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Media Release

Troubled Portugal Bad Example For Drug Advocates in NZ

Media Release 18 October 2019
Portugal has been painted by pro-cannabis legalisation groups as a model to follow. Yet just last month, the mayor of Porto contradicted his previous pro-harm reduction position and endorsed reintroducing criminal penalties for drug use in public spaces.

The mayor said he was “a little tired of hearing just about the dignity” of people who use drugs, adding that the policy of decriminalisation “simply does not protect the overwhelming majority of the population,” giving as an example the people who, in the most troubled areas of Porto, “cannot go to the window because they are threatened“. He is advocating for the installation of over 100 new video surveillance cameras to monitor public streets in an attempt to clamp down on drug use. “It is necessary to criminalise, nobody is arrested for an offense,” he said.

In addition, some political parties in Portugal are now pushing for the legalisation of marijuana in their country. The Left Bloc (BE) and People-Animals-Nature (PAN) are proposing legalisation of cannabis for recreational use, with two bills tabled to the Portuguese parliament. They say that the effect of decriminalisation has been to increase trafficking and consumption every year and the use of psychoactive substances.

“For years, and especially recently, we have heard that Portugal’s decriminalisation is the perfect model of marijuana legislation. Ironically, the referendum in 2020 is about legalisation, not decriminalisation,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

But Portugal shows troubling results. The most recent statistics show that between 2012 and 2017 Lifetime Prevalence statistics for alcohol, tobacco and drugs for the general population have risen by 23%. There has been an increase from 8.3% in 2012, to 10.2% in 2016/17, in the prevalence of illegal psychoactive substance use. The National Survey on the Use of Psychoactive Substances in the General Population in Portugal 2016/17, reports, “We have seen a rise in the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco consumption and of every illicit psychoactive substance (affected by the weight of cannabis use in those aged 15-74) between 2012 – 2016/17.”

“It is also significant to note that Portugal recently voted down a bill proposing to legalise medicinal – including grow-your-own – cannabis, and opted for a more confined law allowing use of some medicinal cannabis,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“If Portugal has been such a success since 2001, why are countries not rushing to replicate their approach – and why are politicians within the country even now saying it has failed. It is clear that the claims of success in Portugal well exceed the reality.”

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) during the Obama Administration said, “Claims that decriminalisation has reduced drug use and had no detrimental impact in Portugal significantly exceed the existing scientific basis.”

Further reading: http://saynopetodope.org.nz/portugal/
ENDS

 

Latest Colorado Report Shows Ongoing Disaster of Marijuana

Media Release 19 September 2019
Family First NZ says that a new Colorado report compiled by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area finds marijuana-positive traffic fatalities, hospitalisations, marijuana use, and illegal market activity have exploded since marijuana legalization.

According to the report,

  • since recreational marijuana was legalised, traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 109% while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 31%
  • the yearly number of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 54%, and a 101% increase in hospitalisations
  • the percent of suicide incidents in which toxicology results were positive for marijuana has increased from 14% in 2013 to 23% in 2017
  • the black market continues to be in full swing
  • overall, past-month marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58% and is 78% higher than the national average
  • adult use has increased 94% (96% higher than the national average)
  • college age marijuana use increased 18% and is 48% higher than the national average
  • youth marijuana use decreased 14% but is still 40% higher than the national average. First time use in Colorado ranks highest in the USA for 12-17 and 18-25 age groups. There is also a concerning increase in the use of high-THC dabbing and edibles amongst young teenagers
  • two out of three local jurisdictions in Colorado have banned medical and recreational marijuana businesses to protect families

The Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) report is updated each year and has utilised data from the Colorado Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SAMHSA.gov National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, Colorado Department of Education, Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, Colorado Violent Death Reporting System, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

“We were sucked in by Big Tobacco. Let’s not be sucked in again. NZ’ers should vote no to legalising cannabis.”
ENDS

Vaping Epidemic Is Big Dream For Big Marijuana

Media Release 19 September 2019
Family First NZ says that the health concerns and costs around vaping will be far greater if cannabis is legalised.

