Media Release

WATCH – Bob McCoskrie v Chloe Swarbrick

On TVNZ1’s Q+A programme on Sunday evening we debated the legalisation of marijuana and the upcoming referendum with Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.

The Greens have negotiated a referendum on this issue as part of the coalition agreement with Labour and NZ First. This is actually a good thing because drug supporters have been hiding behind medicinal marijuana (which we support if it’s controlled and regulated cannabis medicine and not smoked) and decriminalisation. But they’ve now revealed the ultimate goal – legalisation of dope for recreational purposes, and not just this drug but eventually, all drugs.

The SayNopeToDope Campaign is intending to mount a strong education campaign to warn New Zealanders about allowing ‘Big Marijuana’ to come into NZ. We agree – it’s a health issue, and that’s why the legal status of the drug is so important!


Cannabis Studies Raise Further Health Concerns

Media Release 11 April 2020
Two important studies released over the past week have further highlighted the health concerns of cannabis and its potential legalisation.

The first, a review and meta-analysis with over 23,000 participants conducted by researchers from Queen’s University in Ontario and the University of Calgary and published in the JAMA Network Open, found that 47% of regular marijuana users experience symptoms of Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome (CWS) when they cease use of the drug. The study’s authors said that because “many CWS criteria are depression or anxiety symptoms, regular users may seek cannabis to obtain short-term symptom relief, unaware that this use could perpetuate a longer-term withdrawal problem.”

The second, a review of recent research published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, states that in the states that have legalised marijuana, prices for the drug have decreased, while use and dependence has increased among adults. Furthermore, the review states that the risk of dependence has risen from around 9% in the early 1990s, to nearly 30% today.

The review also draws a comparison between the tactics of Big Tobacco who worked hard to deny or minimise the evidence between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, and Big Marijuana now – and how the cannabis industry and its supporters – including here in New Zealand – work to deny or minimise the evidence showing use of the drug increases the risk of psychosis.

“According to virtually every scientific review, including a 2016 World Health Organisation (WHO) report and a 2017 National Academy of Sciences study, marijuana is addictive and harmful, despite rhetoric from the cannabis industry. Direct associations have been made 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. Links to lung damage and serious cardiovascular problems have also been found – hypertension, myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and cardiac arrest. Chronic adolescent marijuana use has been correlated with cognitive impairment and a decreased ability to do well in work or school,” says a spokesperson for the SayNopeToDope campaign.

“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 should take precedence over the rights of individuals to get high and who want to normalise drug use in our communities.”

Cannabis Briefing – with former NY Times reporter Alex Berenson

If you are a youthworker, church leader, educator, counsellor, or community leader, we want to invite you – and your colleagues – to a special Briefing in February on the upcoming cannabis referendum, and the dangers of legalisation. The presentations and the resources which will be available will help you prepare for the upcoming referendum and the associated discussions which will occur in your organisation, amongst families you work with directly, and in the wider community.

As well as updates from our National Director Bob McCoskrie and our Pasifika Director (and ex-Police) Nick Tuitasi QSM, our special guest is ALEX BERENSON.

Alex Berenson is a former New York Times reporter and award-winning novelist. He attended Yale University and joined the Times in 1999, where he covered everything from the drug industry to Hurricane Katerina and served as a correspondent in Iraq.

Alex is the author of “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence”, released in January 2019.

The book (which will be available for purchase at the Briefings) reveals the link between teenage marijuana use and mental illness, and a hidden epidemic of violence caused by the drug – facts the media have ignored as the United States (and possibly New Zealand) rushes to legalise cannabis. But legalisation has been built on myths – including that marijuana arrests fill prisons; that most doctors want to use cannabis as medicine; and that it is not just harmless but beneficial for mental health. In this meticulously reported book, Alex Berenson explodes those myths. Most of all, THC – the chemical in marijuana responsible for the drug’s high – can cause psychotic episodes. After decades of studies, scientists no longer seriously debate if marijuana causes psychosis. Psychosis brings violence, and cannabis-linked violence is spreading.

