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Media Release

JUST RELEASED: Briefing for Families

Are you ready for the debate on legalising marijuana? We are – and we’re here to help you.

DOWNLOAD our new 24-page Briefing for Families.

You can also click HERE for 1-page Briefing Sheets on specific issues.

Topics covered include:

  • what are the known health harms of marijuana?
  • 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?

Get past the ‘smokescreen’. These education resources will help you campaign with us against any attempts to legalise marijuana (and ultimately other drugs, according to pro-marijuana groups) in New Zealand.

Open Letter To New Zealand Parliamentarians: Re Pill Testing Within Australia & NZ

DRUG FREE AUSTRALIA 30 January 2019
Drug Free Australia has been very concerned about the national pill testing push within Australia and New Zealand which has chiefly been led here by members of an organisation, Harm Reduction Australia.

Our concerns have pivoted on the fact that MDMA, which is a most sought-after substance at music festivals, has been the substance responsible for almost all deaths within Australia, rather than impurities in party pills or other illicit drugs in the pill which are unknown to the user.  To that end I am communicating with you as a New Zealand Parliamentarian.

We are urging you, as a parliamentarian who makes evidence-based decisions for the well-being of your nation’s individuals, to totally reject any further discussion on pill testing in New Zealand until such time as its advocates have demonstrated from available NZ Coroners’ reports that 

  1. it is NOT the substance MDMA, or MDMA in a polydrug use context, which is chiefly responsible for the many NZ deaths
    OR 
  1. that most of the deaths are alternately from MDMA consumed in amounts beyond what is considered normal for recreational use

In Australia we have previously made our view known to Australian politicians, a view which has been backed by strong evidence from the medical literature, and this has now led to many parliamentarians here no longer considering pill testing as an option.  In our communications we had asserted that MDMA is the sole drug responsible for many of the deaths, but has also contributed via polydrug use to many others.

We have cited the only Australian study on ecstasy-related deaths.  This studied 82 deaths over a five-year period (2001-2005)[i] where MDMA was the sole drug responsible for 23% of the deaths, with another 59% due to MDMA taken in combination with other licit and illicit drugs, totaling 82% of the 82 deaths.  Coroners’ reports in more recent years, as reported in the media, concur.  Of the five festival deaths in NSW this summer, ecstasy has been implicated as the cause in all five, according to Professor Andrew Dawson, as reported recently by the Daily Telegraph.

We have also alerted our politicians to the fact that most MDMA deaths are not overdoses.  As DanceSafe[ii], an American harm reduction group has persuasively outlined:

Overdosing means taking a higher than appropriate dose of a medicine or a drug. In other words, it simply means taking too much or taking a “dose” that is “over” the proper therapeutic or recreational amount. The association of the word “overdose” with “drug-related death” is primarily reflective of heroin and opiate-related deaths, where the majority of fatalities may, in fact, result of overdosing. However, MDMA-related deaths are rarely the result of an overdose, and calling them overdoses is dangerous and negligent. It sends the message that “you will be okay as long as you don’t take too much,” which is simply not true. In the vast majority of cases of MDMA-related deaths, where no other drugs were found in the person’s bloodstream, the deceased had taken a dose within the normal range for appropriate therapeutic or recreational use.[iii]

Even the USA’s Drug Policy Alliance, with whom all Australian and New Zealand pill testing advocates are ideologically aligned, asserts the same[iv], stating that most deaths are not overdoses.  Also, on this same issue we point to evidence in the medical literature, such as the British Journal of Anaesthesia[v] which records that:

Typically, after oral ingestion (75–150 mg), desired effects begin within 1 h and last 4–6 h. Blood levels in asymptomatic users and those with serious side-effects are often similar, suggesting that adverse reactions are likely to relate to the circumstances in which the drug is taken, and that there may also be an idiosyncratic component. A number of fatalities have been reported with blood levels of 0.1–2.1 mg litre−1. However, a case of a deliberate overdose of MDMA in which the blood level reached 4.3 mg litre−1 with no more than mild sinus tachycardia and a degree of somnolence has been reported. Another analytically documented overdose resulted in a plasma MDMA of 7.72 mg litre−1, the highest recorded in a surviving patient, with just a ‘hangover’, tachycardia and hypertension.31 The highest level reported in association with multi-organ failure in a subsequent survivor was 7 mg litre−1.