“In the US states where cannabis is legal, students say vaping is everywhere and it’s easy to hide. This is a ‘perfect storm’ for public health harm, but a dream for Big Marijuana because vaping marijuana is a core product for making money and getting consumers hooked – especially young people,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

According to reports in the US, students can vape right under a teacher’s nose and go undetected. There is no tell-tale odor, and the devices used are small enough that a student can indulge in class – through a USB drive or pen or highlighter. Even the tassels of a hooded jacket.

Compounding the trouble is the potency the devices can deliver, giving a student a much more intense high than expected. Often adults don’t realise a student has indulged until the teen confesses. One vaping cartridge VanNatter confiscated contained 83.6% THC.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed some 20,000 students in grades 6-12 about their marijuana use in e-cigarettes. They found that nearly 1 in 11, or 2.1 million middle and high school students used marijuana in e-cigarette devices. In legal states people can buy cartridges of high-potency cannabis oil that fit into many e-cigarette devices. The popular Juul does not make marijuana pods, but users can refill Juul’s nicotine cartridges with cannabis oil.

A US study last year found that teens who used e-cigarettes and hookah were up to four times more likely to use marijuana later, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

According to the University of Michigan Monitoring the Future survey of American youth, between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of 8th and 10th graders (13-16 y/o) who report “vaping” marijuana has increased 63%. Over the same timeframe, the percent of 12th graders (17-18 y/o) who report vaping marijuana has increased by 53%.

Young people who vape are more likely to use marijuana, according to a study published last month.  The review found that the odds of marijuana use were 3.5 times higher in people who vaped compared to those who didn’t. The research, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, analysed more than 20 pre-existing studies of people ages 10 to 24.

The vaping industry can already see the dollars. OpenVape CEO Ralph Morgan said that cannabis concentrates will be more popular than smoking marijuana buds in the next couple years. In 2016, he predicted, “I see concentrates becoming a part of folk’s daily regimen.”

“New Zealand should say no to legalising cannabis – otherwise the vaping epidemic will become a major social problem with significant health costs.”
ENDS

The Case For NO In The 2020 Referendum on Cannabis

Media Release 4 Sep 2019
In response to the promotion of cannabis legalisation by Helen Clark, Family First is continuing to promote its 24-page BRIEFING FOR FAMILIES which has been distributed widely throughout NZ.

Topics covered in the Briefing include:

  • why is the referendum much more than just being able to ‘smoke a joint’?
  • the problems with statements like “the war on drugs has failed” and “it’s a health issue, not a legal issue”
  • what effect will legalisation have in the workplace, on road safety, with pregnant mums and young people, on family violence & child abuse, and will it really get rid of the ‘black market’ and gang involvement?
  • is growing marijuana ‘green’?
  • what’s the next step in this whole agenda?

DOWNLOAD our 24-page Briefing for Families. Click HERE for 1-page Briefing Sheets on specific issues.

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 US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth 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.

New statistics, collected by the Ministry of Health, show that in 2008 only 192 people were hospitalised with a primary cannabis diagnosis, but by 2018 this had increased by 160% to over 500. Almost 6,000 people over 10 years have been hospitalised. Those suffering from a psychotic disorder due to cannabis (the most common diagnosis) increased from 90 to 226 over the same time period – an increase of 150%. Earlier Ministry of Health figures gained under the Official Information Act show that 73 children (0 – 14 years) have been hospitalised in the past five years either for poisoning or for mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cannabis.

“At the same time as we are rightly booting Big Tobacco out of the country, why are we in the process of putting down the welcome mat for Big Marijuana. The supporters of dope are now peddling the same myths that Big Tobacco did. Let’s not be sucked in again,” says Bob McCoskrie from Family First NZ.

It is also important to note that the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) which Helen Clark is part of wants to legalise all drug use, and wants policies based on ‘human rights’ and which remove the ‘stigmatisation’ and ‘marginalisation’ of people who use drugs. (READ MORE)

“This upcoming debate is not about cannabis medicine. It’s about creating a drug-friendly culture. And not just marijuana: ultimately, it’s about all drugs.”

