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Cannabis Use In Pregnancy Linked To A Greater Risk Of Autism

Media Release 11 August 2020
In the largest study of its kind, Ottawa researchers have found that children whose mothers reported using cannabis during pregnancy were at greater risk of autism. According to the study, women who use marijuana during pregnancy have a more than 50 percent greater chance to give birth to a child with autism versus non-users. The study also found the risk for other neurodevelopmental disorders was heightened. The findings were published in the prestigious medical journal Nature Medicine. The research team reviewed data from every birth in Ontario between 2007 and 2012, before recreational cannabis was legalised. The researchers had previously found that cannabis use in pregnancy was linked to an increased risk of preterm birth. 

“Legalisation of marijuana has led to major concerns around pregnant mums using the drug, including as a treatment for morning sickness, and an increase in the number of babies being born THC-positive. This is just one of the many health hazards when you legalise a harmful addictive drug and normalise its use in the community,” says spokesperson Aaron ironside.

Marijuana during pregnancy is on the rise in the US. According to a recent, first-of-its-kind General Advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General, past month marijuana use among pregnant women doubled between 2002 and 2017. Furthermore, marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to lower birth weight, hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences.

A 2019 study found that marijuana use doubled among pregnant women between 2002 and 2017 and is most common in the first trimester. Past-month marijuana use increased from 3.4 percent to 7 percent among pregnant women overall. The data came from an analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2017, which involved nearly half a million women. And a July 2019 study based in California found that the frequency with which women in California use cannabis in the year before and during pregnancy has increased over time, corresponding with increasing acceptance of cannabis use and decreasing perceptions of cannabis-associated harms. The data indicates that cannabis is used differentially and disproportionately by the young, the poor and racial minorities.

A study in the June 2019 edition Journal of the American Medical Association also reported a sharp increase in the number of pregnant women smoking marijuana and an alarming link between cannabis use and preterm births, defined as 37 weeks or earlier. Canadian researchers compared the outcomes of birth by 5,639 mothers who reported cannabis use during pregnancy with 92,873 mothers who said they didn’t use it. The authors concluded marijuana is “likely unsafe” because pre-term births were twice as common in marijuana users vs. non users.

If a woman consumes marijuana while pregnant, their child is more likely to suffer sleep problems as much as a decade later, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study of nearly 12,000 youth. Published in Sleep Health: The Journal of The National Sleep Foundation, the paper is the latest to link prenatal cannabis use to developmental problems in children and the first to suggest it may impact sleep cycles long-term. Those who used marijuana frequently were more likely to report somnolence symptoms (symptoms of excess sleepiness) in their children, such as trouble waking in the morning and being excessively tired during the day.

“These are the health consequences that voters must consider when they consider whether to legalise and normalise drug use. We say it’s not worth the risk.”

NZMA: Voting ‘no’ in the cannabis referendum

Cannabis referendum: Four experts weigh up the pros and cons of legalising marijuana
NewsHub 9 August 2020
Our additional comment: Do we listen to drug advocates who want to normalise all drugs…. or to medical professionals who are health and patient-focused? 
Pretty simply answer eh.

Dr Kate Baddock – chair of the New Zealand Medical Association, a pan-professional medical organisation representing the interests of doctors

The NZMA holds the position that the social, psychological, and physical harms of cannabis are real and relevant, and does not support the legalisation of cannabis based on those harms.

The social harms of cannabis include particularly the reduction in academic performance in younger people so that they underachieve educationally, and amotivational syndromes that are seen with continued prolonged use, affecting adults’ ability and motivation to work. Cannabis also affects the ability to drive safely through psychomotor effects slowing coordination and reaction times and increasing the risk of accidents. Cannabis and driving can be a fatal combination.

The psychological harms include impairment of thought processes, such as the organisation of complex information, short-term memory and executive processes. There is some evidence that these changes are not reversed on cessation of cannabis use, so cognitive function once lost cannot be regained.

Other psychological impacts include changes in mood and paranoia, anxiety, or panic. The association with the development of psychosis is well-recognised, although the strength of the causal relationship has been widely debated. There is also the risk of cannabis dependence (CAD) which appears to be related to a blend of unique environmental and shared environmental characteristics, and genetic propensity.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/cannabis-referendum-four-experts-weigh-up-the-pros-and-cons-of-legalising-marijuana.html
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Vaping law ‘a tepid win’ in halting youth increase

Radio NZ News 8 August 2020
Family First Comment“This unregulated world of marketing of vape as a lifestyle choice has actually created an image and an appeal that means the marketing methods have worked. The message that comes across is that this is something that is cool, hip and trendy. We see the same playbook from the smoking and tobacco ads of the 60s and 70s from Big Tobacco. We know this playbook and they’re using the same rules.”
And if Big Marijuana is allowed to come to NZ, it will be far far worse.

