In an excellent presentation from new website commonroomnz.com, Aaron Ironside – an experienced broadcaster – shares his experience of being a spokesperson for the No side during the 2020 cannabis referendum debate.
In 2020 Aaron Ironside was the front-person for the Say No To Dope campaign, a homegrown campaign opposing the legalisation of recreational cannabis in New Zealand. We succeeded in that mission, getting New Zealand to vote NO to cannabis legalisation. It was a hugely important win for the wellbeing of New Zealanders, it was also a win against the odds.
As Aaron shares in this video …
“Say Nope To Dope was up against ten YES campaigns, and a media determined to give them an advantage. It wasn’t a fair fight.”
There was significant media bias towards legalising cannabis. An in-depth analysis of media coverage of the cannabis referendum found that the YES position in the cannabis debate received a heavily biased share of the media coverage during the campaign period. New Zealanders did not receive balanced objective new coverage.
We thank Aaron for his efforts in the Say No To Dope campaign, and we especially thank all New Zealanders who voted NO to cannabis legalisation.
Video from: Common Room NZ)
The UN’s Drugs Control Board has issued a warning, stating that “moves by governments to legalise non-medial use of cannabis have led to increased consumption without explaining the potentially serious health dangers that users face from the drug”. The data clearly shows increased consumption and “negative health effects and psychotic disorders” among some recreational cannabis users. Admissions for cannabis-related psychotic disorders have quadrupled worldwide. There’s also been a surge in cocaine production and trafficking. Regarding the recreational use of cannabis, the UN panel expressed concern that the “growing” industry was fuelling the shift to even greater use of the drug, by advertising their products “particularly to young people, in ways that lower the perception of risk”… Governments are understating the risks.
This is important for New Zealand’s ongoing debate around drug legalisation. Despite this country voting NO to legalising dope in the 2020 cannabis referendum, pro-drug advocates such as the NZ Drug Foundation and the Green Party continue to push for drug legalisation – claiming that legalisation will address the health issues relating to drug use. Errr, no it won’t! The pro-drug agenda is constantly amplified by the mainstream media despite the evidence from overseas countries that drug legalisation is nothing short of a disaster. This latest warning from the UN totally refutes the claims of New Zealand’s pro-drug advocates.
Here’s the full article from UN News below:
Issuing the warning at the launch of its annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) cited data indicating that the trend caused “negative health effects and psychotic disorders” among some recreational cannabis users, while also contravening the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
“In all jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalized, data show that cannabis-related health problems have increased,” INCB said. It pointed out that between 2000 and 2018, “global medical admissions related to cannabis dependence and withdrawal increased eight-fold. Admissions for cannabis-related psychotic disorders have quadrupled worldwide.”
The INCB also pointed to a surge in cocaine production and trafficking in 2022, and in the chemical “precursors” that are required to make drugs including heroin, cocaine and amphetamines.
“High levels of (cocaine) purity have become available at cheaper prices,” the UN body said, linking the development to evolving criminal activity “in locations where coca bush is grown”.
Highlighting another worrying trend, the INCB noted that traffickers have set up more cocaine processing operations in Europe, “which accounted for six of the 15 cocaine processing laboratories discovered globally” last year.
And in a call for global action to tackle the opioid “overdose epidemic”, the INCB warned that trafficking in fentanyl and other dangerous opioids “is expanding” to Oceania.
In the US, the opioid epidemic and drug overdose crisis worsened in 2022, the drugs watchdog said, because of illegal manufacturing and increased drug smuggling.
Another concerning facet of the illegal drugs industry over the past year is the “increased sophistication of trafficking entrepreneurs”, who have been quick to replace controlled substances with alternative chemicals that are not subject to international controls.
After recording a high number of seizures of these “precursor” chemicals that are used to make illegal drugs in 67 countries on five continents, INCB issued a warning to Member States to beware of increased trafficking of these substances “and the speed with which the illicit drug industry circumvents international controls”.
International rules governing precursor chemicals control are detailed in the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, adopted in Vienna on 19 December 1988.
The Convention refers specifically to “substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances” and requires that countries control and monitor the legitimate trade in drug precursors, to prevent their illegal use.
ONU News/Alexandre Soares Experts examine a shipment of cocaine seized in Guinea-Bissau.
