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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.

 

Cannabis Legalisation Is ‘Appropriating Issues Of Systemic Injustice For Personal Gain Profit’

Media Release 12 August 2020
A social justice advocate from Washington DC says 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.

The SayNopeToDope Campaign hosted a Facebook event today with interviews of three international experts on cannabis legalisation.

Author, consultant, advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations including Barack Obama, and assistant professor, Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., has studied, researched, written about, and implemented drug policy for more than 20 years. He is currently the President and CEO of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana).

Professor Mary Cannon is a Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Youth Mental Health in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), and Will Jones III is a Communications and Outreach Associate at Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and Social Justice advocate.

From her research, which includes involvement in the Dunedin longitudinal study, Professor Cannon warned that cannabis is strongly associated with psychotic symptoms and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. In fact, cannabis use is now the most powerful single environmental risk factor for psychotic disorder. Recent studies from Europe have examined the risks associated with high-potency cannabis (defined as greater than 10 per cent THC) and have found that daily users of high potency cannabis have a nine-fold increased risk of developing schizophrenia or another clinical psychotic disorder. But this “psychotogenic” effect is not confined to adolescent-onset cannabis use and appears more linked to frequency of use. In addition, it is not confined to people with a history of psychotic disorder in their family (although they are at high risk and should avoid cannabis).

She concludes that the failure of governments worldwide to control alcohol harms shows that once an addictive substance is legalised and freely available, public health takes a second place to profit.

WATCH THE FULL PRESENTATION

 

The International Evidence on Cannabis – Facebook Event

Media Release 11 August 2020
The SayNopeToDope Campaign is hosting a Facebook event this Wednesday (12th) with three international experts on cannabis legalisation.

Author, consultant, advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations including Barack Obama, and assistant professor, Kevin Sabet, Ph.D., has studied, researched, written about, and implemented drug policy for more than 20 years. He is currently the President and CEO of SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana). Professor Mary Cannon is a Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Youth Mental Health in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), and Will Jones III is a Communications and Outreach Associate at Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and Social Justice advocate.

Topics covered include social justice with Will Jones, the cannabis industry with Dr Kevin Sabet, and mental health with Professor Mary Cannon.  Spokesperson Aaron Ironside conducts the interviews.

“THE INTERNATIONAL EVIDENCE ON CANNABIS – Social Justice, Big Marijuana, Mental Health”
Wednesday 12 August 2020, 10am
Facebook Live – Facebook.com/SayNopeToDopeNZ

 

Cannabis Use In Pregnancy Linked To A Greater Risk Of Autism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Colorado Data Shows Youth Marijuana Use Increasing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claims on Govt Cannabis Pamphlet Labelled As “Inflated”, “Unrealistic”, “Unachievable” – NZMJ

Media Release 3 August 2020
The claims on the cannabis referendum pamphlet sent to households by the government have been labelled as ‘inflated’, ‘unrealistic’, and ‘unlikely to be achievable’ in the latest edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal. And the proposed bill comes in for scathing criticism from the Auckland University academics who authored the article.

The article “New Zealand’s ‘Cannabis Legalisation and Regulation Bill’: an evidence-based assessment and critique of essential regulatory components towards policy outcomes by Benedikt Fischer and Dimitri Daldegan-Bueno assert that illegal cannabis markets and supply will remain “active and resilient after the implementation of legalisation”, that there is “no reason to assume why young people’s access to cannabis should be expected to decrease in the context of—overall increased—availability of both legal and illegal markets/supply”, and that “legal production, distribution and use is also likely to increase, rather than decrease cannabis ‘public visibility’, and overall societal ‘normalisation’” as a result of any potential legalisation.

Other parts of the proposed legislation also come in for significant criticism:

  • “the age limit is inconsistent with age limits for other legal drug use… [F]or alcohol use—an arguably more hazardous substance, especially for young people—no minimum consumption age exists, and the purchase age for tobacco products is 18 years. Thus, the proposed age limit for cannabis is not scientifically supported but appears rather arbitrary, nor is it consistent or policy-coherent in regards to other, widely used legal substances. Here political considerations appear to have trumped science, with questionable compromising for results.”
  • “limiting cannabis use to private homes, by design, will bring substantial health risk to other parties; it also contravenes longstanding efforts to direct away tobacco smoking from homes.”
  • “‘home-growing’ creates a backdoor that directly undermines these protective safeguards. The restrictions for cannabis ‘home-growing’ are practically impossible for authorities to monitor or enforce (unless accepting inspections to regularly search private homes)… [H]ome-growing facilitates potential and easy access to cannabis products by others (eg, including minors), and so can easily enable cannabis diversion”
  • For retail distribution, it is “unclear how density for legal cannabis retail outlets will be regulated or restricted” and that “despite well-intended public health goals, their operational viability and economic success will naturally depend on and strive for increased volumes of customers and sales.”
  • commercial cannabis industry entities will likely either quickly merge with, or follow the commercial business strategies of large-scale multi-national cannabis, or alcohol and tobacco corporations.”
  • “many cannabis products the legal retail market—for example, for health protections—restricts or bans will remain on offer by illegal sources.”
  • Regarding criminalisation and ‘social justice’, “it is unlikely that the extensive list of new and remaining offenses defined, combined with the likely levels of popular (non-) compliance, will lead to such substantial reductions.” And that “it is unclear whether the practical enforcement of core offenses under legalisation will substantially serve to improve social justice, or rather shift while extending previous discretion and systemic biases under new covers. Conversely, there are key areas where substantially increased, targeted law enforcement would be required to secure legalisation’s essential public health and safety objectives.”

“This is a scathing assessment of the sales pitch that the government has given voters. The government tries to argue through their pamphlet that “The bill’s purpose is to reduce harm to people and communities” – but that is purely the view of those lobbying for change. Those against the legislation are arguing that legalisation will lead to more harm to people and communities, and this latest analysis backs our position,” says spokesperson Aaron Ironside.

“The use of cannabis is associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including educational delay, welfare dependence, increased risks of psychotic symptoms, major depression, increased risks of motor vehicle accidents, increased risks of tobacco use, increased risks of other illicit drug use, and respiratory impairment. 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?”