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Sally Caswell: If we legalise cannabis we must keep business at bay

NZ Herald 22 January 2019 
COMMENTWe must beware of extreme ideological positions in our cannabis discussion. In particular it would be good to acknowledge the “war on drugs” is not a particularly relevant concept. In fact we are moving towards decriminalisation of cannabis use in New Zealand due to police discretionary practices.

Ministry of Justice figures for 2017/18 show three people were imprisoned for cannabis possession and it is very likely they had an extensive conviction history — legalising cannabis possession will not reduce incarceration. But this is not to argue against an informed debate on cannabis in New Zealand, including the possibility of legalisation.

Cannabis use does not inevitably result in harm for the individual user, nor is it risk-free. Looking at the emerging evidence from the United States where several states have legalised cannabis, often allowing profit-making industries to take control, it is very likely that if we follow suit, thereby increasing availability and normalising use, we will experience more harm.

A recent review of US data has drawn attention to increases in cannabis potency, prenatal and unintentional childhood exposure and, in adults, an increase in cannabis use, fatal vehicle crashes, cannabis-related emergency room visits, and cannabis use disorder (which includes dependence and harms such as social and interpersonal problems and neglect of major roles in order to use).

About one in five lifetime users met criteria for cannabis use disorder.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12193750

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Attempts to Legalise Dope In Troubled Portugal

TRAFFICKING, ORGANISED CRIME, CONSUMPTION, PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES ALL ON THE INCREASE
Media Release 21 January 2019
Family First NZ says that it is significant that political parties in Portugal are now pushing for the legalisation of marijuana in their country because they wrongly believe it will combat current problems around organised crime, drug trafficking, increased consumption and the use of psychoactive substances.

“For years, and especially recently, we have heard that Portugal’s decriminalisation is the perfect model of marijuana legislation. But Portugal is simply taking the next step in the grand plan of drug normalisation – decriminalisation to legalisation – the same journey that the Drug Foundation and the Green Party with its referendum wants to take New Zealand down. And marijuana isn’t the only drug that they will want to liberalise. Availability and acceptability of drug use will all increase consumption which will be a health disaster,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

But Portugal shows troubling results. The most recent statistics show that between 2012 and 2017 Lifetime Prevalence statistics for alcohol, tobacco and drugs for the general population (aged 15-64) have risen by 23%. There has been an increase from 8.3% in 2012, to 10.2% in 2016/17, in the prevalence of illegal psychoactive substance use.

The National Survey on the Use of Psychoactive Substances in the General Population in Portugal 2016/17, reports: “We have seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) between 2012 – 2016/17.” Last-12-months-use of any illicit substance has doubled between 2012 and 2017.

“It is also significant to note that Portugal recently voted down a bill proposing to legalise medicinal – including grow-your-own – cannabis, and opted for a more confined law allowing use of some medicinal cannabis,” says Mr McCoskrie.

If Portugal has been such a success since 2001, why are countries not rushing to replicate their approach – and why are politicians within the country even now saying it has failed. It is clear that the claims of success in Portugal well exceed the reality.”

The Left Bloc (BE) and People-Animals-Nature (PAN) are proposing legalisation of cannabis for recreational use, with two bills tabled to the Portuguese parliament. According to statements made to the local media by Portugal’s Association of Studies on Cannabis, the regulation would draw “people off the street“, avoiding their using “a substance in a hazardous, unhealthy place, in contact with dangerous people related to drug trafficking, where there is absolutely no control over the quality and toxicity of the product,”. It would also constitute “a major step towards taking the business away from organised crime groups.” They say that the effect of decriminalisation has been to increase trafficking and consumption every year, which has been shown to have failed across the board.

