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Media Release

Government’s Lack of Transparency on Dope Debate Misleads Voters

Media Release 16 October 2020
The SayNopeToDope campaign says that the government has not been open and transparent with the advice it has been receiving on the effects of legalising cannabis in New Zealand, meaning that many voters have not had all the relevant information that they need to make a fully informed decision.

The previous BERL report – which the government tried to hide – revealed that pot shops will be as noticeable in number as fast food outlets, and that usage will increase by almost 30% – and especially amongst 20-30 age group. It also confirmed a Big Marijuana industry, based on an annual tax take alone of $1b-plus annually.

This new advice to the government – which the government has also been forced to release by the Ombudsman – states that “there would almost certainly be unintended and unanticipated consequences of legalising cannabis for personal use”, and that “there is insufficient data to understand the medium- to long-term impacts”

“Even health experts are now saying that the Yes campaign don’t want to admit that cannabis use will go up despite the establishment of retail outlets and normalisation of drug use. There has also been little reference to health & mental harm and social costs which will explode with this increased use,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“Kiwis are most concerned about families, mental health and young people, and the possible effects of legalisation and what it would look like. The government should have released all and any advice they had received on this issue. They didn’t – and that begs the question, why not, and what are they trying to hide from voters.”
ENDS

“One of the most visible cases of science denial I’ve seen in decades” – Harvard Professor

Media Release 18 September 2020
A professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School says that the cannabis legalisation debate is based on one of the most visible cases of science denial she has seen in decades.

Bertha Madras PhD is a Professor of Psychobiology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; a psychobiologist at the Substance Use Disorders Division, Division of Basic Neuroscience; and Director of the Laboratory of Addiction Neurobiology, McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.

In public policy, Dr. Madras served as Deputy Director for Demand Reduction in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a Presidential appointment confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. She is also a recipient of an NIH MERIT award, NIDA Public Service Award, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry Founders’ Award, and others.

In this interview with SayNopeToDope’s Aaron Ironside, she explains in simple language:
* what is psychosis, and what about marijuana & psychosis?
* the endocannabinoid system and its role
* are older users also at risk for addiction, psychosis and cognitive impairment?
* is cannabis less harmful than alcohol?
* how dangerous and how potent are edibles? And how significant is potency in general?
* what are the concerns about legalisation and the future?
* when will the negative effects of legalisation be fully realised?

Professor Madras says “It took 100 years of data to really show unequivocally that tobacco caused a series of significant health effects, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease etc. What we’re doing now is engaging in another human experiment without informed consent, because the advocates are not only not informing the public – in many ways, they’re trying to bury it.”

She concludes: “This is one of the most visible cases of science denial I’ve seen in decades.”

WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW

Latest U.S. Govt Data Shows Youth Use & Addiction Increase

Media Release 16 September 2020
Last week, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released the 2019 Annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the most comprehensive survey on drug use.

One of the disturbing findings was that some 699,000 youth aged 12-17 have an addiction to marijuana in 2019 – representing 187,000 new youth with a Cannabis Use Disorder in 2019 versus 2018. Overall, more than 4.8 million people aged 12 or older reported Marijuana Use Disorder in 2019, up from 4.4 million in 2018.

Also, past year and past month marijuana use among youth have increased markedly since legalisation began in several states in 2016. Past month use among youth aged 12-17 increased 14% since 2016 while past year use among the same age group rose 10%.

The report specifically pointed out Colorado’s data, the first state to legalise marijuana, in comparison to national data. Among those aged 18-25, Colorado’s rates of past month, past year, and co-occurring mental illness with marijuana use disorder, were far higher than the national data.

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

This report was released in the same week as a new study by researchers from the University of Queensland which found that if cannabis was legalised in Australia, 1 in 6 Australian adolescents and 1 in 3 Australian young adults who had not used the drug would try or use it.

A new survey released by the state of Colorado just last month found that marijuana use has skyrocketed 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 increased 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 Canada, past 12-month use of cannabis among people aged 16 to 19 years was 44% (an increase from 36% in 2018) and those aged 20 to 24 was 51%, (an increase from 44% in 2018), according to Health Canada, 2019.

 

 

Cannabis Youth Use Would Increase If Legalised – Australian Study

Media Release 15 September 2020
A new study by researchers from the University of Queensland has found that if cannabis was legalised in Australia, 1 in 6 Australian adolescents and 1 in 3 Australian young adults who had not used the drug would try or use it.