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

We hope you (and any interested colleagues) can attend this important Briefing. Attendance is by registration. See the details below.

There is a suggested koha of $20 to help cover some of our expenses.

(attendance by registration only)

Monday 17th February 2020, 12 – 2pm (includes light lunch)
LIFE Church, 25 Normanby Rd, Mt Eden

Tuesday 18th February 2020, 12 – 2pm (includes light lunch)
Celebration Church, 246 Thorndon Quay, Pipitea, Wellington 

Wednesday 19th February 2020, 12pm – 2pm (includes light lunch)
Lifezone Church, 7 Oak Lane, Judea, Tauranga

Wednesday 19th February 2020, 7pm – 9pm (includes light supper)
Te Whanau Putahi (TWP), 37 Oxford St, Fairfield, Hamilton.

Thursday 20th February 2020, 10.30am –12.30pm (includes morning tea)
Beckenham Baptist Church, 146 Colombo StreetChristchurch (Parking entrance off Percival Street).

Thursday 20th February 2020, 7pm – 9pm (includes light supper)
Caversham Baptist Church, Corner South Road & Surrey Street, Caversham, Dunedin

(Attendance by Registration only)
To register, simply email [email protected] with your
Phone contact:
Which meeting venue you are wanting to attend:

Registrations close on FRIDAY 14 FEBRUARY (for catering purposes)

tel: 09 261 2426
email: [email protected]

Evidence Shows Legalising Cannabis Is Social Injustice

Media Release 8 January 2020
As pro-cannabis lobbyists and politicians in New Zealand argue that marijuana legalisation will increase social justice, disparities among use and criminal offence rates continue among race, ethnicity, and income levels in US states that have legalised marijuana. And a new paper published in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Public Affairs (JLPA) has provided concrete evidence from US states that have legalised cannabis.

Entitled “Marijuana Legalization in the United States: A Social Injustice”, the authors say that many proponents of legalisation have championed legalisation as a solution for real issues that disproportionately affect communities of colour, and that they cite the prevalence of minority groups jailed for minor possession charges as reason enough to “legalise” recreational marijuana which they insist would reduce the number of people in minority groups who are jailed for minor possession. But the paper says that “these arguments are predicated on a mythology that woefully misrepresents the impact of marijuana through the lens of social justice.”

Using governmental data, they highlight that the disproportionate impact of drug arrests, including for marijuana, in states that have legalised, remains stubbornly high. “The charge that marijuana legalisation will eliminate racial bias in the justice system is unfounded. The opposite has been proven.”

Evidence shows:

  • in Washington DC, although total marijuana-related arrests decreased, distribution and public consumption arrests nearly quadrupled. Among adults, 84.8% of marijuana distribution or public consumption arrestees were African Americans
  • the 2017 marijuana-related African American arrest rate in Colorado was nearly twice that of Caucasians
  • Across Colorado, minority juveniles suffered. The average number of marijuana-related arrests among Hispanic juveniles increased 7.3%, and African American juveniles increased 5.9%
  • drug suspension rates in Colorado schools with 76% or more students of colour are over two times higher compared to Colorado schools with fewer than 25% students of colour.

The research also highlights that the burgeoning marijuana industry has increasingly exploited minority communities with disastrous outcomes – similar to the pokie and alcohol industries here in New Zealand.

Evidence shows:

  • higher crime rates follow areas in which marijuana stores are established
  • the marijuana industry sees lower-income and minority communities as profit centers. “Just as Big Tobacco and liquor stores have targeted lower-income communities as an important consumer-base, the marijuana industry seeks a similar base to establish addiction-for-profit businesses.”
  • while these stores are heavily concentrated in disadvantaged areas, their ownership does not mirror the communities. In fact, nationally, less than 2% of all pot shops are owned by minorities of any community
  • there have also been public health impacts – the misrepresentation of marijuana’s effects has disproportionately impacted pregnant women in lower-income communities.

The authors say:

“..the health risks of marijuana are lost amid confusing and misleading advertisements that target communities that lack educational resources. Today’s high-potency marijuana is addictive, linked with serious mental health illnesses such as psychosis, and lowers educational outcomes, especially for those who use it heavily. Lower-income communities face a new threat to their health with inadequate resources to combat these effects.”