Some observations regarding MDMA deaths are that many are from taking a single pill, and can be described as more akin to an idiosyncratic individual allergic reaction to MDMA, making first-time ecstasy use more akin to playing Russian roulette[vi].  A group of friends can all ingest the same amount but only one might die.[vii]  This was precisely the case with Anna Wood, Australia’s fist ecstasy death in 1995.  She took the same pill as her three friends, but only she died.  (Tony Wood, her father, can be contacted through Family First NZ)

We understand that it may seem somewhat confronting that Drug Free Australia is putting the onus of proof onto pill testing advocates themselves concerning the notion that party pill deaths are not mostly from using MDMA or are alternately from MDMA ‘overdoses’.  However, our reasoning is as follows . . .

    1. Advocates assert that pill testing is needed because impurities or unknown drugs in the pills cause deaths (which is rarely the case in our country and likely the same in yours)
    2. Advocates also assert that pill testing is needed because of unknown MDMA purity in party pills, suggesting that deaths are often from MDMA overdose (which is rarely the case in our country and likely the same in yours)
    3. The implicit conclusion from these first two pieces of misinformation is that pure MDMA is safe if ingested in normal recreational quantities (which is against all evidence)
    4. Drug Free Australia further contends that unless NZ advocates clearly and openly publicise that most deaths are tied to MDMA itself, they are personally responsible for the current spurious sense of security surrounding tested MDMA
    5. Drug Free Australia cannot think of a more sure way to widen demand for a dangerous substance via an entirely false sense of security for festival attendees, which will only cause an accelerated escalation in deaths.

We would like to see every NZ parliamentarian ask advocates for a list of names from coroners’ reports of all those deceased after taking party pills where the fatal impurity or other illicit drug in the pills was nominated by the Coroner.  For those found by the Coroner to have overdosed, a list containing the name of the deceased and the report’s estimate of the amount of MDMA ingested.  We suggest the New Zealand lists will be very short, and the list of MDMA deaths long.

I might just mention that Drug Free Australia does recognise that there have been three deaths here in Melbourne in January 2017 from party pills which were due to the drugs 4-FA and 25C-NBOMe.  These drugs were found in purported ecstasy pills, nevertheless these drugs would not have been identified by current pill testing equipment.[viii]  Drug Free Australia also asserts that most GHB overdoses are by users who know they are taking GHB, as was the case in Melbourne, for example, in February 2017.[ix]

Drug Free Australia urges a proactive political response from New Zealand Parliamentarians, which will save the lives of many of your young citizens.

Yours faithfully

 

Major Brian Watters AO [x]
President, Drug Free Australia
Chairman, Prime Minister’s Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) 1998-2005
Australia’s representative to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2004-2012

Letter provided to Family First NZ to pass on to Members of Parliament.

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19604654 
[ii] https://dancesafe.org/ 
[iii] https://dancesafe.org/mdma-related-deaths-stop-calling-them-overdoses/ 
[iv] https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/DPA_Fact_Sheet_MDMA.PDF 
[v]  https://academic.oup.com/bja/article/96/6/678/326917 
[vi] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/j.1365-2044.1993.tb06813.x 
[vii] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jul/22/friends-out-ecstasy-deaths-highest-level-pills 
[viii] https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/3dp5pk/leaked-police-memo-reveals-what-was-in-melbournes-deadly-batch-of-mdma 
[ix] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-19/electric-parade-festival-more-than-20-overdose-hospital/8283828 
[x] https://www.drugfree.org.au/index.php/major-brian-watters-ao-international-liaison-officer.html

Attempts to Legalise Dope In Troubled Portugal

TRAFFICKING, ORGANISED CRIME, CONSUMPTION, PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES ALL ON THE INCREASE
Media Release 21 January 2019
Family First NZ says that it is significant that political parties in Portugal are now pushing for the legalisation of marijuana in their country because they wrongly believe it will combat current problems around organised crime, drug trafficking, increased consumption 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. But Portugal is simply taking the next step in the grand plan of drug normalisation – decriminalisation to legalisation – the same journey that the Drug Foundation and the Green Party with its referendum wants to take New Zealand down. And marijuana isn’t the only drug that they will want to liberalise. Availability and acceptability of drug use will all increase consumption which will be a health disaster,” 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 (aged 15-64) 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.” Last-12-months-use of any illicit substance has doubled between 2012 and 2017.