The study included 3,052 youths (adolescents aged 12–17 and young adults aged 18–25 years) in Australia who participated in the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

It was estimated that 17% of adolescents would try for the first time (13%) or use (4%), and 32% of young adults would try (15%) or use (17%) cannabis if it were legal. Among those who reported an intention to try it, 85% of adolescents and 59% of young adults had never used cannabis before. These translate to 199,000 and 238,000 potential initiators, respectively.

This would equate to 40,000 adolescents and almost 48,000 young adults in New Zealand who would try cannabis, based on comparable population size of both countries.

The results are comparable to a similar analysis of Monitoring the Future 2007–2011, a national survey of senior students in the USA, which found that 18% of lifetime cannabis users reported an intent to use cannabis more often if it were legal. And a Monitoring the Future survey released in 2018 found that one in four U.S. high school seniors would try marijuana or use it more often if it was legal.

A new survey released by the state of Colorado just last month found that marijuana use has skyrocketed 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 increased 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%.

Nationwide, 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, which showed that 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

In Canada, past 12-month use of cannabis among people aged 16 to 19 years was 44% (an increase from 36% in 2018) and those aged 20 to 24 was 51%, (an increase from 44% in 2018), according to Health Canada, 2019.
ENDS

BIG MARIJUANA: More Pot Shops Than McDonalds, Burger King and KFC Combined!

MEDIA RELEASE 9 SEPTEMBER 2020
The Say Nope to Dope campaign says that the reports on cannabis legalisation by BERL has admitted that pot shops will be as noticeable in number as fast food outlets, that the black market will continue, and that usage will increase by almost 30% – and especially amongst 20-30 age group.

“BERL is banking on Big Marijuana. It is clear why the government didn’t want this information in the public domain. This is confirmation that Big Marijuana will replace Big Tobacco if cannabis is legalised,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

There are 167 McDonald’s, 83 Burger Kings and 94 KFC stores nationwide at last count, but the BERL report predicts over 400 weed shops around New Zealand.

The report also predicts that overall use will go up from 14% to 18% (a 30% increase). Significantly, there will be increased use for the 20-25 age group (an at-risk group) and a big increase for the 25-30 age group.

The BERL report confirms a Big Marijuana industry, based on an annual tax take alone of $1b-plus annually.

“That’s a massive turnover based on significant use, with little reference to health & mental harm and social costs which will explode with this increased use,” says Mr Ironside.

“If someone wasn’t thinking of voting no in the referendum, this report will confirm they should be. Kiwis don’t care about the fiscal aspect. They care about families, mental health and young people.”
ENDS

NEW: Comprehensive 2020 Report on Results of Legalisation of Cannabis Overseas

The Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) NZ Coalition which is leading the NO vote against cannabis legalisation in the upcoming referendum has released a new report “Lessons From Cannabis Legalisation 2020, a comprehensive study of the data outcomes in ‘legalised’ marijuana states in the U.S., and recent developments since legalisation in Canada and Uruguay, the only two countries in the world who have legalised recreational cannabis use.

This study, validated by researchers from institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, and using governmental data and the latest peer-reviewed studies, finds that the U.S. states that have legalised marijuana are witnessing rising use rates, thriving black markets, and harms among disadvantaged communities. This is also the early evidence from Canada and Uruguay.

This report which has almost 250 references will serve as an eye-opener for the New Zealand public and gives very persuasive evidence for voting no in the referendum. The legalisation of marijuana has had significant costs both fiscally and in terms of social and health harms. It is clearly evident that cannabis legalisation is a failed policy.

The report highlights research showing that cannabis – which has skyrocketed in average potency over the past decades – is addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used by adolescents. In U.S. states that have already legalised the drug, there has been an increase in drugged driving crashes, youth marijuana use, costs that far outweigh tax revenues from cannabis, and sustained marijuana arrest rates. These states and also Uruguay and Canada have seen a black market that continues to thrive, and tobacco company investment in cannabis.

This report moves past the spin from cannabis industry proponents who want to normalise and profit from drug use in our communities. 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?

The report is produced by the SAM-NZ Coalition, in conjunction with research from Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) in the U.S.

Smart Approaches To Marijuana NZ (SAM-NZ) is an alliance of community organisations and leaders in New Zealand (including ex-addicts, educators, ex-police, addiction counsellors, health professionals and community workers) who oppose any attempt to legalise cannabis, based on reputable science and sound principles of public health and safety.

