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McBLOG: A “Wasted” opportunity for a balanced drug debate

McBLOG wasted TV documentary on drugs nz

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.

A welcome drop in dope smoking

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.

Cannabis use falling since Referendum outcome

Marijuana Smoking Decline NZ

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)

Smoking - Past 12 months use

Smoking – Past 12 months use


(past 12 months use)

Vaping - Past 12 months use

Vaping – 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.

Vancouver’s drug decriminalisation disaster

mcblog drug legalisation disaster

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.

US Study – Marijuana and hallucinogen use by young adults reaches all-time high

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.

Cannabis use during pregnancy likely to cause mental health problems in children

Children whose mothers used cannabis during pregnancy may be more likely to develop mental health problems such as ADHD and aggressive behaviour, a new study suggests.

An analysis of data from more than 10,000 children aged 11 and 12 revealed that exposure to cannabis in utero was associated with a higher risk of developing disorders such as ADHD, aggressive behaviour, conduct disorder and rule-breaking behaviour, according to the report published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“Dramatic increases in cannabis use during pregnancy are alarming because of evidence that prenatal exposure may be associated with a host of adverse outcomes. We previously found that prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE) following maternal knowledge of pregnancy is associated with increased psychopathology during middle childhood using baseline data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Here, leveraging longitudinal ABCD study data (data release 4.0), we examined whether associations with psychopathology persist into early adolescence.”

Source: Study – Association of Mental Health Burden With Prenatal Cannabis Exposure From Childhood to Early Adolescence – David A. A. Baranger, PhD1; Sarah E. Paul, MA1; Sarah M. C. Colbert, BA2; et al

The study’s first author, David Baranger PhD, says:

“The take-home message from this study is that there is some evidence that one should be cautious about using cannabis during pregnancy,”

The new study is an association and can’t prove that cannabis is the cause of the mental health problems, Baranger said. However, the results fall in line with earlier research on the same children, who were participants in the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study. The long-term project, which is supported by the National Institutes of Health, has been tracking the brain development of nearly 12,000 children via MRI scans.

A 2019 study that looked at the children when they were 9 and 10 found the same association between prenatal cannabis and behavioral issues. It also showed that children exposed to cannabis in utero tended to have lower birth weight, lower brain volume and lower white matter volume.

Read the full report here:

Why we shouldn’t be pardoning or decriminalising cannabis use in NZ

“Progressives” are forever trying to loosen our laws and ultimately make society more liberal. They want to dismantle the foundations upon which much of western civilisation has been built upon. Moves to normalise and legalise drug use have always been part of their agenda. US President Joe Biden is now pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of cannabis possession, his first step towards decriminalising the drug altogether. Those benefiting from Biden’s pardon will receive a ‘certificate of pardon’.

Of course, this move by the US President has emboldened New Zealand’s pro-drug politicians and activists. The Green Party and NZ Drug Foundation are immediately putting pressure on our Government to do likewise. Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, a staunch advocate for legalising cannabis, is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to follow US President Joe Biden’s move.

Make no mistake, pardoning previous drug convictions is simply the first step towards legalising drug use.

All this despite New Zealand voting NO to legalising cannabis at the 2020 referendum. Following that 2020 referendum result, Curia Market Research conducted a survey asking Kiwis: “Should the government respect the result of the cannabis referendum and not legalise cannabis for recreational use, even though it was a close vote”. 66% of respondents said Yes, the government should respect the result of the referendum, vs. only 26% who said they should’t respect the result. It’s clear that any moves to loosen our drug laws go against the wishes of the New Zealand public.

So it’s great to read last week that National Party leader Christopher Luxon says he will not consider pardoning or decriminalising the possession or use of cannabis if elected. Luxon told 1news that he would not consider decriminalising the use of cannabis following the 2020 referendum result which voted NO to legalising the drug.

He said the Government should focus on other aspects of “rising crime” affecting the country, such as retail and violent crime.

Luxon said he voted against legalising cannabis in the 2020 referendum, while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern voted in favour of legalising cannabis.

We applaud Christopher Luxon for making this statement and clarifying National’s position, which is to respect the result of the 2020 referendum.

Our laws set the standard for acceptable (and unacceptable) behaviours, as well as protecting individuals and society. The New Zealand public wants recreational cannabis use to remain illegal. The coercion of the law, with a sensible approach for first time use, and the availability of rehabilitation services should be the focus.

Cannabis is harmful and should not be normalised. Many studies link cannabis use to serious mental health problems, including psychotic disorders.

“Non-medical cannabis use and cannabis use disorder were consistently associated with self-reported psychotic disorders over time, while frequent and daily/near-daily use was also associated with self-reported psychotic disorders in the more recent survey. The increasing perception of cannabis as a harmless substance may deter the general public as well as health care providers from recognizing that nonmedical cannabis use may play a role in exacerbating the risk for psychotic disorders.” Source: The American Journal of Psychiatry

The UN’s 2022 World Drug Report shows increased drug use worldwide and accelerated daily use (and related health impacts) in parts of the world where cannabis has been legalised. Legalisation clearly leads to accelerated usage and associated negative health outcomes.

We are now seeing some highly alarming outcomes from legalising cannabis in US states, including “spiralling addiction, psychotic illnesses and hospitals facing a deluge of poisonings”: Cannabis legalisation sees spiralling addiction and psychotic illnesses

While in the UK, there has been a surge in psychosis after Scotland decriminalised cannabis: Surge in psychosis after cannabis decriminalisation

New Zealand made the only safe decision by voting NO to dope at the 2020 cannabis legalisation referendum. Legalising recreational cannabis would have been a disaster for New Zealand.

**The post was written by Family First staff writers.

Thailand: Doctors want immediate suspension of cannabis decriminalisation

This year Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalise growing and consumption of cannabis in food and drink. Immediately businesses began openly marketing marijuana products, which of course led to rapidly increased consumption of the drug. The rapid rise in cannabis sales has sparked concern.

Now, more than 1,200 doctors have issued a statement calling for the immediate suspension of decriminalisation of cannabis. The doctors are demanding adequate controls to protect the young. The statement was announced by the president of the Forensic Physicians Association of Thailand,  Dr Smith Srisont.

According to the statement, “cannabis decriminalisation without adequate measures and policies for safe use led to the widespread recreational use of the drug and its access by young people, amid clear and considerable scientific evidence that cannabis has negative effects on the bodies and brains of the young.”

“The present situation is a real threat to the health system and public health, in both the short and long term,” the statement said.

The doctors urged the government to immediately suspend the policy until laws were in place to protect young people from cannabis abuse and ensure proper use of cannabis, to minimise its impact on the general public.

McBLOG: Thankfully we said nope to dope