“This Briefing For Families will give families the facts, and will help them campaign with us against any attempts to legalise marijuana in New Zealand.”

“Big Marijuana has high hopes for New Zealand. Liberalising marijuana laws is the wrong path to go down if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people. This is not a war on drugs – it’s a defence of our brains. Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important.”

“If we’re aiming to be SmokeFree by 2025, let’s be aspirational – and be DrugFree by 2025 also.”

Support for Recreational Dope Going ‘Up in Smoke’

Media Release 17 August 2019
Family First NZ is welcoming yet another poll showing plummeting support for legalising cannabis in New Zealand.

The Horizon Research poll shows support for legalising has plummeted from 60% last November to just 39%. This is a similar trend to the recent 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll (39% support), and the Newshub-Reid Research Poll (41.7% support).

“We’re stoked that our messaging and our saynopetodope campaign is getting through to families. It is clear that while Kiwis strongly support a compassionate response to those in real need with a cautious and researched approach around cannabis medicine, when they thoughtfully consider the real implications of legalising recreational use, they completely reject the proposal – and rightly so,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

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 US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth 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.

New statistics, collected by the Ministry of Health, show that in 2008 only 192 people were hospitalised with a primary cannabis diagnosis, but by 2018 this had increased by 160% to over 500. Almost 6,000 people over 10 years have been hospitalised. Those suffering from a psychotic disorder due to cannabis (the most common diagnosis) increased from 90 to 226 over the same time period – an increase of 150%. Earlier Ministry of Health figures gained under the Official Information Act show that 73 children (0 – 14 years) have been hospitalised in the past five years either for poisoning or for mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cannabis.

“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. But legalising marijuana will be far more than that. People will be 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. THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink. The potency of edibles (several times that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids will lead to serious problems. THC-infused products will include: coffee, ice-cream, baked goods, lolly-pops, fizzy drinks, water bottles, tea, hot cocoa, breath mints & spray, intimate oils, pills, lollies, chewing gum, marinara sauce, baklava, and many more,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Recent polling by Curia Market Research found that 85% think that cannabis use can damage the brains of young people under the age of 25, 81% think that drivers using cannabis are more likely to cause accidents, 63% think that cannabis users aged under 25 are less likely to get a job (only 20% think it makes no difference) and half of NZers think that cannabis usage will increase if restrictions are reduced.

“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?”

Family First is calling on the government to stop wasting time and resources on a referendum and to focus their energies on more pressing issues such as housing, health, education and strengthening families.
ENDS

 

Hospitalisation For Marijuana Continues To Increase

Media Release 14 August 2019
More damning statistics of marijuana hospitalisations in New Zealand are further proof that we should go nowhere legalising cannabis. Family First also says that too many children are being hospitalised for marijuana poisoning and mental harm already, and that this rate will also only increase if the drug is legalised.

New statistics, collected by the Ministry of Health, show that in 2008 only 192 people were hospitalised with a primary cannabis diagnosis, but by 2018 this had increased by 160% to over 500. Almost 6,000 people over 10 years have been hospitalised. Those suffering from a psychotic disorder due to cannabis (the most common diagnosis) increased from 90 to 226 over the same time period – an increase of 150%.

Earlier Ministry of Health figures gained under the Official Information Act show that 73 children (0 – 14 years) have been hospitalised in the past five years either for poisoning or for mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cannabis. This is over four times the number of hospitalisations compared to synthetic cannabis for the same age group.