“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.”

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. According to statements made to the local media by Portugal’s Association of Studies on Cannabis, the regulation would draw “people off the street“, avoiding their using “a substance in a hazardous, unhealthy place, in contact with dangerous people related to drug trafficking, where there is absolutely no control over the quality and toxicity of the product,”. It would also constitute “a major step towards taking the business away from organised crime groups.” They say that the effect of decriminalisation has been to increase trafficking and consumption every year, which has been shown to have failed across the board.

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

[Portugal] still has high levels of problem drug use and HIV infection, and does not show specific developments in its drug situation that would clearly distinguish it from other European countries that have a different policy.”
UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime): Cannabis A Short Review (2012)

To summarise:

  • decriminalisation has increased drug use for all age-groups
  • decriminalisation has seen sharp increases amongst high-school students
  • Portugal’s drug use, other than for heroin, was initially lower than European averages
  • while drug deaths in Portugal are much lower in Portugal due to heroin being smoked or snorted rather than injected, drug overdose mortality is currently increasing

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

Soft and Flawed Approach On Drugs At Music Festivals

Media Release 2 January 2019 
Family First NZ says that attempts to allow drug use and drug testing at music festivals is flawed and dangerous, and is being used by drug-friendly groups and a government apparently soft-on-drugs as a wedge for the normalisation of drug use.

“Having drug-free music festivals is not a ‘hardline’ approach as foolishly claimed by the Greens – it’s a health and safety approach based on best practice. Drug overdoses are a huge concern, and testing won’t protect users because there is no such thing as a safe drug,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Pill testing will be seen by many younger people especially as a clear endorsement of drug use. It sends a message that illicit drugs are acceptable and can be ‘safe’, and will worsen harmful drug use, so that more lives will be put at risk with the belief that the drug they are taking is somehow ‘safe’.”

“Pill testing also does not – and cannot – guarantee that the drug being taken will not cause any physical or mental harm or death to the individual consumer. It also cannot account for the individual’s physiological response to each drug.”

Drug-Free Australia has provided research showing that according to the medical literature the accelerating number of Australian deaths from ecstasy are mostly not from overdosing, nor, according to coroners’ reports, are they due to impurities in party pills – but rather from individual reactions to drugs. A group of friends can all ingest the same amount but only one might die This was precisely the case with Anna Wood, who took the same amount as her friends, but only she died.

“New Zealand lawmakers and authorities should adopt the same approach as overseas jurisdictions. If pill testing is pursued with government approval, the inevitable result will be more people willing to use the substance on the false assumption that they are now safe.”

“This is simply another ‘facilitated’ ill-informed decision to consume illicit drugs. Festival goers should enjoy the music and stop playing Russian Roulette with drugs and with their lives.”

Further info:

The last thing we would want to do is give people a false sense of security about taking illegal drugs cooked up in someone’s bath tub.”
President of the Australian Medical Association, Oct 2017

“Advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false and potentially fatal sense of security about illicit drugs.”
Victorian government spokesman, Jan 2019.

Public statements made by politicians that the trial would help ‘keep people safe’ were potentially misleading. MDMA is not a safe drug… The whole concept is based on the false assumption that if you do know what you’re taking, it is safe – something that is absolutely untrue.”
Toxicologist Andrew Leibie, from Safework Laboratories, Oct 2017

It’s a poison. You can test a poison all you like, it remains a poison.”
State Health Commander of Ambulance Victoria, Jan 2018

“Anyone who advocates pill testing is giving the green light to drugs, that is absolutely unacceptable, there is no such thing as a safe drug… I want to send a strong message to every young person … You should not take drugs at these events or anywhere else, and last night’s tragic consequences demonstrated this.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government will shut down the Sydney dance music festival Defqon.1 after two people died and another three were left critically ill after the event in September.

