties. Hosted by CSSDP Toronto, the 920 Toronto event sold out, with many above capacity dropping in throughout the day. Many in attendance seemed motivated by their personal experiences, others by curiosity.

As psilocybin mushrooms are being investigated for their therapeutic effects, which are most often accompanied by profound spiritual experiences, it is hardly surprising that the first talk by pharmacist Wende Wood ended with a spontaneous and supportive story sharing session. Wende’s talk covered certain benefits that psilocybin could provide if incorporated into a psychiatrist’s medication repertoire and challenged some of the misinformation surrounding the compound. It could prove to be a promising treatment for a number of existential ailments such as anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, and OCD. Unlike psychiatric medications which require long-term, often daily use, psilocybin can exert lasting positive effects often after a single session.

The history of psychedelic prohibition was the topic of the second speaker, Zoe Cormier. She is a Toronto-born journalist and author of ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll: The Science of Hedonism and the Hedonism of Science,’ who now resides in the United Kingdom. Many were surprised to find that much of the early research into LSD was performed in a Saskatchewan hospital by Dr. Humphrey Osmond. Dr. Osmond was behind Aldous Huxley’s exposure to mescaline, the psychedelic compound found in the Peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian Torch cacti, among others. This experience became the topic of Huxley’s influential book, ‘The Doors of Perception’. Though psilocybin mushrooms were introduced to the Western world in the 1950s by R. Gordon Wasson, they quickly faded into obscurity and out of the researcher’s grasp with the introduction of drug war legislation which classified all psychedelic compounds as dangerous to the public and lacking in any medical value. This legislation has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as scientists are once again bringing psychedelics into the mainstream of research in psychiatry, neuroscience, and consciousness studies.

To bring our audience up to speed with the current state of affairs, keynote speaker Teri Krebs discussed the need to reassess psilocybin legislation as a human rights issue. She is a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and co-founder of EmmaSofia, a nonprofit working from a cognitive liberty and human rights approach to protect the rights of people who use MDMA and psychedelics. As it is absurdly expensive to legally obtain any sort of psychedelic compound at present, with price tags as high as $12,000 per gram of psilocybin, EmmaSofia also aims to expand access to research quality MDMA and psilocybin.

The event ended with a screening of “Little Saints: Eat a Mushroom, Talk to God.” This documentary follows six travelers undergoing a shamanic ritual of the Mazatec tradition. The film aptly expresses the tendency of psilocybin to result in profound spiritual experiences. While 9/20 was a day of inspiration for anyone invested in the policy and research behind psilocybin, there is still much work to be done! Next year’s series of events will certainly be a thing to look out for as our scientific knowledge on psilocybin,and psychedelics in general, continues to expand.

Election Drug Policy Report Card

Election Drug Policy Report Card

CSSDP has created an Election Drug Policy Report Card analyzing our party leaders based on their platforms on cannabis, harm reduction and mandatory minimums. We invite you to share this report card widely on your campus and community to help inspire students and young people who use drugs to get out and vote.
So often we as young people are graded by adults, but rarely do we ever have the chance to grade our politicians! That’s what voting is, a chance to let Stephen Harper and other MPs who have committed drug policy abuse know what you really think of them! We know students and youth across Canada who use drugs are not criminals, and deserve the right to health services like harm reduction and treatment. Drug policy is already an election issue, but it’s up to us to hold our politicians accountable at the polls. Many parties are talking about “sensible drug policy” but how do their platforms really matchup? 

CSSDP Election Drug Policy Report Card

 

Now is the time to get out the youth vote for October 19th to vote for sensible drug policy!

Register in advance with Elections Canada online to be sure you can vote. If you don’t want to stand in line Oct 19th, advance polls are open October 9, 10, 11 and 12. These are usually super quick! Also, from October 5 to 8, Elections Canada is opening offices at several campuses, youth centres and Friendship Centres to help make the voting process more accessible. Check the list of where these offices will be located! Not in your home riding? You can register to vote by mail by October 13th!

#DRUGPOLICYFAIL

#DRUGPOLICYFAIL

 

CSSDP wants to see your drug policy memes!

In order to generate even more buzz for the upcoming federal election, CSSDP is holding a contest to find the best drug policy meme. The winner will receive a CSSDP Harm Reduction Prize Packs (details to be released soon)!

Guidelines:

  • The contest is open until election day (October 19, 2015).
  • Memes should advocate for sensible drug policy based on evidence.
  • Memes should be submitted to contact@cssdp.org
  • The person submitting the meme must have created it!
  • There is no limit to the number of entries submitted
  • The meme with the most “Likes” and “Shares” on Facebook will be crowned the winner the week after the election!

Remember to follow us on Facebook & Twitter to keep up with the contest and to get updates about the upcoming election.

Now is the time to get out the youth vote for October 19th to vote for sensible drug policy!

Register in advance with Elections Canada online to be sure you can vote. If you don’t want to stand in line Oct 19th, advance polls are open October 9, 10, 11 and 12. These are usually super quick! Also, from October 5 to 8, Elections Canada is opening offices at several campuses, youth centres and Friendship Centres to help make the voting process more accessible. Check the list of where these offices will be located! Not in your home riding? You can register to vote by mail by October 13th!