“These stats will only worsen if marijuana is legalised in New Zealand and the marijuana industry floods the market with highly potent cannabis concentrates – edibles, dabbing (smoking highly concentrated THC) and vaping – as they have in all other jurisdictions where cannabis has been allowed. This should sound the warning bell that marijuana is absolutely a health issue, which is why the law is so important for protecting public health and safety. A soft approach would be a disaster,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

This is similar to the overseas experience where marijuana has been legalised. The number of teenagers sent to emergency rooms more than quadrupled after marijuana was legalised in Colorado — mostly for mental health symptoms, researchers reported in 2017. The yearly rate of emergency department visits related to marijuana for all ages increased 52%, and hospitalisations increased 148% in Colorado (2012 compared to 2016). A recent study conducted in Colorado also found that following recreational marijuana commercialisation in 2013, marijuana-detection rates significantly increased among traumatic injury patients in Colorado hospitals.

A study conducted in Washington State found that the rate of paediatric exposures to marijuana (children aged 9 or under) was 2.3 times higher following retail sales than it was before legalisation. And in Oregon, for children 5 years or younger, the number rose by 271% from 14 cases in 2014 to 52 cases in 2017.

The latest Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana continues to increase. Between 2011 and 2013, 20.7% of suicide victims between the ages of 10 and 19 tested positive for marijuana (compared with 12.7% who tested positive for alcohol). By 2014-2016, 22.4% tested positive for marijuana (compared with 9.3% for alcohol). 

In the UK, 15,000 teenage hospital admissions have taken place over the past five years as a result of taking cannabis – some of whom were rushed to hospital suffering from serious psychosis.

“At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious that legalisation will increase its use, and harm. So-called ‘regulation’ doesn’t change the fact that drugs harm.”

“This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and health and wellbeing. Legalising a harmful drug like marijuana – or any other drug for that matter – is not a healthy option.”
ENDS

 

National Correct to Oppose Decriminalisation of All Drugs

Media Release 8 July 2019
Family First NZ is welcoming National’s opposition to the decriminalisation of all drugs. The statements in the Select Committee report of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill echo the exact concerns raised by Family First in their submission regarding the de facto decriminalisation of possession and use of all drugs including cannabis, cocaine, P and heroin.

“Maintaining the illegality of drugs is important because we should continue fighting drugs and the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general. Police discretion is already being used by the Police. They say: ‘Officers apply discretion on a daily basis in dealing with a range of matters, including the possession and use of drugs. Applying this discretion increasingly includes the use of alternative resolution options including pre-charge warnings, Te Pae Oranga, and referrals to health and other support services. Our focus continues to be on targeting the organised criminal networks who supply these harmful drugs to our communities. However, the possession and use of illicit drugs remains illegal and prosecution remains an option in order to prevent harm and keep people safe.’ In the 20 years to 2014, the number of arrests for cannabis per 100,000 head of population dropped by 70%.”

“A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping all drugs illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise mind-altering products which will simply add to social harm?”

“If we listen to drug advocates internationally, there will be further calls for the legalisation of all these drugs. The Drug Foundation has already admitted that it wants to legalise cannabis and decriminalise all other drugs. They have also admitted that their expectation is that Police should never prosecute for possession of drugs. This is a shocking scenario and sends a terrible message to families and communities affected by drug abuse.”

“Maintaining its illegality but using a smart arrest policy combined with the coercion of the law is the correct response to drug use. Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains.”

Family First

  • supports the intent of the bill to allow consideration (but not requirement) of a health-based approach for certain cases of low-level and/or first-time drug use & possession
  • opposes any change to the legal status of marijuana and other drugs (separate from the Class A drugs proposed in this bill) because of the significant health and addiction issues around recreational drug use, and the need for the law to reflect those and to protect society
  • calls for increases in resources and funding for both drug prevention programmes, and addiction and mental health services

Family First also submitted that a child-centered drug policy is an imperative. Protecting children from illicit drug use is not an option for States / Parties to the United Nations Human Rights Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is an obligation. Therefore, drug policy in NZ must be child-centered, not user-centered.

In a shock poll result released in April, less than 20% (one in five) New Zealanders support legalisation of marijuana, but there is strong support for lifting restrictions for medical use (65%). There is also significant concerns about the mental health and societal costs of cannabis.
ENDS

 

Polls Agree – Kiwis Say Nope To Dope

Media Release 10 June 2019
Family First NZ says that while the polling on preferred political parties is at odds, the polls on legalising cannabis released today are consistently showing a decreasing appetite for legalisation of recreational dope use.

