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Bob McCoskrie

Bob McCoskrie: Don’t let Kiwis go to pot

Gisborne Herald 23 June 2019
Family First Comment: “The law has an important deterrent effect. Most people don’t want to break the law. It sends an important societal message, similar to our drink-driving laws which can also result in a criminal conviction. Ironically, legalisation would mean more use, and therefore more breaches of marijuana-related regulations (including under-age violations), and more drug-driving convictions.”

Recently-released polls on cannabis have consistently shown a decreasing appetite for the legalisation of recreational dope use.

It seems that while we all strongly support a compassionate response to those in real need with a cautious and researched approach around cannabis medicine, when we thoughtfully consider the real implications of legalising the recreational use of cannabis, we completely reject the proposal, and rightly so.

Recent polling by Curia Market Research found that 85 percent of New Zealanders think that cannabis use can damage the brains of young people, 81percent think that drivers using cannabis are more likely to cause accidents, 63 percent think that cannabis-users aged under 25 are less likely to get a job, and half of us think that cannabis usage will increase if restrictions are reduced (35 percent think usage would remain the same).

When people think about ‘cannabis’, they probably immediately think about the same overused photos by the media of a marijuana plant and a joint being smoked. Think Woodstock Weed.

But legalising today’s marijuana will be far more than that. Big Marijuana’s aim will be to have people popping it between classes, sucking on it while driving, drinking it before work, chewing on it while they talk to others, and eating it as a dessert. The potency of edibles and dabbing (significantly more than that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids will lead to serious problems.

Evidence shows that marijuana — which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades — is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents.

In the US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashes, youth marijuana use, and costs that far outweigh tax revenues from marijuana. These states have seen a black market that continues to thrive, sustained marijuana arrest rates, and tobacco company investment in marijuana.

Two key arguments are used as a basis for legalising dope.

Firstly, that legalisation will disempower the gangs and get rid of the black market. But the black market in Canada is absolutely thriving, with over 79 percent of marijuana sales in the last quarter of 2018 occurring outside the legal market — a similar trend to California, Oregon, Portugal and Colorado.

The problem with regulation — however well-intentioned and devised — is that as soon as you put restrictions on potency, product and availability, and create a commercial price, this simply creates a black market. The goal is to get drugs, and to get high, at the cheapest possible price.

Organised criminal syndicates and gangs adapt to changing political and economic environments, because their ultimate goal is not to break the law but to commercialise and exploit human nature. It’s about the money.

The second argument is that people shouldn’t be in jail for smoking a joint. The problem with that argument is — they’re not.

Statistics obtained from the Ministry of Justice show that fewer than 10 people have been given a prison or home detention sentence for cannabis possession offences in each of the last three years, and that these sentences will have been ‘influenced by their previous offending history’. International studies show that most are imprisoned for drug ‘related’ offences — that is, crimes committed while on drugs (murder, armed robbery, theft, assault, child abuse, etc.) or crimes committed in order to obtain drugs.

The law has an important deterrent effect. Most people don’t want to break the law. It sends an important societal message, similar to our drink-driving laws which can also result in a criminal conviction.
Ironically, legalisation would mean more use, and therefore more breaches of marijuana-related regulations (including under-age violations), and more drug-driving convictions.

There is no adequate reason why the government can persistently and successfully target smoking and not do likewise with drugs. The end goal of the SmokeFree 2025 campaign is not ‘slow down’ or ‘moderate’ but ‘QUIT’, and a realistic understanding about the effort required to reach that end, with numerous strategies and support agencies assisting on the journey. And the numbers overwhelmingly suggest that it is working.

Yet supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed for far too long about tobacco — that marijuana is harmless, not addictive, and won’t be targeted at young people.

Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the law which focuses on suppliers and dealers, that caters for “youthful indiscretions”, and provides an opportunity to intervene with addiction services and stop the progression of use, is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy.

At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we go and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm?

This is not a “war on drugs” — this is a defence of our brains and mental well-being.

• Bob McCoskrie is the national director of Family First NZ.

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Final Push to Legalize Pot Fails in New York

The New York Times 19 June 2019
Family First Comment: “A diverse coalition of law enforcement officials, parent-teacher associations and health professionals celebrated the news of the bill’s failure, calling it a victory over a “predatory pot industry” that they said would threaten traffic safety and victimize communities already suffering from drug abuse.”