DOWNLOAD THE REPORT

Pro-Cannabis Campaign Should Stop Implying That Voters Are Racists

Media Release 5 September 2020
The Say Nope To Dope campaign is calling on the Make It Legal campaign to stop insulting the New Zealand public with suggestions that they’re basically racist if they don’t vote yes to legalisation..

“Ironically, the insulting comments come in the same week that Auckland University Maori and Pacific Advisor Dr Hirini Kaa warned that for those living in poverty or dealing with systemic racism, cannabis is a lot more damaging and dangerous, and that legalisation ‘won’t fix racism in the justice system, we shouldn’t pretend it will. Our history of social policy in this country really worries me. It’s going to send a signal cannabis is accessible and okay to use.’” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“For the yes campaign to imply that you’re a racist if you vote no in the upcoming referendum is both false, but also condescending and insulting to the vast majority of New Zealanders who are thinking deeply about this important social issue. The pro-cannabis campaign needs to stop trying to falsely “guilt trip” kiwi voters into voting for legalising cannabis.”

The evidence overseas shows that marijuana legalisation poses a significant threat to low-income and minority communities. Though industry proponents suggest that marijuana legalisation will alleviate injustices against socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, disparities in use and criminal offence rates have persisted in U.S. states that legalised marijuana.

While it is important to evaluate the impact of incarceration within certain communities, it is also important to understand the impact of marijuana legalisation on those same communities. It is inappropriate to suggest that only through marijuana legalisation will social justice be achieved or criminal justice inequity remedied. In fact, no such effect has been demonstrated in the states where marijuana was made “legal.”

“Instead of fixing social justice disparities, legalisation merely changes the nature of the arrest in lower income and minority communities due to the new ‘regulations’. What’s more, the cannabis industry has recognised an important new consumer base – just as they did with pokie machines and alcohol outlets which are concentrated in these same areas,” says Mr Ironside.

In a recent interview hosted by SAM-NZ, Will Jones III – a social justice advocate from Washington DC – said that the idea that legalising cannabis is going to deal with systemic injustices and inequalities is naive at best if not outright appropriating issues of systemic injustice for personal gain and personal profit.
ENDS

Minister of Justice Shouldn’t Hide Info From Voters

Media Release 1 September 2020
The SayNopeToDope campaign is calling on the Minister of Justice Andrew Little to release economic reports relating to proposed cannabis legalisation so that voters can make a fully informed decision at the upcoming referendum.

According to the NBR, economic reports on the proposed cannabis legalisation are being withheld by the Ministry of Justice until after the October referendum, with the Ministry of Justice refusing an Official Information Act request on the issue.

“This is significant, because a lot of claims have been made that the legalisation of cannabis could earn up to ½ billion dollars for the taxpayer. This sounds very attractive, but international evidence shows that it is a flawed pipe dream. Cannabis advocates and the marijuana industry are quick to overestimate large amounts of revenue from cannabis sales, but it rarely fully recognises the societal costs of legalisation,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“Other societal costs not referred to by drug supporters include: greater other drug use, greater marijuana use among underage students, property and other economic damage, controlling an expanded black market, sales to minors, public intoxication, and other burdens. No policy is without its costs. Legalisation also results in administrative and enforcement costs, similar to alcohol regulation.”

“Andrew Little should be releasing any and all information related to this referendum as part of being an open and transparent government. The fiscal reality of changes to our drug laws are just as important as the likely health and societal harms,” says Mr Ironside.

Alcohol and tobacco have already warned us that tax revenue from marijuana sales will fall well short of the costs. Trends have already surfaced in Colorado & Washington state, suggesting that, like tobacco and alcohol, costs outweigh revenues. Over half the pot money promised for drug prevention, education & treatment in Washington State never materialised. Bureaucracy consumes a significant portion of Colorado marijuana tax revenue.

California’s projected marijuana tax revenue by July 2019 is nearly half of what was originally expected when the state began retail sales in 2018, since most consumers continue to purchase marijuana from the black market in order to avoid high taxes. Statistics Canada, a state agency, reports that just 29% of cannabis users buy all of their product from a legal source.
ENDS

 

Workplace Drug Use Skyrocketing In U.S.

Media Release 26 August 2020
New U.S. data released today by Quest Diagnostics has found that rates of marijuana positivity in the workforce have sharply risen both over the last year (2018-2019) and since legalisation was implemented. Furthermore, Quest Diagnostics also reported that workforce drug positivity hit a sixteen-year high in 2019.