A Newshub-Reid Research Poll shows that 48% oppose legalisation, while 41.7% support it. The 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll shows 52% of New Zealanders are against legalisation and only 39% support it. (Opposition to legalisation has increased by 11 points from their October 2018 poll.)

“It is clear that Kiwis strongly support a compassionate response to those in real need with a cautious and researched approach around cannabis medicine, but when they thoughtfully consider the real implications of legalising recreational use, they completely reject the proposal – and rightly so,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

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 US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth 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.

“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. But legalising marijuana will be far more than that. People will be 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. THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink. The potency of edibles (several times that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids will lead to serious problems. THC-infused products will include: coffee, ice-cream, baked goods, lolly-pops, fizzy drinks, water bottles, tea, hot cocoa, breath mints & spray, intimate oils, pills, lollies, chewing gum, marinara sauce, baklava, and many more. These new products can be delivered rectally, nasally, and vaginally and deliver a quicker high,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Recent polling by Curia Market Research found that 85% think that cannabis use can damage the brains of young people under the age of 25, 81% think that drivers using cannabis are more likely to cause accidents, 63% think that cannabis users aged under 25 are less likely to get a job (only 20% think it makes no difference) and half of NZers think that cannabis usage will increase if restrictions are reduced, 35% think usage would remain the same and 6% decrease.

A recent Canadian federal study found a 27% increase in marijuana use among people aged 15 to 24 over the last year. Additionally, approximately 646,000 Canadians have reported trying marijuana for the first time in the last three months, an amount almost double the 327,000 that admitted to trying the drug for the same time period last year.

“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 the social harm?”
ENDS

More Kiwis Now Saying Nope To Dope – Poll

Media Release 10 June 2019
Family First NZ is welcoming the latest poll on legalising cannabis which shows a decreasing appetite for legalisation of recreational dope use.

The 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll showed 52% of New Zealanders intend to vote against legalisation and only 39% would vote yes. In their October poll last year, only 41% were against and 46% were in favour.

“It is clear that Kiwis strongly support a compassionate response to those in real need with a cautious and researched approach around cannabis medicine, but when they thoughtfully consider the real implications of legalising recreational use, they completely reject the proposal – and rightly so,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

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 US states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashesyouth 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.

“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. But legalising marijuana will be far more than that. People will be 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. THC concentrate is mixed into almost any type of food or drink. The potency of edibles (several times that of an average joint) and their attractiveness to kids will lead to serious problems. THC-infused products will include: coffee, ice-cream, baked goods, lolly-pops, fizzy drinks, water bottles, tea, hot cocoa, breath mints & spray, intimate oils, pills, lollies, chewing gum, marinara sauce, baklava, and many more. These new products can be delivered rectally, nasally, and vaginally and deliver a quicker high,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Recent polling by Curia Market Research found that 85% think that cannabis use can damage the brains of young people under the age of 25, 81% think that drivers using cannabis are more likely to cause accidents, 63% think that cannabis users aged under 25 are less likely to get a job (only 20% think it makes no difference) and half of NZers think that cannabis usage will increase if restrictions are reduced, 35% think usage would remain the same and 6% decrease.

A recent Canadian federal study found a 27% increase in marijuana use among people aged 15 to 24 over the last year. Additionally, approximately 646,000 Canadians have reported trying marijuana for the first time in the last three months, an amount almost double the 327,000 that admitted to trying the drug for the same time period last year. Other concerning trends included 15% of marijuana users got behind the wheel of a car within two hours of using the drug, and daily users were more than twice as likely to believe that it was safe for them to operate a vehicle within three hours of ingesting the drug.

This report comes on the heels of another study finding that the black market in Canada is absolutely thriving, with over 79% of marijuana sales in the last quarter of 2018 occurring outside the legal market – a similar trend to California and Colorado.