“Claims that decriminalisation has reduced drug use and had no detrimental impact in Portugal significantly exceed the existing scientific basis.”
Gil Kerlikowske, Director, US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) during Obama Administration

[Portugal] still has high levels of problem drug use and HIV infection, and does not show specific developments in its drug situation that would clearly distinguish it from other European countries that have a different policy.”
UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime): Cannabis A Short Review (2012)

To summarise:

  • decriminalisation has increased drug use for all age-groups
  • decriminalisation has seen sharp increases amongst high-school students
  • Portugal’s drug use, other than for heroin, was initially lower than European averages
  • while drug deaths in Portugal are much lower in Portugal due to heroin being smoked or snorted rather than injected, drug overdose mortality is currently increasing

Further reading: http://saynopetodope.org.nz/portugal/
ENDS

Duncan Garner’s ‘big rethink’ on 2020 recreational cannabis vote

NewsHub 21 January 2019
Family First Comment: This is what happens when people fully think through the issue and don’t believe the smokescreens put up by the Green Party and the (Pro) Drug Foundation.
Bring on the Referendum.
#SayNopeToDope 
www.VoteNo.nz

Duncan Garner has done a U-turn on recreational cannabis.

He said he’s had a “big rethink” about next year’s vote, and believes the country is “on the brink of making a very serious mistake by softening the law”.

“Seriously, why would our lawmakers send a message that effectively says, ‘Cannabis: okay, but cigarettes: very bad’. We’re trying to go smoke-free by 2025, so why are we doing this?”

The host of The AM Show has in the past showed support for legalising recreational cannabis. He was impressed by cannabis advocate Rebecca Reider when she appeared on the show in November.

Asked by Garner why recreational cannabis should be legalised, Ms Reider flipped his question to ask why it shouldn’t. Her response impressed Garner so much, he said it should go viral on social media.

“Prohibition doesn’t work, people already have cannabis, the problem is that the quality’s not controlled, it can be contaminated, it’s sold on the black market by criminals, and people are going to prison over it,” she said.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2019/01/duncan-garner-s-big-rethink-on-2020-recreational-cannabis-vote.html

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Research shows smoking cannabis can be harmful to children, people with underlying health conditions

NewsHub 18 January 2019
Family First Comment:  “What we need to do is adopt a strategy that’s going to discourage use amongst younger people.”
#SayNopeToDopeNZ

A study in Christchurch has found that cannabis is harmful to children who smoke it, and people with underlying mental health conditions.

Associate Professor Joe Boden says people who use cannabis – particularly younger people and heavier users – are less likely to obtain educational qualifications and are more likely to be unemployed for longer periods and experience dependence on a welfare benefit.

Prof Boden says there are also issues with people lighting up who have other underlying mental health conditions.

But the real concern is children.

“What we need to do is adopt a strategy that’s going to discourage use amongst younger people.”
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2019/01/research-shows-smoking-cannabis-can-be-harmful-to-children-people-with-underlying-health-conditions.html

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Health researchers: Wrong to imply cannabis is harmless drug

Researchers warn cannabis risks being downplayed
Stuff co.nz 18 January 2019
Family First Comment: Everyone knows this. But the pro-drug groups try to pretend they don’t exist or don’t matter. The reason there’s laws around drug use like marijuana is exactly because of the health harms!
#SayNopeToDope
www.VoteNo.nz

Otago University health researchers warn cannabis risks are being downplayed in talk about changing the law but, in a New Zealand Medical Journal editorial, do support decriminalising recreational use by adults.

A binding referendum on personal cannabis use is being held at the 2020 election. Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the decision shortly before Christmas, at the time saying some details were still to be worked through.

Friday’seditorial in the NZMJ urging caution in how the law is changed was written by Research Associate Professor Joseph Boden, from the university’s Department of Psychological Medicine, and by Emeritus Professor David Fergusson, who died in October.

The editorial said an unfortunate feature of the cannabis law debate was that relatively few contributors had talked about either the harms of cannabis, or the potential risks of decriminalisation.

“Cannabis has multiple harmful effects which are particularly evident for young users, and the extent to which legalisation is beneficial is by no means clear,” the editorial said.

“Most contributions (to the debate) imply that cannabis is a relatively harmless drug, and that cannabis law change will only have beneficial consequences.

“We would argue that, on the basis of evidence generated by longitudinal studies based in New Zealand, both assumptions are incorrect.”

New Zealand had some of the richest data on the adverse consequences of cannabis use – from the Christchurch Health and Development Study and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/109979248/nzmj-editorial-urges-caution-in-changing-cannabis-laws-warns-risks-being-downplayed?cid=app-iPhone

Cannabis cons ignored in legalisation debate – experts
NewsHub 18 January 2019 
The debate on whether we should legalise cannabis has focused far too much on the pros and not enough on the cons, public health researchers say.