New York’s plan to legalize marijuana this year collapsed on Wednesday, dashing hopes for a potential billion-dollar industry that supporters said would create jobs in minority communities and end decades of racially disproportionate policing.

Democratic lawmakers had been in a headlong race to finalize an agreement before the end of the legislative session this week. But persistent disagreement about how to regulate the industry, as well as hesitation from moderate lawmakers, proved insurmountable.

“It is clear now that M.R.T.A. is not going to pass this session,” Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan said in a statement on Wednesday morning, using an acronym for the legalization bill she had sponsored. “We came very close to crossing the finish line, but we ran out of time.”

She added, “Unfortunately, that delay means countless more New Yorkers will have their lives upended by unnecessary and racially disparate enforcement measures before we inevitably legalize.”

With just hours remaining before the session was scheduled to end on Wednesday, state lawmakers turned their attention instead to a backup plan to decriminalize, but not legalize, marijuana, which was introduced on Sunday.

The backup bill would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession and allow for certain marijuana-related criminal records to be erased. Other bills under consideration would expand the state’s medical marijuana program or regulate the hemp industry.


Pure Cannabis Cigarettes to be Introduced to Canadian Cannabis Market

CA Finance 12 June 2019
Family First Comment: As predicted, here comes Big Tobacco 2.
Same corporates.
Same objectives.
Same addiction.
New product.

THC BioMed Intl Ltd. (“THC BioMed“, or the “Company“) (CSE:THC.CN – News) is pleased to announce that it is the first Canadian Licensed Producer to automate the pre-rolling of cigarettes containing 100% cannabis (the “Pure Cannabis Cigarettes”). In the same way automation changed the tobacco industry, THC BioMed is confident the automation of Pure Cannabis Cigarettes will bring meaningful changes to the current cannabis industry and its bottom line.

The automated cigarette manufacturing plant has been installed at THC BioMed’s flagship Acland Road location.  THC will begin the production and sales of commercial-grade Pure Cannabis Cigarettes, a first in Canada.

The Pure Cannabis Cigarettes are to be packaged in lots of 3 and 20. Each Pure Cannabis Cigarette will be intended for a single-use session and will come with a commercial-grade cigarette filter. There will be no tobacco in the Pure Cannabis Cigarettes.

“We are very pleased to offer Canadians a better way of smoking cannabis, as we monitored an increase in demand for our best-selling pre-rolls, we acknowledged that it was our duty to ensure we distribute the best products possible. We are pleased to be the first cannabis producer to put filters between the cannabis we are selling, and our consumers. Filters were invented to protect the consumer and not degrade the experience. “We promise our Pure Cannabis Cigarettes will offer the same potency as our regular best-selling pre-rolls. I am predicting consumers will gravitate towards this finished type of product and the old way of rolling joints will be something of the past,” said John Miller, President and CEO of THC BioMed.

The automated cigarette manufacturing plant is capable of producing up to 5,000 cigarettes per minute.

“We also expect our CBD line of Pure Cannabis Cigarettes to be very popular, as we expect regular cigarette users will find it easier to transition to our CBD product, which we think is better than smoking tobacco,” said Mr. Miller, “Automating our systems now gives us a clear path to profitability. We work diligently to bring shareholder value through more traditional and tested ways such as being a profitable company, patience is required.”

THC plans to offer the following strains in Pure Cannabis Cigarette form, other strains may follow:

THC Sativa Landrace;
THC Indica Landrace;
THC Hybrid Landrace; and,
CBD Landrace.

THC expects its Pure Cannabis Cigarettes to be available soon via its website for medical patients and through provinces with distribution agreements with THC.

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Cannabis crash victim’s mum lives with horror five years on

NZ Herald 19 June 2019
Family First Comment: Lawyers prosecuting Lewis in 2016 said his decision to take marijuana before getting behind the wheel had “the direct consequence” of taking another life, local media reported. His defence lawyer also admitted Lewis’ driving ability had been impaired by the amount of marijuana in his blood and that he had battled drug addiction since being exposed to cannabis as a child. Semb feared legalising cannabis would lead to more people using the drug and driving while high. She doubted the law would be enough to deter them from driving while impaired.

A Kiwi mum who continually relives the moment her son was killed in a crash by a drug-affected driver says she cannot support legalising cannabis.

