One of Bebo’s cofounders is launching a political party to try and legalise weed

Paul Birtch
Paul Birch. Flickr/Richard Moross

One of Bebo’s cofounders wants to save the UK economy by legalising weed. Paul Birch, who set up Bebo with his brother Michael in 2005, has just launched the “Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol” (CISTA) party, BuzzFeed reports.

CISTA emerged as a political force last week. A Vice reporter went to the launch event, where it was announced that CISTA wants to see 100 candidates run for Parliament in this year’s general election.

CISTA is a big change for Birch. At one time, Bebo was one of the biggest social networking sites in the world, and a favourite among teenagers. Bebo peaked in 2008 when the Birch brothers sold the site to AOL for $US850 million. But the site declined, was sold on to another company, bought back by the duo in 2013 and later relaunched as a chat app.

But now Paul is focusing his efforts on CISTA — and in turn, saving the UK economy and fighting the country’s drug policy. Birch is chair of the party and told BuzzFeed that he was inspired to move from tech to politics after watching cannabis become legal in some states in the US. He wants to replicate that in Britain.

Birch has even funded the party himself using wealth made through Bebo and the tech industry. With the general election looming in May, CISTA will be campaigning and trying to garner support to raise awareness for its beliefs and champion the legalisation of cannabis.

The CISTA manifesto is, obviously, centred around cannabis. It claims that reforming laws on the drug would potentially raise £900 million in duties and cut the deficit by £1.25 billion, in turn freeing up spending for public services. It also covers things such as health and crime, and cites Colorado as a particular example of cannabis legalisation success in the US.

Birch and CISTA’s overarching message is that the drug is safer than alcohol and that it should play more of a part in the upcoming elections in the UK. Right now, as BuzzFeed notes, the party has under 100 members, so it remains to be seen whether it will play as large a part as hoped by members.

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