Family First brings US author to NZ to talk about dangers of cannabis ahead of legalisation referendum

By February 18, 2020 Recent News

TVNZ One News 17 February 2020
On September 19th you’ll be voting on who you want to govern the country, as well as a referendum on whether to legalise cannabis.

Central to that debate is whether you think cannabis is safe or unsafe.

One person who says it’s unsafe and dangerous is US author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson.

He’s written a book linking cannabis use to psychosis and violence. Some scientists actively dispute his conclusions, though.

He’s been brought to New Zealand by Family First and told Seven Sharp why he thinks cannabis is linked to bouts of psychosis and violence.

“That’s what the strongest medical evidence shows, there is no question it can cause temporary episodes of psychosis in many users.

“The issue as to whether it can cause permanent psychosis or schizophrenia there is more debate around, but many psychiatrists have come around to this view,” Mr Berenson stated.

Mr Berenson didn’t used to believe that cannabis was dangerous, but he says today’s strains are more potent and synthetic products are also using levels of THC that would be “hard to imagine in the ’90s even to have used.”

However, professor Joseph Boden – who is part of the Prime Minister’s expert panel on cannabis – doesn’t agree with Mr Berenson’s views.

“It’s just scaremongering,” he says.

“He takes data out of context, so he shows there was an increase in the murder and violence levels in Washington state, after cannabis was legalised.

“But more sophisticated analysis shows that in fact the rate was lower than it would have been had cannabis not been legalised,” Mr Boden says.

It comes as New Zealanders are more likely to vote against legalisation of cannabis in the upcoming referendum, according to the latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll.

Those polled were asked, ‘At this stage, do you think you will vote for cannabis to be legalised, or for cannabis to remain illegal?’

Remain illegal – 51%
Legalise cannabis – 39%
Will not vote – 1%
Don’t know / refused – 9%

The groups of people who were more likely than average to intend to vote against legalising cannabis were Asian New Zealanders, National Party supports and people aged 55 and over.

Those who were more likely to intend to vote for legalisation were Green Party supporters, women aged 18 to 34, Māori, people with annual household incomes between $30,001 to $70,000 and Labour Party supporters.

Green Party’s Chlöe Swarbrick said the poll results indicated that “we really have a job to do in getting out there and talking to people”.

Cannabis referendum: Anti-marijuana book author’s warning to New Zealand
NewsHub 17 February 2020
A former New York Times journalist has warned New Zealand against legalising recreational cannabis, saying its risks have been “substantially understated”.

Alex Berenson is the author of a controversial new book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, Violence. He is in New Zealand as a guest of Family First.

Berenson spoke to Magic Talk’s Peter Williams on Monday to explain why he believes recreational cannabis shouldn’t be legalised.

“The harms of cannabis are quite a bit larger than are generally realised.”

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