“Ask any parent who has lost a child to a cannabis-impaired driver if they would agree to it being legalised,” Barbara Semb said in a recent letter to the editor published in the Herald.

Her son, Chris Semb, died aged 51 in Queensland, Australia, in 2014 when an oncoming van crossed the centreline near Bundaberg and hit his motorbike.

He was thrown up to 60m down the road by the force of the collision.
READ MORE: (behind paywall)

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Living near marijuana dispensaries makes youth more likely to use it

Los Angeles Times 17 June 2019
Family First Comment: “Our findings suggest that as the marijuana retail outlets become more visible and more numerous, they may influence the way that young adults perceive and use marijuana,” 

Young adults who live in neighborhoods with a higher number of medical marijuana dispensaries use pot more frequently than their peers and have more positive views about the drug, according to a study released by the Rand Corp.

The results were strongest among young adults who lived near dispensaries that had storefront signs, suggesting that regulating such advertising could be one strategy if policymakers are concerned about curbing use of marijuana, according to Rand.

The study is the first to show that storefront marijuana signage is extremely influential and substantially magnifies the associations between higher density of medical marijuana dispensaries with greater use of marijuana and positive views about the drug, according to the think tank.

Based on research from the same project, the city of Los Angeles adopted an ordinance in 2018 to restrict some storefront and billboard advertising.

“Our findings suggest that as the marijuana retail outlets become more visible and more numerous, they may influence the way that young adults perceive and use marijuana,” said Regina Shih, the study’s lead author and a senior behavioral scientist at the nonprofit research organization.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, and 33 states now having some type of medical marijuana law. In addition, California and nine other states allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Although research supports some medicinal benefits of marijuana, youth who frequently use cannabis are more likely to experience negative consequences such as increased risk of mental and physical health problems, school drop-out, relationship problems and motor vehicle accidents, according to the Rand researchers.


Potent pot, vulnerable teens trigger concerns in first states to legalize marijuana

The Washington Post 16 June 2019
Family First Comment: “The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana are starting to grapple with teenagers’ growing use of highly potent pot, even as both boost the industry and reap huge tax windfalls from its sales…. “Horrible things are happening to kids,” said psychiatrist Libby Stuyt, who treats teens in southwestern Colorado and has studied the health impacts of high-potency marijuana. “I see increased problems with psychosis, with addiction, with suicide, with depression and anxiety.”…

The first two states to legalize recreational marijuana are starting to grapple with teenagers’ growing use of highly potent pot, even as both boost the industry and reap huge tax windfalls from its sales.

Though the legal purchase age is 21 in Colorado and Washington, parents, educators and physicians say youths are easily getting hold of edibles infused with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component that causes a high, and concentrates such as “shatter,” a brittle, honey-colored substance that is heated and then inhaled through a special device.

Each poses serious risks to adolescents’ physical and mental health.

“Underage kids have unbelievable access to nuclear-strength weed,” said Andrew Brandt, a Boulder, Colo., software executive whose son got hooked while in high school.

With some marijuana products averaging 68 percent THC — exponentially greater than the pot baby boomers once smoked — calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms have risen. In the Denver area, visits to Children’s Hospital Colorado facilities for treatment of cyclic vomiting, paranoia, psychosis and other acute cannabis-related symptoms jumped to 777 in 2015, from 161 in 2005.

The increase was most notable in the years following legalization of medical sales in 2009 and retail use in 2014, according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health published in 2018.

“Horrible things are happening to kids,” said psychiatrist Libby Stuyt, who treats teens in southwestern Colorado and has studied the health impacts of high-potency marijuana. “I see increased problems with psychosis, with addiction, with suicide, with depression and anxiety.”

It is unclear whether all of this means years of generally stagnant pot use among children are coming to an end. Surveys finding little change with pot since 2014 “may not reliably reflect the impact of legalization on adolescent health,” the authors of that 2018 study concluded.

Washington’s latest Healthy Youth Survey showed 20 percent of eighth-graders and nearly half of seniors “perceive little risk of regular marijuana use.” Many teens consider it less risky than alcohol or cigarettes.

As more than a dozen states from Hawaii to New Hampshire consider legalizing marijuana, doctors warn of an urgent need for better education — not just of teens but of parents and lawmakers — about how the products being marketed can significantly affect young people’s brain development.