Contrary to the claims being made in New Zealand’s debate, legalisation of cannabis will not help social justice. Keeping cannabis and other drugs illegal through an appropriate application of the law which focuses on suppliers and dealers, that caters for “youthful indiscretions”, and provides an opportunity to intervene with addiction services and stop the progression of use, is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy. Police charges for use or possession of cannabis have fallen by 70% in the past decade, according to Ministry of Justice statistics.

But 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?

This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and mental well-being.


Drug Testing Gives False Hope & Dangerous Message

Media Release 29 December 2019
The SayNopeToDope Campaign says that lobbying to allow drug use and drug testing at music festivals is flawed and dangerous, and is primarily being used by drug-friendly groups as a wedge to normalise drug use. 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.

“In October, police confirmed that the concertgoers who were hospitalised in a critical condition during the Listen In event at Mt Smart Stadium had consumed MDMA. These drugs would have been given the ‘green light’ by drug testing,” says a spokesperson for the SayNopeToDope campaign.

“Pill testing cannot test for use of other drugs. Pill testing cannot test for individual allergic-like reactions. Pill testing onsite cannot test for dose. Pill testing is incapable of preventing home deaths. 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 and publicly acceptable.”

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. An important study of 392 Australian MDMA-related deaths between 2001 and 2018 found that it was either ecstasy itself, or ecstasy co-consumed with alcohol, cocaine or amphetamines that caused each death. 29% of the deaths were from accidents such as drownings or car accidents caused by ecstasy intoxication.  No deaths were from dangerous impurities or contaminants, and no deaths were nominated from other synthetic drugs mixed with MDMA in pills. A majority of deaths were from normal recreational doses of ecstasy, seeing as the science on MDMA indicates that ecstasy overdoses are rare.

As Australian Toxicologist Andrew Leibie, said in late-2017, “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.”

A recent study by Western Australia’s Edith Cowan University found that while first time users at festival might be more cautious, prior ecstasy users were only more likely to reduce their harm intentions if the ecstasy contained a toxic contaminant, not if the test revealed a high dose or an inconclusive result. The researchers said that this finding is important because some of the recent ecstasy-related deaths at festivals in Australia which have been linked to high doses of ecstasy. Additionally, if the participant was a prior ecstasy user who was also high in sensation seeking, then they were at the greatest risk of harm, even after participating in the pill test.

“At the same time as we encourage and adopt alcohol-free and smoke-free public events, having drug-free music festivals is a health and safety approach based on best practice. Testing won’t protect users because there is no such thing as a completely safe drug.”

“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’.”

Melvin Benn, Festival Republic’s managing director, UK’s largest festival organiser which organises Reading and Leeds Festivals, among others, saidDetermining 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.”

“Pill testing sounds well-intentioned, but behind the smokescreen 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,” says a spokesperson for the SayNopeToDope campaign.

Cannabis Use Continues To Rise in States Where Legal

Media Release 20 December 2019
The latest data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most authoritative study on drug use conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), has found that cannabis use in “legal” US states among youth, young adults, and the general population has continued its upward trend. Additionally, use rates in “legal” states continue to drastically outstrip the use in states that have not legalised the drug.

Past-month marijuana use among young people aged 18-25 in “legal” states has increased 8% in the last year. Use in this age group is 50% higher in “legal” states than in non-legal states.

Past-month youth use (aged 12-17) in states with commercial sales continued its recent upward trend. Since last year, “legal” Washington experienced the largest surge in past month youth use with an 11% increase. Colorado experienced a 4% increase.

Past-month youth use in “legal” states is 40% higher than in non-legal states. And past-year youth use in “legal” states is roughly 30% higher than in non-legal states.

First-time youth use in “legal” states is 30% higher than non-legal states.

“Despite the claims of pro-cannabis lobbyists that legalisation will not affect young adult and youth use, the data show that with legalisation and normalisation, people are radically increasing their rate of consumption,” says a spokesperson for the SayNopeToDope campaign.

