This week in ISMOKE Magazine I want to tackle the broader subject of drug prohibition at festivals and how cannabis can help future post-prohibition events.
But it’s not as simple as using cannabis to solve the problems of prohibition. Although cannabis can help we must look to end the war on all drugs to stop people dying and to work towards a better future.
Recently I made my annual pilgrimage to Winchester to attend this year’s BoomTown Fair.
Before the festivities could commence, I got caught up in one of the worst queues I have ever experienced. It was a queue that left some revellers waiting with no access to water or toilets for up to 10 hours.
Standing in this unprecedented, disorganised and frankly inhumane queue gave me more than ample time to postulate on what a post prohibition festival could possibly look like and how it would compare with the current culture which is created by the UK’s antiquated and draconian drug laws and the climate of fear that is intentionally created by intimidatingly dressed security personal with mannerisms and characteristics more akin to a guard dog than event security.
Both the queue and the securities demeanour are a direct result of the incredibly invasive and meticulous nature of the searches that would be deemed disproportionate and excessive in most airports, let alone music festivals, and could be reduced massively if not avoided altogether.
In a post prohibition paradigm, you could have a drugs limit in much the same way you currently do with alcohol now so allowing individuals certain amounts for personal consumption and providing the facilities to test them. while selling strictly controlled, tested and regulated ones on site giving the consumer educational material to help them minimise any potential risks.
Given the inevitability of the decriminalisation and eventual legalisation of all drugs globally it is now possible to ponder the future of music festivals and how they’ll evolve once the guests can truly feel safe and welcomed into the community and can count on the same protection as alcohol consumers who cause a disproportionate number of incidents at festivals but do not face the same stigma and prejudice.
The festivals of the future will be organised with visitors safety in mind rather than the current focus on attempting to enforce a failed and archaic drugs policy that does far more harm than good.
The attempts to prohibit guests consuming some drugs while the event organisers make massive profits off of the sale of another, namely alcohol to pay for, among other things those security guards is a painful irony that desperately needs addressing.
Alcohol is one of the most destructive, addictive and disease inducing drugs on the planet, recent research links alcohol to causing several cancers and kills more than all illegal drugs combined killing some 8,000 people a year contrast that with all illegal drugs they kill just 3000 a year, the majority of which are Heroin and other opioid drugs.
Cannabis, however, has never killed a single person and the death rates of traditional psychedelics such as Psilocybin containing mushrooms, LSD, Mescaline and DMT as well as MDMA are incredibly low.
These substances are also being researched to see how effective they are in treating a variety of conditions and disorders including depression, PTSD, cluster headaches, anxiety disorders as well as various addictions including alcoholism.
Alcohol is related to the majority of domestic violence assaults 58%, Violent assaults resulting in injury 55% and a significant fraction of the serious sexual assaults – a fifth although this category is tragically far too often under reported by victims and this picture will remain skewed until this taboo is tackled.
The issue of sexual assaults at festivals has become such an issue in Sweden that there is even a planned woman-only festival happening in 2018.
Post-prohibition there would be less alcohol used on site as all festival punters over the age of 18 would have legal access to a plethora of safer substances stringently regulated and tightly controlled.
These drugs would be produced under the strictest of conditions to ensure purity and quality.
They’d be produced in a clean, sterile environment with the end product being made up to the highest of standards to ensure consistency and predictable effects, the benefits of a regulated market.
Regulated sales would massively reduce the risk of adulterants and contamination that are too often the cause of drug associated deaths. The miss-selling of drugs and would help eradicate the sale of drugs to minors as ID would be requisite for the purchase of previously illegal drugs.
A similar policy of refusing to sell at a bar for being too intoxicated could be drafted to deal with the excessive use of some substances and help to avoid poly-drug consumption which can often be problematic. A dealer won’t refuse to sell you drugs because you’re too intoxicated already but a licensed vendor would.
We have already seen what can be done if you treat festival attendees with the respect and dignity they deserve:
A drug testing system was set up by the Loop at multiple music festivals starting with Secret Garden Party in 2016.
“It’s really exciting that police are prioritising health and safety over criminal justice at festivals.” – Fiona Measham – co-founder of The Loop.
This past year at Boomtown saw the groups busiest event yet as over eleven-hundred samples were tested in just three days, a five fold increase since the organisation’s inception and a testament to the great work the loop is doing in earning the trust of the drug consumers community. It is a vital component to rebuilding the shattered relationship between society and authorities such as the police and councils, who, for successive generations have been on opposite sides in a political war – the war on drugs.
“We were open for three days and tested 1,132 samples – our most ever [at one event] – and at one point were testing more than one sample a minute.” said Fiona Measham in a recent Vice article.
There is a certain hypocrisy about the media jumping on sensationalising tragic drug related deaths that rarely but still do occur at festivals. as it is never remarked upon that a lot of the individuals that unfortunately lost their lives had drunk a great deal before taking other substances – this itself is a very dangerous practice and is far too often glanced over and ignored in the media in favour of demonising what ever drug is that months current pariah.
This greatly increases the risk to the consumer. Education would help to reduce potentially dangerous multi-drug use and limit the need for medical intervention at festivals and hopefully stop these unnecessary deaths from ever happening.
