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Medicinal cannabis. In Britain… who’d have thought?

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Cannabis is now legal in the UK, for medicinal use. This summer sees the launch of a dynamic forum to both discuss and communicate the science of medicinal cannabis and the philosophy of prohibition, from a 21st-century standpoint.


The two-part pilot conference, at The Old Divinity School, St. John’s College, Cambridge, will deep-dive into the science of the deepest parts of the plant-human relationship. Illuminating on the complexities of the plant herself, before moving towards the regulatory changes; as well as exploring the philosophy and the ethics that have been behind prohibition for the last 90 years.


CANNTalks is an answer to the call for better public understanding following the changes made in UK policy towards medicinal cannabis last year. The conferences are also an opportunity to explore our current levels of reform; this is in light of scientific advances, and the increasing number of countries moving in favour of regulation over prohibition.


CANNTalks is a not-for-profit project. The founders are a collective of scientists, academics, artists, activist disruptors, and influencers, who have been both close to and foreign to the heartbeat of legal and cultural changes towards medicinal cannabis – and hence able to develop a well rounded and balanced spectrum of perspectives to consider. The entire two-part conference is completely self-funded, and tickets are donation based:  “We want CANNTalks to be accessible, not only financially but also academically, scientifically, to extrapolate and communicate the science through clear curated talks and through highly engaging arts, so that the topics can be explored by all and understood on a deeper level.” Basia Zieniewicz, former Art Educator and Founder and Curator.


The science surrounding cannabis is becoming an increasingly exciting space, with cutting edge research showing over 500 different strains of cannabis that may yield dramatically different medical effects. Dr Meiri of Technion, is conducting ongoing research, showing that different strains of cannabis may be effective on one cancer, for example, and yet entirely ineffective on another.  Whereas Dr Chandni’s research is showing that certain compounds occurring naturally within the plant – namely in the landrace strains – appear to be powerful blockers for addiction and mental health problems often associated with tobacco and alcohol. And, additionally, Dr Amir Englund’s recent work with THCV could show that cannabis with naturally high levels of THCV may be an effective way to protect against the risks associated with cannabis itself – thereby mediating some of the anxiety frequently experienced regarding the plant in its own right.


CANNTalks endeavours to deliver this science in a way that is equally thought-provoking and meaningful; to provide answers, but, and equally important, also to leave the audience with new questions – exponentially broadening the horizons for the discussion. CANNTalks’s scientific co-curators from University College London, and Professor David Nutt’s Drug Science, provide a basis for the work. Also, the University of Arts, London, MA for Art Direction programme have collaborated with us as a part of a live brief to deliver this science in an engaging and fresh way.


CANNTalks, which is an acronym for “Curating A New Normal”, refers directly to the changes in cannabis reform that are happening globally, and to a new interest and acceptance towards plant medicines (such as cannabis and psilocybin) – and the culture being born of these current changes.


It is not a rhapsody for cannabis, on the contrary – although many of the ideas explored by CANNTalks may be experienced as inherently controversial – the overarching messages are simple: we are working for deeper understanding and consideration, on all levels.


But understanding the science is only a part of the picture. It is the socio-cultural backdrop that decides the context to how that science is viewed, and to what society will take from it. In the same way that science warned of global climate change over 50 years ago – and yet was followed by a period of consumerist culture unlike any in previous history – drug reform and evidence-based drug policy will surely go through its own birthing process before acceptance into mainstream thinking.


The UK has its own connection, culture, and heritage with this plant – albeit a mostly forgotten one. Whether we choose to look at Britain’s role in the global proliferation of medicinal cannabis from India during the 1800s, or towards the more recent living history – with The Beatles and the Windrush generation.


Where do we stand now?  We can look at prohibition as a blip in human history, or as a blight on it – but, either way, change is inevitable. Deciding our cultural stance – or at least opening up this debate – towards what happens next is going to be a fundamental part of deciding our fate on a world stage in the 21st century.


These live talks represent a coming together of ideas, curated with specialists, scientists, and doctors – all of whom are delivering knowledge to underpin the ideas being explored by the patients, the philosophers, and the activists. Creating a trans-global narrative, with speakers from California, Canada, and Australia sharing their views on reform in their respective countries where cannabis has been legalised; alongside leading researchers from the University of Cambridge, UCL, King’s College London, and Sheffield & Hallam. Dr Derek Tracy of the NHS, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), will also be joining the conversation as a guest speaker.


CANNTalks is calling out to scientists, doctors, patients, artists, philosophers, and to any other person interested in these changes, to join these conferences this summer, and to thereby take part in shaping this culture that is yet to become fully formed.


CANNTalks’s two-part conferences at The Old Divinity School, Cambridge, will be the test-pilot; bringing together the cross-specialist group(s) needed to communicate such a complex and multi-dimensional topic for future initiatives in 2019/2020.


We are deeply excited by this opportunity, and we invite you to join us.


Subscribe for the full line up of speakers and events, and for the latest news and initiatives here:


@CANN_Talks / #canntalks /





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