“Marijuana is both a law and a public health issue. A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm?”
ENDS

Due Diligence on Cannabis Harm, Not ‘Fear’ – A response to Alison Mau

Bob McCoskrie asks why an ‘investigative’ journalist is so desperate to shut down a petition calling on an inquiry into the possible harms of cannabis. Mau doesn’t want you to go anywhere near it. What is she scared of? Below is our response. We would encourage you to take a few minutes to read it. The cannabis debate deserves robust and balanced debate. That may be difficult to get with the current NZ media. It is disappointing that the Sunday Star Times refused to allow us the opportunity to respond in full, despite repeated requests. Once you have read it, please take a moment to sign the petition that Alison Mau is so scared of!


24 May 2019
Alison Mau, an ‘investigative’ journalist, is desperate to shut down our petition (“Family First is trying to scare you – don’t fall for it” 19 May 2019) which simply calls for an investigation into a possible link between cannabis and violence – emphasis on ‘possible’.

Firstly, some background. Over the past couple of decades, studies around the globe have found that higher levels of THC – the active compound in cannabis – is strongly linked to psychosis, schizophrenia, and violence. A certain percentage of people who use marijuana can become psychotic and can also become violent.

And with increasing THC levels being found in marijuana products consumed via edibles, vaping, and dabbing, the risk is growing. For example, in Colorado the average THC content of all tested flower in 2017 was 19.6% statewide compared to 16.4% in 2014. The average potency of concentrated extract products has increased steadily to THC content 68.6% at the end of 2017. Potency rates of up to 95% have been recorded and today can be as high as 99.9% THC.

Researchers have studied alcohol and violence for generations, proving that alcohol is a risk factor for domestic abuse and assault. Far less work has been done on cannabis.

And that’s effectively the work that we’d like to see done – before we move to legalise it.

We would argue that the evidence is already building.

A just-published study in The Lancet concluded that “people who smoked marijuana on a daily basis were three times more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis compared with people who never used the drug. For those who used high-potency marijuana daily, the risk jumped to nearly five times.”

Last year, researchers at Ohio and Tennessee Universities found that marijuana use was associated with psychological, physical, and sexual intimate partner violence. A University of Florida study published in The Journal of Interpersonal Violence in 2011 found that frequent marijuana users in adolescence are twice as likely to engage in domestic violence as young adults. You would think this would draw attention from Mau.

Research published in 2016 in the journal Psychological Medicine concluded that continued cannabis use is associated with 7-fold greater odds for subsequent commission of violent crimes.

A 2007 paper in the Medical Journal of Australia looked at 88 defendants who had committed homicide during psychotic episodes. It found that most of the killers believed they were in danger from the victim, and almost two-thirds reported misusing cannabis – more than alcohol and amphetamines combined.

As with all research, of course there are limitations in the studies mentioned above. But those same limitations also apply to studies which say there is no association.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) summed up the issue in their 2012 report, saying that THC content and the potency of cannabis have been increasing over the past 30 years, and that this can increase psychotic symptoms in regular users.

Here in New Zealand, just last year, a man who stalked several women during a 24-hour drug-induced psychosis left one of his victims with “a lasting fear”. He lost his job after failing a drug test and then embarked on a four-day cannabis binge. The judge said that resulted in a psychosis.

Earlier this month in California, Bryn Spejcher, an employed, well-educated 28-year-old with no criminal record or history of mental illness appeared in court accused of stabbing her boyfriend to death — after smoking pot for the first time. The coroner testified that the victim had been stabbed 108 times, from his head to his knees, cutting his trachea, jugular vein and carotid artery and perforating his heart twice. A forensic scientist from the crime lab confirmed that no drug other than THC was present in Bryn’s blood and no drug other than THC was found in the bong.

Paranoia and psychosis can make some people dangerous, so a rising use of a drug that causes both would be expected to increase violent crime, rather than reduce it as drug advocates might claim.