Kiwis are set to vote on the drug’s legal status in a referendum in 2020, the exact question yet to be decided.

But Joseph Boden of the University of Otago’s Department of Psychological Medicine is urging a slow-and-steady approach, saying the negative effects marijuana can have are being ignored.

“Relatively few contributors have discussed either the harms of cannabis or potential risks of legalisation,” Dr Boden wrote in the latest NZ Medical Journal, published Friday.

“Most contributions imply that cannabis is a relatively harmless drug, and that cannabis law change will only have beneficial consequences. We would argue that, on the basis of evidence generated by longitudinal studies based in New Zealand, both assumptions are incorrect.”

Dr Boden and his late colleague and co-author David Fergusson say evidence from the Christchurch Health and Development Study and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study show marijuana use can be linked to:

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Is marijuana as safe as we think?

The New Yorker 14 January 2019
Family First CommentA must-read book…
Berenson used to be an investigative reporter for the New York Times, where he covered, among other things, health care and the pharmaceutical industry. He had the typical layman’s view of cannabis, which is that it is largely benign, but he set out to educate himself. Berenson is constrained by the same problem the National Academy of Medicine faced – that, when it comes to marijuana, we really don’t know very much. But he has a reporter’s tenacity, a novelist’s imagination, and an outsider’s knack for asking intemperate questions. The result is disturbing.

Berenson begins his book with an account of a conversation he had with his wife, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating mentally ill criminals. They were discussing one of the many grim cases that cross her desk – “the usual horror story, somebody who’d cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment.” Then his wife said something like “Of course, he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”

“Of course?” I said.

“Yeah, they all smoke.”

“Well … other things too, right?”

“Sometimes. But they all smoke.”

Berenson used to be an investigative reporter for the New York Times, where he covered, among other things, health care and the pharmaceutical industry. Then he left the paper to write a popular series of thrillers. At the time of his conversation with his wife, he had the typical layman’s view of cannabis, which is that it is largely benign. His wife’s remark alarmed him, and he set out to educate himself. Berenson is constrained by the same problem the National Academy of Medicine faced – that, when it comes to marijuana, we really don’t know very much. But he has a reporter’s tenacity, a novelist’s imagination, and an outsider’s knack for asking intemperate questions. The result is disturbing.

The first of Berenson’s questions concerns what has long been the most worrisome point about cannabis: its association with mental illness….

In one of the most fascinating sections of Tell Your Children, he sits down with Erik Messamore, a psychiatrist who specializes in neuropharmacology and in the treatment of schizophrenia. Messamore reports that, following the recent rise in marijuana use in the U.S. (it has almost doubled in the past two decades, not necessarily as the result of legal reforms), he has begun to see a new kind of patient: older, and not from the marginalized communities that his patients usually come from. These are otherwise stable middle-class professionals. Berenson writes, “A surprising number of them seemed to have used only cannabis and no other drugs before their breaks. The disease they’d developed looked like schizophrenia, but it had developed later – and their prognosis seemed to be worse. Their delusions and paranoia hardly responded to antipsychotics.”
www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/14/is-marijuana-as-safe-as-we-think

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Smoking weed just ONCE could change a teenager’s brain

Daily Mail 15 January 2019
Family First Comment: More reasons not to legalise. 
#PeopleBeforeProfits 
www.VoteNo.nz

Just one or two joints is enough to change the structure of a teenager’s brain, scientists have warned.

And the drug could cause changes affecting how likely they are to suffer from anxiety or panic, according to a study.

Researchers found 14-year-old girls and boys exposed to THC – the psychoactive chemical in cannabis – had a greater volume of grey matter in their brains.

This means the tissue in certain areas is thicker, and it was found to be in the same areas as the receptors which marijuana affects.

Experts said thickening of brain tissue is the opposite of what usually happens during puberty, when teenagers’ brain matter gets thinner and more refined.

Researchers from the University of Vermont scanned the brains of teenagers from England, Ireland, France and Germany to study marijuana’s effects.

They found differences in the volume of grey matter in the amygdala and the hippocampus.

