Media Release 15 May 2014
Family First NZ is labelling calls by the Auckland Deputy Mayor to decriminalise cannabis because it’s safer than synthetic drugs as ‘dopey’ and out of touch with reality.
“It is ironic that at the same time as we ban synthetic cannabis and we try to price and label cigarettes out of existence, supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed for far too long about tobacco – that marijuana is harmless, and it can even have health benefits,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Supporters of decriminalisation would have us believe that cannabis is a gentle, harmless substance that gives users little more than a sense of mellow euphoria and hurts no one else, and that legal highs wouldn’t be as attractive if we just decriminalised marijuana.”
“But the cannabis now in circulation is many times more powerful than that typically found in the early 1990s. With increased potency comes increased health risks, and greater likelihood of addiction.”
Researchers from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand found that a single cannabis joint could damage the lungs as much as smoking up to five tobacco cigarettes one after another. The Australian Medical Association has issued warnings on the health risks associated with smoking marijuana including memory loss, psychosis, impaired driving, hallucinations, asthma and lung cancer. Britain’s Medical Research Council says the link between cannabis and psychosis is clear; it wasn’t 10 years ago.
“Drug use is both a criminal and a health issue. There is a false dichotomy that criminal sanctions haven’t worked so we should ditch them all together and we should focus only on education and health initiatives. We should maintain both,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“Decriminalising marijuana is the wrong path if we care about public health and public safety, and about our young people. Recently, the NZ police said that the harm that cannabis causes to the wider community can’t be underestimated.”
“It is the illegality of the drug that has kept its use low compared to alcohol and tobacco. The restrictions on P, heroin and cocaine will never eliminate them, but they’ve prevented a pandemic. A feeble approach to marijuana use will simply send all the wrong messages to our young people and to our families – that drug use isn’t that big a deal.”
“Tackle the nightmare of legal highs, but let’s not pretend that marijuana is a harmless substitute.” Only one in three NZ’s believe that marijuana should be decriminalised, according to an independent poll. In the poll of 1,000 NZ’ers by Curia Market Research, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement “If an adult wishes to use a drug such as marijuana, they should be able to do so legally.” Only 33% of respondents agreed, with 60% disagreeing and 7% being unsure or refusing to say.