Three deaths in Melbourne in January 2017 were due to other drugs 4-FA and 25C-NBOMe in ecstasy pills, but Victorian Police said that normal pill testing would not have helped.

Last April, the ACT shadow Attorney General Jeremy Hanson said that “By the government’s own admission, mobile pill testing kits may not trace all strands of synthetic substance in illicit drugs, and the available literature on pill testing ‘does not provide evidence that pill testing prevents deaths among festival patrons’. Assertions that pill testing will save lives are misleading, and doctors and toxicologists have echoed these concerns.”

“Determining to a punter that a drug is in the ‘normal boundaries of what a drug should be’ takes no account of how many he or she will take, whether the person will mix it with other drugs or alcohol and nor does it give you any indicator of the receptiveness of a person’s body to that drug…  There are no safe illegal drugs.”
Melvin Benn, Festival Republic’s managing director, UK’s largest festival organiser which organises Reading and Leeds Festivals, among others

Drugs can devastate lives, ruin families and damage communities. This government’s approach remains clear that we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people through treatment and recovery. No illegal drug can be assumed to be safe and there is no safe way to take them.”
Home Office – UK government, June 2018
ENDS

 

Maintaining Illegality Of Drugs Vital For Public Health

Media Release 13 December 2018
Family First NZ says that the Government’s announcement of taking a tough line on synthetic cannabis is the right move, but maintaining the illegality of drugs is also important because we should continue fighting drugs and the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general.

“The changes proposed today are 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%.

“This is a smart arrest policy. A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ:

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide an important 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 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 a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“If we listen to drug advocates internationally, there will be calls for legalisation of not just marijuana but all drugs – cocaine, heroin, P. The Drug Foundation has already admitted that it wants to legalise dope and decriminalise all other drugs! This is a shocking scenario.”

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. People should always come before profits.”
ENDS

Changes To Marijuana Laws Should Now Stop

Media Release 11 December 2018
Family First NZ says that with the cannabis medicine bill being passed today, it is now time for politicians to move on from the issue and not to make any further changes which liberalise the law or legitimise and normalise the use of dope in the community as strongly lobbied for by groups such as the Greens and the Drug Foundation.

Family First is also calling for strong monitoring and research around the unintended consequences of allowing medicinal marijuana with the regulations yet to be determined, and the potential for societal harm.

“Groups like NORML and other marijuana advocates have used medicinal marijuana as a smokescreen and to manipulate society’s compassion for people with serious pain and health concerns. But marijuana can then be diverted from medical programs to ‘recreational’ purposes. A recent study examining recreation and reported medicinal users of cannabis found that 86% of those reporting medicinal use also used cannabis recreationally,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“We absolutely support a compassionate response to those in real need, but any legislation on cannabis medicine should be based on legitimate and responsible scientific research on the potential benefits and risks of medical cannabis. The Green’s earlier private members bill completely failed the test in terms of public health, public safety, and protecting our young people and the politicians were right to steer clear of it – but the bill passed today has major flaws. No other medicine is lit up and inhaled. We need to say no to ‘medicinal marijuana’, and yes to ‘medicinal cannabinoids’ products.”

“But it is now time for politicians to say ‘enough’. At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we go further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“If we listen to drug advocates internationally, there will be calls for legalisation of not just this drug but all drugs – cocaine, heroin, P. The Drug Foundation has already admitted that it wants to decriminalise these drugs! This is a shocking scenario.”

A study released in 2017 in the US and published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that marijuana use and marijuana use disorders – in which people use the drug in unhealthy or abusive ways – increased at a “significantly greater rate” in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without the laws. The lead researcher from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said that these laws seem to send a message that use of this drug is safe and acceptable in some way.

In a recent article in the Journal of the NZ Medical Association, the authors – both addiction psychiatrists – said that the discussion between the legal framework of cannabis and the medicinal framework of cannabinoids should be kept separate to prevent the ‘decriminalisation’ of cannabis via a medical route, and that “the use of medicinal cannabinoids needs a dialogue that clearly differentiates it from the dialogue about the legal status of cannabis.” One of their key proposals is: “It is hard to justify a place for a smoked medication, in light of the serious public health harms related to smoking and availability of other methods of delivery. For this reason, the authors would not recommend continuing a debate about the use of smoked medicinal cannabinoids.”