Understating the risk
Regarding the recreational use of cannabis, the UN panel expressed concern that the “growing” industry was fuelling the shift to even greater use of the drug, by advertising their products “particularly to young people, in ways that lower the perception of risk”.
“In the United States, it has been shown that adolescents and young adults consume significantly more cannabis in federal states where cannabis has been legalized compared to other states where recreational use remains illegal,” the INCB’s latest report said.
New cannabis-based products, including “edibles”, or vaping products marketed in eye-catching packaging have increased the trend, the report’s authors continued, warning that these tactics have contributed to a “trivialization” of the impacts of cannabis use in the public eye, especially among a younger demographic.
“This is a major cause for concern as is the way the harms associated with using high-potency cannabis products are being played down,” said INCB President Jagjit Pavadia.
Focusing on inequalities between countries regarding access to opioid-based pain relief drugs, the UN board said that “many” nations continue to struggle to secure sufficient supplies.
This is also the case for medications containing morphine, even though opiate raw materials “are sufficiently available”, the INCB said, adding that these supplies remain “concentrated in high-income countries”, where similar disparities also exist for anti-epileptic drugs and medication to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The mainstream media’s focus on the liberalisation of drug laws continues. Many of them have never got over the shock that a majority of NZers voted no to legalising cannabis in the 2020 referendum. But that hasn’t stopped their campaigning, In the space of a fortnight near the end of last year, there was Radio NZ’s documentary by Guyon Espiner called “Wasted”– also shown on TVNZ. Then it was Patrick Gower on Newshub. And just before Christmas, it was TodayFM and reporter Willemena Shrimpton who joined the ‘drug campaign’. We check out the latest documentary on offer.
The media’s focus on the liberalisation of drug laws continued. Last week, it was Radio NZ’s documentary by Guyon Espiner called “Wasted” – also shown on TVNZ. This week it was Patrick Gower on Newshub. Sadly, rather than a balanced and robust debate with both sides of the argument tested, what we watched were weak arguments, misleading statements, and flawed conclusions. This is certainly a war – the war FOR drugs. We analyse Gower’s documentary.
The media continue to campaign for liberalisation of drug laws – and their latest attempt is via the state radio broadcaster Radio NZ and a documentary by Guyon Espiner called “Wasted”. It also happened to be broadcast on our state TV broadcaster TVNZ. As usual it was a one-sided narrative being pushed. It was a ‘wasted’ opportunity to hear both sides of the debate. We critique the documentary.
There were some interesting stats out last week – but for some reason the media didn’t want to know about it and definitely didn’t want to report it. But we will. Guess what – cannabis use has fallen since the Referendum Debate ended. Yep – dope smoking is on the decrease, and that’s a reason to celebrate.
Past-year and weekly use of cannabis continues to fall since the public debate on legalisation, according to the latest NZ Health Survey results.
As expected, there was a notable increase in usage in 2018/19 as the cannabis legalisation debate was launched, but since the successful NO vote in the 2020 referendum, past-year usage (which ranges from as little as once in the year up to regular use) has peaked and actually started to decline from a ‘high’ of 15.5% dropping now to 14.7%.
This is a welcome trend to be celebrated, despite the continued push to normalise drug use by drug advocates. Weekly usage has also dropped slightly to a very small proportion of 4.3% despite the claims that ‘everyone is doing it’.
Of continuing concern is the disproportionate use by Maori (almost 2x more likely than non-Maori) and those in the lower income bracket (1.8x more likely). The good news is that usage plummets with age & maturity.
Also in the NZ Health Survey results, daily smoking rates have hit an all-time low almost halving to 8%, but vaping rates have risen significantly. 8.3% of Kiwis are vaping daily, up from just 1% in 2015/16.
The SmokeFree 2025 campaign is having the desired effect – although daily smoking continues to be disproportionately high amongst Maori (almost 3.5x more likely to smoke than non-Maori) and lower income groups (4.3x more likely based on deprivation).
(past 12 months use)
(past 12 months use)
It is ironic that legislation is going through Parliament that would decrease the number of retail outlets able to sell tobacco, drastically reduce the level of nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels and ban anyone born from 2009 from ever buying them; yet at the same time there has been – and continues to be – a major push by drug advocates to legalise, normalise and increase access to cannabis.