These sections are involved with emotions, fear, memory development and spatial skills – changes to them suggests smoking cannabis could affect these faculties.
READ MORE: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6590927/Smoking-weed-just-change-teenagers-brain.html

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This reporter took a deep look into the science of smoking pot. What he found is scary

Mother Jones (San Francisco), January 5, 2019
Family First Comment:  Tell Your Children takes a sledgehammer to the promised benefits of marijuana legalisation, and cannabis enthusiasts are not going to like it one bit. 
And we’ve invited the author to New Zealand! 🙂 

Three extracts
Tell Your Children takes a sledgehammer to the promised benefits of marijuana legalization, and cannabis enthusiasts are not going to like it one bit.

The book was seeded one night a few years ago when Berenson’s wife, a psychiatrist who evaluates mentally ill criminal defendants in New York, started talking about a horrific case she was handling. It was “the usual horror story, somebody who’d cut up his grandmother or set fire to his apartment – typical bedtime chat in the Berenson house,” he writes. But then, his wife added, “Of course he was high, been smoking pot his whole life.”

Berenson, who smoked a bit in college, didn’t have strong feelings about marijuana one way or another, but he was skeptical that it could bring about violent crime. Like most Americans, he thought stoners ate pizza and played video games – they didn’t hack up family members. Yet his Harvard-trained wife insisted that all the horrible cases she was seeing involved people who were heavy into weed. She directed him to the science on the subject.

* * * * *
Over the past couple of decades, studies around the globe have found that THC – the active compound in cannabis – is strongly linked to psychosis, schizophrenia, and violence. Berenson interviewed far-flung researchers who have quietly but methodically documented the effects of THC on serious mental illness.

A 2002 study in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal) found that people who used cannabis by age 15 were four times as likely to develop schizophrenia or a related syndrome as those who’d never used. Even when the researchers excluded kids who had shown signs of psychosis by age 11, they found that the adolescent users had a threefold higher risk of demonstrating symptoms of schizophrenia later on.

These studies are hardly Reagan-esque, drug warrior hysteria. In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine issued a report nearly 500 pages long on the health effects of cannabis and concluded that marijuana use is strongly associated with the development of psychosis and schizophrenia. The researchers also noted that there’s decent evidence linking pot consumption to worsening symptoms of bipolar disorder and to a heightened risk of suicide, depression and social anxiety disorders: “The higher the use, the greater the risk.”

Given that marijuana use is up 50 percent over the past decade, if the studies are accurate, we should be experiencing a big increase in psychotic diseases. And we are, Berenson argues. He reports that from 2006 to 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, the number of ER visitors co-diagnosed with psychosis and a cannabis use disorder tripled, from 30,000 to 90,000.

* * * * *
Before talking to Berenson, I didn’t realize it was possible to smoke your way to the ER. I smoked plenty of weed in high school and so did all my friends, and none of us jumped off a balcony or killed anyone – we could barely get off the couch. But the marijuana sold today is not what we smoked, which at 1 percent to 2 percent THC was the equivalent of smoking oregano. Today’s weed is insanely more potent, as are products like “wax” and “shatter” – forms of butane hash oil designed to be vaped or dabbed that come pretty close to 100 percent THC. And these high-potency products usually contain very little CBD oil, the ingredient in cannabis that’s supposed to account for many of its supposed health benefits.

These potent products can cause hallucinations, restlessness, and, as anyone who’s smoked even weak pot is familiar with, paranoia. After reading Berenson’s book, I fact-checked it a bit, and inadvertently discovered all sorts of websites advising pot users on how to manage their paranoia and ride out the psychotic effects. I also found plenty of news stories about bad trips on pot. Such incidents are typically treated jokingly. “But a lot of the time it turns out not to be a joke,” Berenson told me. “A lot of the time it’s a 22-year-old guy who maybe has some history of aggression, and he winds up throwing himself off the balcony or beating up his girlfriend.”

Paranoia and psychosis make people dangerous, so rising use of a drug that causes both would be expected to increase violent crime, rather than reduce it as pot advocates claim. Berenson looked at data for the four states that legalized weed in 2014 and 2015 – Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Colorado – and calculated a combined 35 percent increase in murders in those states from 2013 to 2017, compared with a 20-percent rise nationally. This “isn’t a statistical anomaly,” Berenson writes. “It’s real.”