Family First is supporting the rapid expansion of further quality research into the components of the marijuana plant for delivery via non-smoked forms, and the establishment of a programme that allows seriously ill patients to obtain other non-smoked components of marijuana approved and listed by the Ministry of Health via their doctor – with appropriate funding and pricing for patients. Neurologists, palliative care and pain specialists should have a key role in this process.

“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. People should always come before profits.”

Briefing Paper sent to all MPs www.SayNopeToDope.nz/medicinal/ 

Mental Health Inquiry Will Worsen Mental Health With Soft Approach On Drugs

Media Release 4 December 2018 
Family First NZ says that the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction has made disturbing recommendations on the legal treatment of drugs which will actually worsen mental health rates.

“Anybody who has worked with young people especially but also those in the mental health field will have observed that marijuana is called dope for good reason. According to virtually every scientific review, marijuana is addictive and harmful – despite rhetoric from the marijuana industry and drug supporters. But the real concern is the effect on mental health and suicide ideation. The suddenness of suicidal ideation means that intervention may not always be possible,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ

New Zealand has some of the richest data on the adverse consequences of cannabis use coming from two major studies: the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS). The use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including increased risks of psychotic symptoms and major depression. In the case of the Dunedin-based study, the scientists, said “Cannabis use in adolescence, when the brain is undergoing critical development, may have neurotoxic effects.”        

Researchers led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (and including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide. Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since legalisation of marijuana.

The Christchurch study also found that regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.

University of Queensland Centre for Youth Substance Abuse professor Wayne Hall says that legalising the drug would likely have the most significant impact on current users. If cannabis was made more affordable and easier to access, then consumption would increase, like any commodity.”

A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars of drug policy:

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit, using the coercion of the law for those whose addiction is controlling them

The current illegal status of drugs is an inhibitor that deters people from participating. It’s not about a ‘war on drugs’ as erroneously labelled by drug supporters. It’s about the defence of our brain. We need a “Stay Drug-Free” message,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“We should continue fighting drugs and the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general. It’s working for tobacco. Why not drugs?”
ENDS

 

 

Bob McCoskrie: Canada’s legal cannabis is no way to go

Published in the NZ Herald, 29 November 2018
Dr Benedikt Fischer’s analysis of Canada’s new law on legal marijuana demonstrates that cannabis legalisation is high in promise and expectations, but the reality is far lower.

In fact, Canada’s law is confusing and has huge variations of how the law will apply throughout the country.

One of the biggest concerns is that the law allows kids as young as 12 to legally possess pot. The professed goal of the law was to keep marijuana out of the hands of youth, but youth, ages 12 to 18, are able to possess up to five grams of marijuana – around 10 joints.

But the Christchurch Health and Development Study has shown from their research that the use of cannabis is associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; and increased risks of other illicit drug use. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users.

Regulation does nothing to mitigate these harms. Legalisation will exacerbate them.

The dangers of second-hand marijuana smoke were also ignored.

There are many other confusing aspects to Canada’s law.

The Toronto Police Service is implementing a rule that would prevent officers from using the legal drug within 28 days of a duty shift. In Calgary, the vast majority of police officers won’t be allowed to use cannabis, ever. Police officers in Vancouver and Ottawa will be allowed to use cannabis when they’re off work, as long as they’re fit for duty when it’s time to clock in. Federal prison guards and the military will have to avoid cannabis within 24 hours of duty.

That doesn’t sound like a sound research-based policy approach designed to give confidence.

When the federal government adopted the legislation, it left it to provinces to create their own regimes controlling how marijuana would be produced and distributed on their territory. Provinces such as Alberta and Ontario decided to allow private sales of cannabis — although under strict provincial supervision. Quebec opted for state-run stores.

In terms of private cultivation, the federal law permits Canadians to grow up to four marijuana plants per residence; Quebec’s law bans all private cultivation. 

The provincial law does allow citizens to smoke marijuana in most places that smoking tobacco is legal. But individual cities were free to draft bylaws if they wanted to add further restrictions, and many jumped at the opportunity. Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Levis, Saguenay, Magog, St-Jerome, Victoriaville and dozens of others have either prohibited all consumption of cannabis in public or signalled their intention to pass bylaws to that effect. Montreal, however, announced it would not add additional barriers to consuming cannabis.