Here in New Zealand, we know from a number of governmental reports (UNICEF reports in 2003 and 2007, a CYF report in 2006, and a Children’s Commissioner report in 2009) that one of the factors most commonly associated with the maltreatment of children is drug abuse.

Last year, Texas released its report on child abuse deaths, finding half the 172 child abuse deaths in 2017 coupled with substance abuse.  Marijuana was the most-used substance connected to child abuse and neglect deaths, followed by alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine. In 2017, Arizona also published a report showing that marijuana was the substance most often linked to child abuse deaths.

But it is the most recent study that we should sit up and take notice of. The paper “Cannabis use and violence in patients with severe mental illnesses: A meta-analytical investigation” published last month is the most comprehensive survey yet on the issue. Findings showed a moderate cannabis-violence association in severe mental illness. What’s also striking is how recent most of the papers examined are – 10 of the 12 papers are in the last decade, and 7 of the 12 since 2016.

Mau contacted Otago University associate professor Joseph Boden – the Deputy Director of the superb Christchurch Health and Development study. So did I. Boden is in favour of some form of legalisation. In our respectful phone discussion, we both agreed that high-THC cannabis would increase the risks.

He argued that a regulated legalised market in New Zealand would keep this risk down by limiting THC levels. It’s a nice theory, but I’ve been to Colorado and California. Regulation simply empowers a black market – as is being seen in Colorado, California, and now Canada.

Mau also relies on comments from Ziva Cooper from the Cannabis Research Initiative at UCLA, where she works, solicits and takes money from cannabis users and investors in the industry. Insys, the company with which she collaborated from 2015-2018, is a poster child for terrible behaviour in the opioid crisis.

Mau also refers to ‘the scientific community’ of 75 academics and medical professionals who wrote an open letter opposing the premise of our petition. She forgot to mention the lobbyists from NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance in that list.

She also conveniently left out the bit that the signatories reiterated “their support for an end to marijuana prohibition and for the legal regulation of marijuana for adult use.

Ironically, Mr Boden told me he used to live in Massachusetts. Just this month, more than 40 clinicians, researchers, scientists, and other public health professionals from Massachusetts, including many from Harvard Medical School, released a Statement of Concern, highlighting negative effects of THC, including “Increased risk of serious mental health problems including acute psychosis (e.g., hallucinations, delusions), paranoia, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and suicide, with growing scientific evidence that daily use of high THC products bring greater risk”. They highlight 2018 research from the Copenhagen University Hospital which found that “41% of those who experience cannabis-induced psychosis later convert to schizophrenia.”

Last month in the liberal state of Vermont, the Department of Mental Health has warned legislators about the mental health implications of a commercial market, stating, “Perhaps the strongest evidence for severe mental health problems related to cannabis use is related to psychosis were multiple studies have linked regular cannabis use to an estimated doubling of the risk of a psychotic illness as well a more refractory course among people with existing psychotic illness. Violent behavior as a result of cannabis induced paranoia and other psychotic symptoms is also an increasing concern.”

 In Maryland, neuroscientist and author of “The Impact of Marijuana on Mental Health in: Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana” Christine Miller warned legislators last month, “The causal link between marijuana use and the development of psychosis is quite simply the most well-replicated, high-impact finding in schizophrenia research today. Given current use rates and the strong potency of the drug available, it stands to be responsible for a larger proportion of schizophrenia cases than any other established factor. Who may be at risk cannot be reliably predicted.” 

Here’s the bottom line.

In the same way that there is some real evidence that components of marijuana can be made into medicine, it is based mainly on anecdotal ‘evidence’ that makes us think we should really study it more to isolate components and potentially treat other illnesses with them.

In the same way, there is building scientific evidence suggesting that components of the plant can lead to mental illness, at times severe, that can lead to violence. There is already anecdotal ‘evidence’ that higher THC-levels can lead to violence.

We are simply asking for research and scientific consensus before moving forward as a country with a change this massive. We believe this to be a responsible and thoughtful way to move forward.   

But Mau doesn’t want you to go anywhere near it. What is she scared of?