The limited scientific research to date shows that earlier and more frequent use of high-THC cannabis puts adolescents at greater jeopardy of substance use disorders, mental health issues and poor school performance.

“The brain is abnormally vulnerable during adolescence,” said Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who studies how marijuana affects the brain. “Policy seems to have outpaced science, and in the best of all possible worlds, science would allow us to set policy.”

The critics also insist that more must be done to maintain tight regulation of the industry. That’s not been the case so far, they argue, with dispensaries opening near high schools in Seattle and with retail and medical pot shops in Denver outnumbering Starbucks and McDonald’s locations combined.

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What Big Pot doesn’t want you to know about costs of legalizing marijuana

New York Post 13 June 2019
Family First Comment: People shouldn’t get locked up for having a joint in their pocket. Legislators can look to advance criminal justice reforms concerning possession of small amounts of marijuana without throwing the doors open to a predatory industry that will have significant and irreconcilable impact on public health. That’s real social justice.

Lobbyists and lawmakers everywhere like to make bold-but-reality-challenged claims to advance legislation. But in its push to legalize commercial weed, the marijuana industry has taken legislative myth-peddling to brazen new lows.

New York’s lawmakers have a few days left to show the nation they won’t be duped. Here are some of the tallest of the tales that have swirled around Albany, thanks to the pot industry:

First, the industry claims high-potency commercial weed will provide social justice and economic opportunity for minority communities.

African American legislators in New Jersey didn’t fall for that, and their New York counterparts shouldn’t, either. The pot industry — backed by Big Tobacco and wealthy, mostly white Wall Street investors — is looking to line its own pockets. These multinational forces aren’t getting into pot to help minority entrepreneurs.

Remember when liquor stores and smoke shops were clustered in largely low-income and minority neighborhoods? Pot shops selling high-potency drugs engineered to create regular customers won’t lead to any more empowerment and opportunity for urban populations than clustered vice stores did.

There has been no quantifiable positive economic impact for such communities in legalized states. In fact, taxpayers and communities have had to shoulder an estimated $4.50 in social costs for every $1 in revenue, according to researchers at the Centennial Institute.
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Colorado drug investigator slams legalisation

NewsTalk ZB 13 June 2019 
A US drug investigator is pushing back against claims legalised cannabis is a good thing.

Colorado Drug Investigators Association president Ray Padilla told Mike Hosking since legalising cannabis, the societal issues they’re dealing with have shot up.

He claims deaths from people driving after taking marijuana in the state have increased by 151 percent.

Padilla says emergency room numbers and poison cases are sky-rocketing.

“Definitely an increase in visit due to a lot of different things. A lot of psychotic issues, a lot of mental issues, our rehab clinic, there is rehab for marijuana, so you can get addicted to it.”

He says there’s more organised crime than ever before in Colorado.

“When you can get it on the black market, number one its much cheaper. Number two, you are going to have gangs and those here who are going to grow it here in Colorado and then ship it out of state.”

Padilla says marijuana is worth up to $1,200 a pound in Colorado, whereas on the East Coast, gangs can get up to $7,000.
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Timaru man self-medicating by smoking cannabis avoids conviction

Stuff 12 June 2019 
A Timaru man who grew and smoked cannabis to self-medicate has escaped penalty with a District Court judge citing the adoption of “less stringent” sentences for cannabis offending.

Nicholas Richard Brown was discharged without conviction for cultivating cannabis when he appeared before Judge Joanna Maze in the Timaru District Court on Thursday, having admitted the charge at an earlier date.

Judge Maze ordered the destruction of 54 plants, 77 seedlings, and 26.96 grams of cannabis head seized from the man’s address by police on a search warrant at 5.01pm on October 3, 2018.

Brown used three or four ounces a week to treat chronic pain, and had enough for 12 weeks when he was arrested.

“Following a work accident, not at all of your making, you elected to use cannabis to self-medicate,” Judge Maze said.

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The truth about Colorado – from someone who knows…

This morning on Newstalk ZB, Mike Hosking said that Green MP Chloe Swarbrick had recommended Colorado as a great place where cannabis legalisation had worked. So Mike contacted law enforcement there to get the facts.

Oh dear. Not a good recommendation by the Green Party. Have a listen to the interview with Ray Padilla from the Colorado Drug Investigators Association (CDIA)

We’ve already documented all of this on our website…


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