“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.”

“Drug advocates are desperate to institute their addiction-for-profit model. It’s time to end this reckless push once and for all.


A Flawed Reefer-endum

The government has released its proposed law for legalising cannabis for recreational use (i.e. the right to get high). Voters will be asked: “Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?”

We would probably make the question “Do you support Cannabis Legalisation and Normalisation?


  1. It will be legal to grow cannabis for personal use

The problem with private homes being used as ‘grows’ is that dope dealers will simply stay under the radar with multi-location grows, and children will be exposed to the industry – right in their backyard. They also want to allow “social sharing”. Yeah – let’s get the whole neighbourhood high!

14 grams can be carried – or purchased each 24 hours (not sure how they police that?) – that’s anywhere from 20 – 40 joints, every day!!

Any person will be allowed to grow two plants for personal use, to a limit of four per household. (Non-expert growers might expect to yield, at most, about 140 grams of cannabis flower per plant.) These limits will be hard to police.

Home grows are simply a form of black market. They avoid any regulation. Who is going to monitor what a local drug dealer is growing in their backyards?

  1. SmokeFree – but a joint or edible in the home is fine

Imagine what example this sets to young people and children about drug use. And of course, as mentioned above, the whole neighbourhood can join in the party.

  1. ‘Gummy bear heaven’ – all the products that Big Marijuana wants

Unlike Canada, edibles will be immediately legal (and many of these products are targeted at young people – irrespective of whether it’s legal for them or not). And every other jurisdiction has been engulfed – either through the legal market (Colorado, California), or through the black market (Uruguay, Canada) – with edibles. The market share of bud has fallen and the market share of THC-infused edibles and THC concentrates continues to rise.

  1. The police will be just as busy – if not busier

A regulatory authority will be created to manage the licensing system, and it will be expected to work with any law enforcement agencies. That means checking every home grow, every user for their age, testing all potencies, licensed premises, management of associated waste products, offences and penalties for non-compliance  – the list goes on.

  1. This is a proposed bill which could be changed by an incoming government

Voters really don’t or won’t know the ultimate outcome of what legalisation will look like. After the election, the incoming Government will need to follow a process to introduce a Bill to Parliament that would make recreational use of cannabis legal. This process would include the opportunity for the public to share their thoughts and ideas on how the law might work.

  1. Drug dealers will be able to become drug dealers

Having a criminal conviction will not prevent a person from having a licence to sell cannabis.

  1. The ‘black market’ will be celebrating. 

* limitations on the potency of cannabis – including dabs (wax)
* age limits (didn’t hear the Greens wanting the voting age to be lifted to 20?)
* limited availability of product
* an increasing market for vaping (which has no mention in the legislation – despite its prevalence and health concerns in the US!)

8. Pot shop by your local school or kindy?

There appears to be no restrictions on the location of pot shops.


Police concerns

  • One of the proposed benefits is to free up police resources but that is not actually the case. And If it was be to more closely monitored, that would put more demand on police.
  • Tax and pricing could be a problem. If you can’t drive that price down, that is not going to get rid of the black market.
  • There were some concerns from members about breaching the legal grow limits, which would be hard to police.
  • There was also some confusion around the purchase limits of 14g a day. Unless you have a database, how are you ever going to police that.
  • Members were also concerned that a law would support the idea that it was ok to use cannabis and that it was not harmful

To be updated as we analyse it further…..

Troubled Portugal Bad Example For Drug Advocates in NZ

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

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

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

“For years, and especially recently, we have heard that Portugal’s decriminalisation is the perfect model of marijuana legislation. Ironically, the referendum in 2020 is about legalisation, not decriminalisation,” says a spokesperson for the SayNopeToDope campaign.

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

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

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

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

Further reading:


Latest Colorado Report Shows Ongoing Disaster of Marijuana

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

According to the report,

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

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

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

Vaping Epidemic Is Big Dream For Big Marijuana

Media Release 19 September 2019
The SayNopeToDope Campaign says that the health concerns and costs around vaping will be far greater if cannabis is legalised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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