Vaping legislation has come too late to stop a new generation of non-smokers becoming addicted to nicotine, according to a marketing scholar who has researched the use of e-cigarettes.

The bill regulating vape products passed its final hurdle in Parliament this week.

It will outlaw marketing and sponsorship from November.

Point-of-sale marketing and on-site posters will continue, and will not carry health warnings and R18 language until February 2022, said AUT senior lecturer of marketing Dr Sommer Kapitan.

“That’s a long time for habits to be formed and for perceptions that this is a less risky product to still be part of the perception of young people.”

Promotions, social media influencers and festival sponsorships had been used by vaping companies to entice smokers trying to quit, but also to create a new market.

“This unregulated world of marketing of vape as a lifestyle choice has actually created an image and an appeal that means the marketing methods have worked. The message that comes across is that this is something that is cool, hip and trendy.

“We see the same playbook from the smoking and tobacco ads of the 60s and 70s from Big Tobacco. We know this playbook and they’re using the same rules.

Customers had seen colourful vape posters plastered across dairy counters since 2018 and that would continue, she said.

Schools and families had been on the frontline, witnessing the vaping increase among young people, and she herself saw students taking up vaping who had never smoked before.

“For parents, teachers, and principals of today’s youth, this is a win, but a tepid win,” she added.
READ MORE: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/423047/vaping-law-a-tepid-win-in-halting-youth-increase

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Vaping law passes: Advertising banned, flavours restricted and illegal for under 18s

NZ Herald 6 August 2020
The “wild west” vaping industry has three months to get its house in order after a new law banning advertising and restricting flavours has finally passed under urgency.

It’s taken 620 days to get the law over the line after Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa promised to regulate the industry in November 2018.

It wasn’t until this year she introduced the bill, which was voted through the House late last night – just before the final sitting day in this term of government.

Salesa blamed the delays on it being a “complex bill”, and said it was the most significant change to the Smokefree Act.

“It has taken a while.”

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Vaping Amendment Bill will come into effect in three months’ time, in November.

It has broadly been welcomed but some fear it is too restrictive and could result in people using vaping as a smoking-cessation tool to turn back to cigarettes.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12354092

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Cannabis referendum: Andrew Little, Auckland University researchers trade barbs over NZ Government’s ‘unrealistic’ voting material

NewsHub 5 August 2020
Our additional comment: The Government tries to argue through their pamphlet that ‘the Bill’s purpose is to reduce harm to people and communities’, but that is purely the view of those lobbying for change,” spokesman Aaron Ironside said. “Those against the legislation are arguing that legalisation will lead to more harm to people and communities, and this latest analysis backs our position.”
#votenopetodope

Andrew Little says a scientific review of the Government’s proposed cannabis legislation is anything but, after it suggested his ministry’s public information campaign about the referendum made “inflated and unrealistic” claims.

The Justice Minister on Wednesday issued a scathing takedown of the “evidence-based assessment and critique” of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Regulation Bill, which was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal earlier this week.

The review was carried out by Benedikt Fischer and Dimitri Daldegan-Bueno, two members of Auckland University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, ahead of the cannabis legalisation and control referendum on September 19.

he study made a number of criticisms of the draft cannabis legislation, but Fischer and Daldegan-Bueno reserved their most scathing condemnation for the public information campaign run by the Ministry of Justice.

They wrote that the “political promises” laid out in the ministry’s resources – to eliminate the illegal supply of cannabis, restrict young people’s access to it and limit public visibility – were “inflated and unrealistic” and “unlikely to be achievable as stated”.

They also claimed the proposed Bill’s age limits were inconsistent with limits for other legal drug use, and that the laws as they stand could bring “substantial” health risks.

Anti-cannabis advocacy group Say Nope to Dope claimed a win after the review was published, calling it “a scathing assessment of the sales pitch that the Government has given voters”.

“The Government tries to argue through their pamphlet that ‘the Bill’s purpose is to reduce harm to people and communities’, but that is purely the view of those lobbying for change,” spokesman Aaron Ironside said.