Marijuana is the most commonly detected substance and has the highest drug positivity rate among all other tested substances across the majority of industry sectors in the U.S. Marijuana positivity has increased nearly 29% since 2015, according to Quest Diagnostics. Among the top-ranking industries for the highest rates of positive marijuana testing, transportation and warehousing was number one with 33.3%. Meanwhile the construction industry had an average of 26.7% positive marijuana testing (Quest Diagnostics, 2018).

One in four marijuana users who are employed admit to getting high at work within the past year, according to a new survey of cannabis consumers in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, three states where recreational weed is legal. Workforce marijuana-positivity rates in all “legal” states but one (Alaska) are above the national average (Quest Diagnostics, 2019). Most states that have legalised marijuana show an increasing trend in positivity rates.

Insurance claims have become a growing concern among companies in US states that have legalised marijuana because if marijuana use is allowed or drug testing ignored, employers are at risk of liability claims when a marijuana-related injury or illness occurs onsite.

“New Zealand employers have every reason to be concerned about attempts to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. The likely increase in marijuana use and acceptance as a result of any legalisation of the drug will lead to a more dangerous workplace, especially in safety-sensitive industries,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

Top Increases Since Legalisation to 2019: 

Nevada: 142% increase since 2016 (1.9% vs. 4.6%)
Oregon: 136% increase since 2014 (1.9% vs. 4.5%)
Massachusetts: 113% since 2016 (2.7% vs. 3.8%)
Washington: 86.3% increase since 2014 (2.2% vs. 4.1%)
Colorado: 63% increase since 2013 (1.9% vs. 3.1%)
California: 45% increase since 2016 (2.2% vs. 3.2%)
Michigan: 44% increase since 2017 (2.7% vs. 3.9)
Massachusetts: 40% increase since 2016 (2.7% vs. 3.8) 

Top Increases 2018 – 2019:

Washington: 70% increase (2.4% vs. 4.1)
California: 33% increase (2.4% vs. 3.2%)
Maine: 28% increase (5.0% vs. 6.4%)
Michigan: 21.8% increase (3.2% vs. 3.9)
Nevada: 17.9% increase (3.9% vs. 4.6%)
Massachusetts: 15% increase (3.3% vs. 3.8%)

 

 

Illegality Keeps Cannabis Use Low & Decreasing – Youth’19

Media Release 14 August 2020
The SayNopetoDope campaign says that new data from Youth19 Rangatahi Smart Survey has confirmed that the illegal status of cannabis is keeping young people from experimenting with cannabis in the first place, that students progressing to ongoing and regular cannabis use is very low, but that legalising it would reverse these gains.

While just 23% of students reported ever using marijuana – dropping from 38% in 2001 – only 4.1% were consuming it on a regular basis, much lower than in 2001 when it was 6.5%. The report says that most students do not use marijuana or other drugs. Maori use marijuana on a regular basis at a higher rate (8.5%) than Pakeha (3.3%) and Pacific use (3.6%). However, even Maori rates have dropped from a high figure of 13.9% in 2001. Asian youth use is low.

In contrast, 22% reported binge drinking in the past month, and remains high compared with other countries.

Research published 12 months ago in the New Zealand Medical Journal has shown a long-term decline in the number of secondary school students’ “lifetime cannabis use”, and the proportion using cannabis weekly (or more often) halving. Commentators say that cannabis use among teens is dropping thanks to changing attitudes towards ‘risky behaviours’.

According to the Royal Society Te Aparangi 2019 report, marijuana use, particularly frequent use starting from a young age, can harm mental health and have other negative effects.

“The researchers in this latest study correctly state that ‘there are factors that more directly address substance use and addictive behaviours such as ensuring harmful substances are not available in communities, and adults role modelling healthy choices and not supplying substances’. Legalisation will undo all this great progress by normalising drug use and making it more available and more evident in communities,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“We support a health-based approach where young users are discouraged from usage and sent a clear societal message that they should be drug-free, while also offering counselling and addiction services to assist them away from drug use. Sometimes this will involve the stigma and coercion of the law.”

These New Zealand stats come at the same time as the state of Colorado has found that marijuana use has skyrocketed 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 increased 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 pot 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.

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.  And in states where recreational marijuana has been legalised, teenagers are suffering higher rates of addiction.

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, and found that 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.