Cannabis: the science is still far from settled

By September 16, 2020 Recent News

Stuff 17 September 2020
Our additional comment: Cannabis impairs cognition and memory and “during adolescence is related to impairments in subsequent academic achievement and education, employment and income, and social relationships and social roles”. There is “no evidence” that cannabis works to treat drug addiction.

OPINION: The general election aside, the referendum over the legalisation of recreational cannabis is also exciting some debate as parties and individuals take positions for or against the proposition.

One thing that strikes me immediately is that the cannabis referendum is quite different from the euthanasia referendum. A majority vote for the End of Life Choice Act will bring it into effect. Voters know what they are getting. The legislation has already passed through Parliament.

Not so with the cannabis referendum. There is a draft bill which voters can study, but none of the proponents of legalisation are saying that this is the bill that Parliament will pass if there is a majority vote in the referendum.

They can’t say that because no one can guarantee what the new parliament will do. There may be significant amendments, so voters are less sure of the outcome and rightly more wary.

The third aspect of the referendum that interests me is the science underlying the proposition that cannabis is a “good” drug to have in the community.

Like most people I had assumed that the science on the matter was largely settled. When I delved into it, I found that this was very far from the case.

In fact, an extensive review of the scientific literature undertaken in the United States found that the medicinal value of cannabis is still subject to significant and unresolved question marks.
John Bishop is a Wellington-based writer and commentator.

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