“Those against the legislation are arguing that legalisation will lead to more harm to people and communities, and this latest analysis backs our position.”
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/cannabis-referendum-andrew-little-auckland-university-researchers-trade-barbs-over-nz-government-s-unrealistic-voting-material.html

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Drug-driver testing Bill passes first reading in Parliament

NewsHub 6 August 2020
A Bill giving the police power to conduct random roadside saliva drug testing has passed its first reading.

The Land Transport Amendment Bill will allow police to test if drivers are under the influence of drugs anywhere, anytime, as they do now for alcohol.

Drivers who test positive for the presence of drugs would be fined, immediately suspended from driving for 12 hours, and lose half of their demerit points.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said 103 people died in crashes last year where the driver was later found to have drugs in their system.

“These are preventable tragedies and we need to do more to stop drivers who are under the influence of drugs from choosing to drive. This Bill signifies our commitment to keeping road users safe from the problem of drug driving”, Genter said.

The Bill will go before a select committee after the election.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/drug-driver-testing-bill-passes-first-reading-in-parliament.html

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More education about cannabis needed, speakers tell Timaru

Stuff co.nz 4 August 2020
Our additional comment: “Aaron Ironside could not see how any new law which allowed a person to grow only two plants could be policed. Using statistics from other countries that had legalised the drug showed how usage and access by those under age had increased, he said. When it came to a business model addicts were the best customers, he said. “The reality of commercialisation is the total market grows. The black market and the legal market go into competition with each other.”
Yep!

New Zealand laws on cannabis use are not working, a public forum in Timaru on the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill was told on Monday.

The forum’s five invited speakers were all in favour of decriminalisation and more education about the drug but disagreed on whether the bill was the way to do it as the country shapes to vote in a referendum on the issue on September 19.

The panellists, from a variety of backgrounds and opinions, put their views to more than 80 members of the public at the Gleniti Baptist Church event organised by the Timaru Christian Ministers’ Association to generate discussion ahead of the referendum.

Two panellists – research and policy consultant Dr Geoff Noller and Make it Legal NZ’s Mike Smith – were in favour and three – youth worker James Coyle, counsellor Aaron Ironside and registrar of rural hospital medicine Dr Natalie Cadzow – were against the bill.

Dr Noller said education had been stymied because it was illegal and it had also been hard to research it for the same reason. There were about 600,000 users in the country, he said.

The law as it stands was not a deterrent to usage with 95 per cent of those convicted continuing to use, Smith said, pointing out the bill, if implemented, could save $180 million in police resources.

“Those that disregard legalities are the most vulnerable,” Smith said.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/122337181/more-education-about-cannabis-needed-speakers-tell-timaru

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Kate Hawkesby: Legalising cannabis – why would we be so dumb?

NZ Herald 4 August 2020
Our additional comment: Well said, Kate
“Why are we playing with fire here? Why would we want to normalise this and pretend the harms aren’t real? Often the people arguing for cannabis legalisation are adult casual users, not young adolescents who’ll be most impacted by it. The casual pot-smoking luvvie may well buy or grow the legalised amounts and varieties, but the kids won’t. They’ll still seek out black market cannabis with dangerously high levels of THC, still propping up gang manufacture. So, what changes? The message. The message from the adults around them – and the government – that cannabis is OK. You legalise something, you normalise it.”

I was pleased to see some sense finally reported on the comparison between harm caused by alcohol versus that by cannabis.

A Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Youth Mental Health, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dr Mary Cannon pointed out the argument – that alcohol is legal and more harmful to people than cannabis, therefore cannabis should be legal too – is redundant.

Or as the professor describes it, “a spurious argument along the lines of ‘would you rather be run over by a truck or a bus’.”

It’s a cop-out for pro-cannabis legalisation lobbyists to argue along these lines, because the one big elephant in the room is psychotic disorder.

Cannabis use is now the most powerful single environmental risk factor for psychotic disorder, according to studies both recent and ongoing.

According to a Herald report, one study the professor was involved in found that “10 per cent of the young people who’d been using cannabis by age 15 developed a psychotic disorder in young adulthood”.

She argues that the association between cannabis and psychosis appears to be getting even stronger in line with the increase in strength of cannabis. That’s the THC content – which is now regularly over 20 per cent, and much higher than what it used to be.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=12353424

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New Colorado Data Shows Youth Marijuana Use Increasing

Media Release 4 August 2020
A new survey just released by the state of Colorado has found that marijuana use has increased in the last two years with nearly 21% of young people in the state reporting past month use. Notably, use in young teens (aged 15 and younger) has significantly increased by 15.5% from 2017 (the last time data was collected).

