A Streatham parliamentary candidate for a newly-formed cannabis reform party is convinced he can inspire disillusioned voters to turn out to the ballot box on May 7.
Sammy Herzella, a 27-year-old DJ and independent record label manager, is standing for the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) party.
The party is campaigning for a Royal Commission to review the UK’s drug laws and are calling for cannabis to be decriminalised.
Mr Herzella said CISTA have been encouraged by the success of decriminalisation in US states such as Washington and Colorado.
He said: “A lot of people I work with feel quite disenchanted with politics.
“Being from a less privileged sector of society I feel exposed to constant images which demonstrate the failing of our political system.
“So if someone like me can inspire people to involve themselves more then I think that’s a positive thing.”
Mr Herzella used to DJ at the Toast club night in Brixton and has performed in Streatham for several years.
He explained that he understands why some people may have reservations about backing the party’s aims, but argued that regulation is key.
“For some people, cannabis may have affected their lives in a negative way but I think the point is if we can regulate the substance we can make it safer for those people so I think all round it’s a no-brainer and is a positive policy,” he said.
“People are speaking to me about the benefits for friends of theirs with cancer and they’ve tried to access it and they’ve ended up accessing it on the black market, and they feel vulnerable or they get ripped off.”
“It’s just realising it exists, making it a safer substance, understanding it’s medicinal qualities, taking it off the black market, taxing it and saving the government money policing it.”
The Camden-based DJ was CISTA’s fifth London parliamentary candidate and explained his strong links to the area encouraged him to stand.
“I’m very fond of Streatham and have worked round there for many years,” he said.
“I remember a long time ago when the police tried to decriminalise cannabis in Brixton, and that was based on the fact that it was too expensive to police – the police didn’t deem it a serious enough offence in Brixton and time was being wasted.
“Me being young and growing up in London, I’ve always had an understanding that the laws can be quite heavy handed with regards to cannabis.”
A Kings College London survey in February linked cannabis to 24% of new psychosis states, with regular smokers five times more likely to develop psychosis than non-users.
And although Mr Herzella is firmly in favour of cannabis being decriminalised, he is aware of the risks it poses.
He said: “I don’t think it’s necessarily a safe substance – alcohol can be a dangerous substance for some people.
“It’s more the strength of the cannabis. An unregulated substance can be more dangerous, it can induce dangerous catalysts in people’s brains.
“It’s not controlled by adults and therefore it can get into the hand of more vulnerable people, so the dangers of psychosis are always going to be there.
“We need to allow adults to regulate it and keep it out of the hands of people it’s going to affect dangerously.”
Picture courtesy of CISTA, with thanks