It is worth noting that one of the deadliest festivals is glorified and celebrated annually by the media while it totally ignores the staggering death toll while it continues to exaggerate the potential risks of music festivals.
The Isle of Man TT race weekend festival has seen 146 deaths since its inaugural race in 1907.
The festival has continued for decades despite the rising death toll, which is higher than all of the UK’s music festivals combined.
The organisers have sought each year through technological developments, industry advance and along with advances in health and safety regulations to reduce the risk of death and injury through the event continues still with the ever-present risk of death.
Surely the same should be done to reduce any potential risks and dangers to guests at music festivals as they will continue to consume drugs regardless of the law. So why not minimise any potential risks and maximise the benefits that drugs can bring to society by legalising and regulating them?
How cannabis can help
Cannabis can help us reduce our carbon footprint. One of the most exciting benefits of the end of prohibition is the ability to finally utilise cannabis derived technologies to massively reduce the carbon foot print of the average festival and help to tackle climate change in a big way.
Cannabis can help replace non-bio-degradable plastics and materials with hemp-based ones. At festivals, for example, we could replace all the current petroleum-based plastics with hemp oil plastics, so all of the beer cups, coffee cup tops, straws, cutlery and all food containers that previously have been made from environmentally detrimental materials could be produced from locally grown hemp. This hemp has the added benefit of detoxifying the soil during its cultivation process, sequestering large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and helping to remove heavy metals from the soil. It could greatly reduce the number of plastics being produced for single-use that then remain for thousands of years without breaking down.
This would save hundreds of tons of plastic from ending up in land fills unable to decompose or broken up into increasingly smaller pieces in water ways and oceans around the world, unlike hemp plastics which when buried or discarded into the sea degrade completely within a year.
Every piece of plastic ever made is still here clogging up the arteries of the earth.
All of those cardboard, paper, napkins, boxes, and programs? Yeah – cannabis can help with that. They could be produced with hemp, along with all of the plastics and the clothing, lanyards and merchandise for the festival – all of this could be made from Cannabis/hemp grown on-site.
Cannabis can help even more: After prohibition ends businesses would be allowed to sell the resinous cannabis flower to be made into various preparations and extracts and sold at the festival. This would create a cottage industry in much the same way you have with local Cider, Beer/Ale, meats, cheeses and other locally sourced foods, and cannabis can help local businesses boom both from sales and increased tourism.
The festival could provide a full spectrum of varieties to cater for all tastes and tolerances by cultivating low, mid and high-level THC strains which would include CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids.
It would increase potential profits, meaning a higher amount of tax being paid helping to stimulate the local economy and remove any money from criminal elements.
By controlling the supply and the sale of cannabis at their events the organisers could also ensure quality meaning there is no risk of mould, pesticides or other chemical exposure – all of which can cause health issues when consumed.
It would also allow for there to be a real focus on harm reduction and education about the dangers of mixing cannabis with tobacco, some 85% of UK consumers mix their cannabis with tobacco, a drug which kills around 79,000 people per year in the UK alone.
Cannabis has never killed anybody!
Imagine fields of green and solar panels around the site perimeter that could charge Graphene batteries, batteries that can now be produced from the waste hemp bast material that would already be being produced on site to generate all the festivals electricity – they could even stand to make a profit selling the supply back to the grid for the rest of the year.
Hemp Graphene is a superconductor that is a superior energy conductor to carbon Graphene that can be produced for a fraction of the cost:
“Obviously, hemp can’t do all the things Graphene can” said David Miltin, one of the technology’s inventors. “But for energy storage, it works just as well. And it costs a fraction of the price $500 to $1,000 a tonne.” Read more.
But we’re not done yet. Cannabis can help even more! The remaining sticks and stems of the cannabis and hemp plants grown on-site could be mixed powdered lime stone to produce Hempcrete which could be used to build the on-site facilities and improve the infrastructure.
By cultivating cannabis on-site you can, in just a few years, revitalise large amounts of previously disused and often too toxic land into highly nutritious soil that can be used to cultivate food, other crops or possibly even to create a nature reservation to help promote local biodiversity once the festival has moved on
This is no pipe dream, this is the future. It is now the time for evidence based drugs policies and to finally stop criminalising all drug consumers, instead welcoming them back into society with open loving arms.
Humans like to take drugs and we have done so for thousands of years. The trouble tends to arise for some people when the individual is caught in possession of a banned substance or becomes dependant on a drug. Sometimes, because of fear of the stigma and risk of incarceration people may not seek the help they may need to get their usage under control and can instead end up spiralling into self-destructive patterns that lead to avoidable consequences had they only had access to adequate care and support.
At the end of the day, the only rational move here is to repeal this disastrous drugs policy to ensure that tomorrow doesn’t bring with it more deaths, more misery and more lives ruined by drug prohibition.
Cannabis can help. Prohibition kills people. Spread the word!
This weekend will see Durham City Cannabis club’s last in their summer series of protestival events: All Out August.
If you are local and want to find out how cannabis can help you or would like to be more involved with the community while raising some cannabis awareness please drop by this public event!
August 19th 12 pm – 6 pm Hemp Gardens Durham City DH1 3DA