Canada’s largest police forces are grappling with how to get blood samples from suspected drug-impaired drivers. In big cities, police forces are likely to sign contracts with medical specialists who would be on call 24 hours a day to come to police stations and draw blood within the legally required two-hour window after the suspect has been driving. But it’s not yet clear how police in smaller cities and rural areas will solve the logistical problem of getting a blood sample from a driver within two hours.

Employers are arguing they need clarity on workplace drug-testing rules due to conflicting court decisions on whether random drug-testing regimes are constitutional. Canada’s human rights tribunals and labour arbitrators have generally viewed random drug-testing as a privacy violation, but a 2013 Supreme Court of Canada decision did identify some limited cases where drug-testing could be used.

Dr Fischer’s optimism of effective regulation is already being tested. Just a fortnight ago, The Guardian featured a report highlighting that while federal legislation prohibits the sale of edible versions of the drug until at least 2019, it has “done little to stop online retailers and physical stores from openly selling brownies and candies infused with cannabis throughout the country.”

And the black market is still alive and well, with a Radio-Canada investigation already revealing that the financial backers of some producers have links to organised crime.

Diane Kelsall, editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, called the new lawa national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.

Big Marijuana has high hopes for New Zealand, but liberalising marijuana laws is the wrong path to go down if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people.

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 Smoke Free in 2025, let’s be aspirational – and be Drug Free in 2025 also. Why not?

Children Hospitalised For Marijuana Poisoning & Mental Harm Will Worsen

Media Release 25 November 2018 
Family First NZ is sounding a warning that too many children are being hospitalised for marijuana poisoning and mental harm already, and that this rate will only increase if the drug is legalised.

Ministry of Health figures gained under the Official Information Act show that 73 children 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. For all ages, more than 2,200 have been hospitalised for cannabis alone.

“While the focus has been rightly on the devastation of synthetic cannabis, the fact remains there is no ‘safe drug’. 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 dope 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.

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 increased 52%, and hospitalisations increased 148% in Colorado (2012 compared to 2016). 

Research, including New Zealand-based research, has shown direct associations between the frequency of marijuana use and higher THC potency with the development of mental health issues (psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidality, reshaping of brain matter, and addiction).[i] [ii] Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, a study has found.[iii] Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased. (Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment [CDPHE], 2017).

“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.”

In one example, a 9yo child in the US state of New Mexico suffered a bad reaction after mistaking her parent’s medical marijuana gummy bears for regular lollies and sharing them with her three friends at school. And pot-laced Oreos sent Oregon students to hospital. 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.

“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

Cannabis and Family Breakdown Main Causes For Homelessness

Media Release 28 November 2018 
A new study examining why people become homeless has found that daily marijuana use significantly increases men’s likelihood of becoming homeless, and that the other key factor for both men and women is parental separation.

The Melbourne University research published by the Royal Statistical Society found that for men, using cannabis daily increases their likelihood of becoming homeless by age 30 by 7-14 percentage points.

But they also found that the effect of parental separation on homelessness is substantial for both genders – six times that of drug use across both men and women. Of those who have experienced homelessness, 62% of respondents cite family breakdown or conflict as the main reason for becoming homeless for the first time.

The researchers say; “Our research suggests that early interventions to reduce cannabis use may be effective in reducing the number of boys and young men who become homeless.”

They also add “policy interventions supporting the housing needs of families that break down, can effectively reduce the transitions of children and young adults into homelessness, possibly breaking the path into lifelong extreme disadvantage.”

“Government policy should promote marriage and the strong formation of families – and offer support and free counselling to families where there is potential conflict and breakdown. Children being raised by their married biological parents are by far the safest from abuse, poverty, and imprisonment – and so too are the adults. We can now add protection from homelessness to the list,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But most importantly, any attempts to legalise marijuana will only worsen the social problems we are facing around homelessness – especially for men. We should be doing everything we can to promote a drug-free culture and reject any liberalising of the law or promotion of a drug-friendly culture.”
ENDS