The ASI at Tory Conference: cannabis, vaping, clubbing and winning over Millennials

Let's face it, Conservative Party Conference can get a bit stuffy. But that's definitely not the case when it comes to the ASI's conference fringe line-up. We're discussing issues that really matter on topics that are often neglected, but vitally important if you care about a free society.

We're hosting three events inside the secure zone (that means to attend you'll need a conference pass) over the Monday and Tuesday covering e-cigarettes, cannabis legalisation and winning over young voters with free market policies.

On the Monday we've got two panels. The first (at 1pm-2pm in the Stanley Suite at the Midland Hotel) will cover how innovation (and not nanny state regulation) has been the driving force behind millions quitting smoking, and what we can do to ensure that more people can benefit from innovations like e-cigarettes. Regulations from Brussels are threatening the harm reduction revolution, imposing silly rules on vape canister sizes and preventing vendors from fully informing customers that e-cigs are (at the very least) 95% than tobacco.

We've got a great panel for it. Media GP, Spectator Columnist and author Dr Roger Henderson will be speaking about the public health divide on harm reduction. Roger probably knows more about giving up smoking than anyone else, indeed he's been the face of NHS stop smoking campaigns. He'll be joined by Christopher Snowdon, who's work as Head of Lifestyle Economics should be known to every reader of the ASI blog. Chris is a fierce opponent of the nanny state and a strong critic of the EU's Tobacco Products Directive. He vapes. Representing the ASI will be Sam Bowman, our Executive Director. He's a big advocate of Sinnovation, the idea that innovations in vice products like heat-not-burn cigarettes could have massive benefits for public health and reach people who'll never sign on to a public health campaign. Also from the ASI will be our Director, Eamonn Butler who'll be chairing the panel. Given the sheer number of people who suffer from smoking-related illnesses and the massive prospects for e-cigs to dent that, this could be the most important discussion you will see at Tory conference. For more info, click here.

Sticking with the harm reduction theme, we've partnered once again with Volteface, Britain's best drug reform think tank on an event (4pm to 5pm - Central 3) entitled 'how to stamp out street cannabis'. We'll be talking about how cannabis legalisation can address the drug problems that Conservative voters really care about. Just as alcohol prohibition led to stronger booze, no ID checks and violent crime, so to does the legal fudge on cannabis. States in the US that have legalised cannabis have been able to regulate purity and strength, force sellers to check IDs, and tax it to pay for drug treatment. 

We've got a great panel to discuss what we can learn from the US and Canadian experience. Crispin Blunt MP (a former criminal justice minister) will be speaking. He's always worth listening to, especially since last year he declared his support for full drug legalisation at an ASI party conference event. His experience on the foreign affairs select committee gives him a unique perspective on the harms of cannabis prohibition. Joining Crispin will be Steve Moore who's the Director of Volteface. Steve's, one of the few drug reformers who really gets the need to win over and address the concerns of Conservatives as well as liberals. He's a true expert on drug policy. Rounding out the panel will be Sam Bowman, who's been leading the ASI's drug reform push. For more info, click here.

Cannabis and vaping lead in nicely to our third secure zone panel on Tuesday, 'The Millennial Manifesto: how to win over young voters' (4pm - 5pm - Central 3, ICC). Young voters opted for Corbyn's socialist agenda at an overwhelming rate. If the Tories are ever going to win another majority they'll need to have a message that appeals to young people. We've already chipped in to the debate with Dr Madsen Pirie's Millennial Manifesto grabbing headlines with policies that cut taxes, build houses and prioritise mental health. 

Our panel will tackle the issues that young voters care about and make the case that the Conservatives change to win over the young. Dr Madsen Pirie, President of the ASI will make the case for his Millennial policy agenda. Alongside Madsen, will be the ASI's former head of comms and current IEA News Editor, Kate Andrews. Our Head of Research Ben Southwood will be joining the fray making the case that bribes won't work and that the only real way to win over young people is to start building more houses. Grant Tucker, Diary Reporter for The Times will be chairing the panel. For more info, click here.

As well as our secure zone panels, we're doing an invite-only one outside the secure zone at a nearby music venue on Tuesday at 6pm (email if you want a place) on a new approach to 'preventing club drug deaths'. Clubbing may not be the first thing you think of when you hear the words Conservative Party Conference, but with the Conference returning to Manchester, a city that can claim ownership of clubbing culture like no other in the UK, it is a perfect fit for a debate on the opportunities and the threats to the industry.

We'll be discussing how to prevent club drug deaths and how innovative harm reduction solutions like The Loop's Multi Agency Safety Testing are having a real impact. Working with Volteface and The Night Time Industries' Association we've assembled an incredibly cool panel.

We've got Paul Staines (aka Guido Fawkes) chairing the panel, who before becoming the most feared voice in Westminster stood up against anti-rave regulations with the Freedom to Party campaign. We've got Volteface's Policy Director, Henry Fisher, who's heavily involved in The Loop's drug testing. Alan Miller, Director of the Night Time Industries Association will be making the case against excessive regulation of venues, and Sacha Lord Marchionne, founder of Parklife and The Warehouse Project (Manchester's superclub) will be talking about how venues can be a force for good by working with the police and groups like The Loop. If that wasn't enough, we've also got The Loop's Director Prof Fiona Measham joining us via videolink from New York.

It's sure to be a cracking couple of days.  If you'd like more info or to request a place at our club drugs event, then send an email to