According to the data, part of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, since 2017, past month marijuana use among those aged 15 or younger has increased 14.8%, 16 or 17-year-olds has increased 3.0%, and 18 or older has increased 1.9%. Overall, marijuana use amongst all age groups has risen 6.2%.

In a disturbing development, teens report an alarming increase in their use of ultra-potent cannabis products in the form of dabs and vapes. More than half of high school students (52%) who use marijuana reported that they dab marijuana to get high – up from 34.4% just two years ago. This is based on surveys of over 53,000 middle and high school students statewide in Colorado last year.

“Dabbing” is a method of inhaling highly concentrated THC (commonly referred to as hash oil, wax or shatter) using a blow torch-heated delivery system commonly referred to as a dab rig. THC is the main high-inducing chemical in marijuana.

The survey results also show a 69% increase in students vaping marijuana in two years. Among high school students who used marijuana in the past 30 days, 34.3% reported vaping it, up from 20.3% in 2017.

In addition to highlighting the increases in dabbing and vaping, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment noted that the percentage of youth who drove after using marijuana more than tripled in two years.  According to the state, 32.4% of youth drove a vehicle after using marijuana in the past month, a statistically significant increase from 9% in 2017.

Other recent research about legal cannabis also reveals a sobering statistic. In states where recreational marijuana has been legalised, teenagers are suffering higher rates of addiction. The study of 505,796 respondents was carried out by researchers from New York University’s School of Medicine. It compared use of the drug before and after legalisation in the US. The proportion of people aged 12 to 17 who reported cannabis use disorder grew from 2.18 percent to 2.72 percent.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released the 2017-2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) State Estimates in December 2019.

  • Past year and past month marijuana use among 12 to 17 year-olds in “legal” states increased around 3.5%, each from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.
  • Past year and past month marijuana use among 18 to 25 year-olds increased nearly 4.4% each from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018
  • While 23.8% of 12 to 17 year-olds in non-legal states perceive a risk from smoking marijuana once a month, only 17.4% in “legal” states perceive such a risk
  • One study found cases of Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) in young people in “legal” states grew 25% following legalization (Cerda et. al., 2019).

“This latest data puts to rest the wild claims by drug advocates that somehow – and miraculously – youth use of drugs is going to decline if we legalise cannabis,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“Drug users should receive all the help they can to overcome their addiction and to become drug-free, but the health, rights and protection of the general public and especially our young people should take precedence over the rights of individuals to get high and who want to normalise drug use in our communities.”

Cannabis referendum: how legalisation could change access for medicinal cannabis patients

Stuff co.nz 4 August 2020
Our additional comment: A puff piece to persuade people that the referendum is about medicinal cannabis – which it’s not! But at least they quote us….

“Say Nope To Dope campaign spokesperson, Aaron Ironside, said medicinal cannabis campaigners’ “deafening silence” after the drawing out of the ballot of National MP Dr Shane Reti’s medicinal cannabis private members bill, which sought to improve access for patients, showed the “true agenda” of campaigners. “This is evidence that their campaign is fraudulent,” he said.”

Many medicinal cannabis patients say they’re “holding out all hope” for recreational cannabis to be legalised, so they have safer, more affordable options, and can stop turning to the illicit market.

In September, New Zealanders will vote on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, which has been written to give Kiwis an idea of what the law for recreational cannabis might look like.

If the bill is passed and brought into law after the election, what would change for medicinal cannabis patients?

New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis regime officially took effect on April 1, 2020, but thousands of Kiwis are still relying on the illicit market, due to the limited and extremely high cost of accessing cannabis-based prescriptions.

For those who have gone down the legal route, their only option is to pay hundreds of dollars each month for a handful of approved but non-funded medicines.

Say Nope To Dope campaign spokesperson, Aaron Ironside​, said medicinal cannabis campaigners’ “deafening silence” after the drawing out of the ballot of National MP Dr Shane Reti’s medicinal cannabis private members bill, which sought to improve access for patients, showed the “true agenda” of campaigners.

“This is evidence that their campaign is fraudulent,” he said.

“If they supported this bill, it would undermine their ultimate goal of legalising cannabis for recreational use.”

He said it supported further quality research into the prescribed medicinal cannabis, for delivery via non-smoked forms, and had called for campaigners to “drop the facade” of helping patients.

“Their focus is purely on the right of people to use drugs for recreational reasons.”
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/cannabis-referendum/122247529/cannabis-referendum-how-legalisation-could-change-access-for-medicinal-cannabis-patients

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