If we had legalised cannabis, Big Marijuana would have immediately targeted vaping with their products, as they have done so successfully and with great harm overseas.
The 2022 Salvation Army State of the Nation report showed that in 2021, the number of cannabis convictions was 44% of what it had been in 2012. However, international studies show that convictions and/or imprisonment for drug-related offences are linked to crimes committed while on drugs (murder, armed robbery, theft, assault, child abuse, etc.) or crimes committed in order to obtain drugs. Public safety and health should take priority, and the law acts as a deterrent and as a coercion for treatment.
In July, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime released its 2022 World Drug Report, showing increased drug use worldwide and accelerated daily use (and related health impacts) in parts of the world where cannabis has been legalised.
Key findings from the 2022 World Drug Report included:
- Cannabis legalisation in parts of the world appears to have accelerated daily use and related health impacts.
- Cannabis legalisation in North America appears to have increased daily cannabis use, especially potent cannabis products and particularly among young adults.
- Associated increases in people with psychiatric disorders, suicides and hospitalisations have also been reported.
Increased drug use also creates negative outcomes for the environment. Key findings include that the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis is between 16 and 100 times more than outdoor cannabis on average and that the footprint of 1 kilogram of cocaine is 30 times greater than that of cocoa beans. Other environmental impacts include substantial deforestation.
Declining drug use – any drug – is a reason to celebrate.
There are continued calls from drug advocates in NZ to decriminalise drugs and to adopt a ‘health approach’. We only need to look overseas to see what a social disaster it would be – Scotland, Oregon, San Francisco. The Drug Foundation recently trumpeted Vancouver as a good example. But is it? One of the most beautiful cities in North America has been beset by skyrocketing crime, violent attacks, and a crippling battle with addiction, based on a flawed ‘harm reduction’ method which ignores the harsh reality of normalising drug use.
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently published the results of their annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) panel study. The results are very concerning, showing that marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults reached an all time-high in 2021. 43% of young adults reported to have used marijuana in the past 12 months, with 11% of all young adults reporting to use marijuana daily! Nicotine vaping and excessive alcohol consumption is also on the rise.
Results from this 2021 NIDA study mirrors the alarming trends highlighted in the UN’s World Drug Report 2021.
Not surprisingly, the surge in marijuana use has been fuelled by increasing numbers of states that have legalised recreational marijuana, effectively normalising drug use. Experts say the normalisation of marijuana has helped persuade many young people that it is harmless.
“Generally speaking, young people don’t see these substances as dangerous, but the consequences of using them are still there” says Dr. Kevin M. Gray, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.
According to NIDA:
“Marijuana and hallucinogen use in the past year reported by young adults 19 to 30 years old increased significantly in 2021 compared to five and 10 years ago, reaching historic highs”
43% of young adults reported to have used marijuana in the past 12 months, with 11% of all young adults reporting to use marijuana daily! These are staggering numbers. It’s of real concern, as drug use by young people can negatively affect their brain development, cognitive abilities and mental health.
Hallucinogen use (incl. LSD, MDMA, mescaline, PCP etc.) also increased dramatically over the past 12 months. In 2021, 8% of young adults reported past-year hallucinogen use, representing an all-time high.
“Overall, the results are very concerning,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What they tell us is that the problem of substance abuse among young people has gotten worse in this country, and that the pandemic, with all its mental stressors and turmoil, has likely contributed to the rise.”
The NIDA report also highlights that nicotine vaping and excessive alcohol consumption continued to rise in 2021. Since 2017, when marijuana vaping was included in this study, past-month prevalence has doubled – from 6% in 2017 to 12% in 2021. According to NIDA, another worrying trend among young people is mounting consumption of alcoholic beverages suffused with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
Alcohol remains the most used substance among adults in the study. While daily/monthly/yearly drinking volume has been decreasing over the past decade, sadly “high-intensity drinking (having 10 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks) has been steadily increasing over the past decade and in 2021 reached its highest level ever recorded since first measured in 2005.”
Read the NIDA report here.
New Zealand certainly made the only safe decision by voting NO to dope at the 2020 cannabis legalisation referendum.
**The post was written by Family First staff writers.