The role of weed in rising violent crime rates in legalization states is a hotly contested question, especially in Colorado, where murders in Denver are at a 10-year high. Berenson admits he can’t say for sure whether those upswings are due to legal weed, but the raw data, he says, definitely contradicts advocates’ claims: “What I want people to stop saying is that legalization reduces violent crime. It doesn’t.”

Tell Your Children rounds out the crime stats with grisly stories of people who commit suicide or kill their children while high on pot, starting with the story of an Australian woman who, in the throes of cannabis-induced psychosis, stabbed eight kids to death – seven were hers. That’s a super-extreme case, but heinous crimes are not all that uncommon. Consider Texas: In 2017, Berenson told me, “2 percent of the state probably smokes marijuana every day, and 30 percent of the deaths from child abuse or neglect were committed while people were using. And that’s a bad number. There’s no way around it.”
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/01/new-york-times-journalist-alex-berenson-tell-your-children-marijuana-crime-mental-illness-1/
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Study: Michigan medical marijuana users are driving while high

Detroit Free Press 9 January 2019
Family First Comment: More than half of the medical marijuana users in Michigan have driven under the influence of the drug, creating a potential for car crashes, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.
www.VoteNo.nz

More than half of the medical marijuana users in Michigan have driven under the influence of the drug, creating a potential for car crashes, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.

The study, which surveyed 790 of the state’s medical marijuana patients, revealed that:

  • 56 percent reported driving within two hours of using marijuana.
  • 51 percent aid they drove while  a “little high.”
  • 21 percent reported driving while “very high.”

The findings were published Wednesday in the “Drug & Alcohol Dependence” journal.

“When you are intoxicated with marijuana or you have marijuana actively in your system it can affect things like your coordination and your reaction time,” said the study’s lead author Erin Bonar, an assistant professor of psychiatry. “We know it can take several hours for its effects to wear off.”

She added: “There is a low perceived risk about driving after using marijuana, but we want people to know that they should ideally wait several hours to operate a vehicle after using cannabis, regardless of whether it is for medical use or not,” Bonar said. “The safest strategy is to not drive at all on the day you used marijuana.”

About 270,000 people in Michigan have permission to use medical marijuana. Only California has more medical marijuana users, roughly 916,000, according to statistics.

And now that recreational use of marijuana has been approved by the state’s voters, the potential for high drivers and any dangers they may pose is greater.

“We believe more research is needed to inform a larger public education effort that will help individuals understand the risks for themselves, and others, of driving while under the influence of cannabis,” Bonar said. “It is especially needed during this time of rapid policy change as many states are determining how to manage marijuana legalization. We also need clearer guidelines about marijuana dosing and side effects with an understanding of how individual differences in things like sex and body weight interact as well.”

In its study, the U-M team surveyed Michigan adults who were seeking medical marijuana certification for chronic pain in 2014 and 2015. The researchers asked about respondents’ driving habits for the past six months.
https://www.freep.com/story/news/2019/01/09/medical-marijuana-driving/2516322002/

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Poll says dope referendum would easily pass – or would it?

2020 cannabis referendum would easily pass, poll says 
NewsHub 9 January 2019
Family First Comment: The poll is simply not robust or reliable. It’s a self selected polling panel with prizes offered to join.
And 10% of the sample group say they use dope daily! Ministry of Health says the true figure is just 3.7%. Did Horizons get their respondents from a rock concert?But it’s interesting that Paul Manning and Big Marijuana is pushing this. Just as we predicted – and warned. Big Tobacco 2

A new poll reveals a large majority of New Zealanders would support legalising recreational cannabis use in the Government’s 2020 referendum.

The independent survey of nearly 1000 people, conducted by Horizon Research, surveyed Kiwis on their attitudes towards cannabis, law reform, and its use.

It shows 60 percent of adults would vote to support legalising cannabis for personal use in a referendum, with 24 percent against. Just 16 percent had no opinion.

The survey also reveals that 55 percent of adult New Zealanders have used cannabis at some time during their lives, while 10 percent said they use cannabis daily – or around 340,000 Kiwis.

The poll had a maximum margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. But Family First national director Bob McCoskrie, who opposes the ‘yes’ vote, says the poll is “simply not robust or reliable”.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/01/2020-cannabis-referendum-would-easily-pass-poll-says.html
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