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Large number of New Zealanders unclear on the health effects associated with cannabis use, new reports says

TVNZ One News 12 December 2019
Family First Comment: “Those at most risk from the effects of cannabis he says are people under the age of 25, pregnant women and those with mental health issues. He says in those under the age of 25, clearly cannabis appears to change the way the brain develops and in pregnant women, cannabis crosses the placenta and will affect unborn babies. From a mental health perspective, if people under the age of 25 are taking cannabis, we increase the risk of problems like schizophrenia or psychosis.”
So why isn’t this academic on the Prime Minister’s Expert Panel?!!
Views unacceptable?

Ahead of next year’s cannabis referendum, a new report has highlighted the many unknowns New Zealanders face ahead of making an informed decision regarding cannabis use.

The report out today by the Royal Society Te Apārangi outlines the health impacts of cannabis, the benefits, harms and unknowns.

The referendum will take place at the 2020 General Election and voters will be asked: “Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?” Voters will have to give a yes or no answer.

An expert who contributed to the report, Professor Giles Newton-Howes says there are a host of unknowns around the impact of cannabis use.

“I think there is a lot to learn,” he says.

“We know a little bit about some things and not much about an awful lot of things, and so as a doctor that’s difficult when we are thinking about cannabis as a medicine,” he told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

Professor Newton-Howes who works in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago says there is reasonable and high-quality evidence that cannabis-based medicines are useful in two types of rare childhood epilepsies, as well as spasticity and muscle problems associated with multiple sclerosis.

He says there might be value in other areas such as nausea and vomiting in HIV and chronic pain conditions.

“But the evidence in these areas is much, much weaker and so it makes it much more difficult to know how do we translate that evidence and apply it to New Zealanders.”
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/large-number-new-zealanders-unclear-health-effects-associated-cannabis-use-reports-says
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Government makes drug court permanent in justice shake-up

NZ Herald 12 December 2019
Family First Comment: This is good. Courts that take a health approach and know the best way to deal with drug addiction and drug lifestyles.
BUT that involves the coercion of the law to force them to take the action necessary to change their ways AND it doesn’t involve legalising drugs!

Specialist drug and alcohol courts in Auckland will be made permanent and a new one will be opened in Hamilton, Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced as part of a pre-election-year promise for major reform of the justice system.

Releasing two independent reports that deeply criticise the sector, Little on Thursday said the Government would embark on a “new direction” in the criminal justice system in a bid to tackle reoffending and incarceration rates.

“Thirty years of locking more people up for longer has not changed reoffending rates nor made communities safer,” Little said.

“The old ways have failed us. They have resulted in too little rehabilitation and therefore more crime, while not doing enough to support victims.”

While large-scale and long-term change is being promised, Little on Thursday announced the two current Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Courts in Auckland and Waitākere would immediately be made permanent.

The Government will also fund a new, third court in Hamilton – with Little promising it would open next year.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?objectid=12293029&ref=twitter

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Marijuana most common drug found in drivers involved in fatal Massachusetts crashes

Boston Herald 14 August 2019
Family First Comment: Cannabis was found in 175 — 31% — of the 572 drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2017, according to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. AAA has been warning of the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis since Massachusetts voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016.

Marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in drivers involved in fatal Massachusetts crashes from 2013 to 2017, according to the Baker administration, which launched an impaired-driving campaign Wednesday targeted at young men.

“People may think they can drive safely using cannabis, alcohol or other drugs,” said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, “but the research just doesn’t support it.”

Cannabis was found in 175 — 31% — of the 572 drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2013 to 2017, according to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. Benzodiazepine was found in 49 drivers, fentanyl in 44, cocaine in 36, morphine in 25, buprenorphine in 20, and oxycodone and benzoylecgonine in 18 each.

The campaign’s announcement does not address how long marijuana can remain in a person’s system, a period that can range from up to 36 hours in blood to up to 90 days in hair, according to American Addiction Centers.

The number of drivers involved in a fatal crash who were both alcohol-impaired and had drugs in their system increased by 63%, from 35 to 57, over the five-year period, and 78% of impaired drivers in fatal crashes were men.

“The height of the summer travel season is an opportunity for us to remind motorists about the dangers of impaired driving,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement. “Research and data show that many people do not understand or believe the link between using marijuana and impaired driving, so this campaign is designed specifically to address these myths.”
READ MORE: https://www.bostonherald.com/2019/08/14/marijuana-most-common-drug-found-in-drivers-involved-in-fatal-massachusetts-crashes/

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Feeling burned: The first year of legal cannabis has been a complete disaster for investors

Financial Post 9 October 2019
Family First Comment: Some fascinating statements out of Canada – bursting the bubble
“Prior to legalisation, cannabis stocks soared on the promise of massive growth and the tremendous momentum that retail investors brought as they poured into the sector. Now that excitement has been drained, and it is unlikely to return…
“Legalisation played out like a classic “buy the rumour, sell the news” situation. In retrospect, there were warning signs that legalisation could be a disappointment.”

The legalization of cannabis in Canada was supposed to be a catalyst — the most powerful one yet, investors and analysts alike thought — that would launch companies in the young but potent industry to new heights. Instead, nearly one year later, it has been a nightmare.

Since recreational cannabis became legal on Oct. 17, 2018, the shares of what were then the 10 largest Canadian cannabis producers by market capitalization have been bludgeoned, yielding an average negative return of more than 57 per cent for investors.

Tilray Inc. alone has lost more than $14 billion in market cap, and Aurora Cannabis Inc. has shed $6.8 billion. Six of the Top 10 have lost at least half their value, with scandal-plagued CannTrust Holdings Inc. suffering such resounding losses that it no longer appears in the list. Of the 10, only Cronos Group Inc.’s market cap has grown over the past 12 months, though its share price has declined, like those of all the others on the list.

Prior to legalization, cannabis stocks soared on the promise of massive growth and the tremendous momentum that retail investors brought as they poured into the sector. Now that excitement has been drained, said Richardson GMP portfolio manager Chris Kerlow, and it is unlikely to return.

“A psychological shift has take place from everyone wanting to own (cannabis) to everyone involved now feeling burned,” he said. “I think many investors are now over (cannabis).”
READ MORE: https://business.financialpost.com/cannabis/cannabis-business/cannabis-investing/feeling-burned-the-first-year-of-legal-cannabis-has-been-a-complete-disaster-for-investors
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Primary school children vaping backs need for action, principals say

Stuff co.nz 9 December 2019
Family First Comment: “A child turned up with a vape that he took from home … and was discovered trying to experiment with it with some of his friends. Nelson principals were concerned that vaping products were being marketed as harmless alternatives to smoking. The message about cigarettes has been heard fairly loud and clear, but vaping is not seen in the same light at all at this point.”
Significantly, the proposed cannabis legislation makes NO mention of vaping products – despite the chaos happening in US states with THC-vaping.

Nelson school principals are criticising delays to regulation of the vaping industry, after children at a primary school were caught with a vaping device.

The president of the Hieke-Nelson Principals’ Association, Peter Verstappen, said the incident happened at a local primary school last month.

“A child turned up with a vape that he took from home … and was discovered trying to experiment with it with some of his friends.”

Verstappen couldn’t recall students having ever taken cigarettes into school, in his 12 years as principal at two primary schools.

Nelson principals were concerned that vaping products were being marketed as harmless alternatives to smoking.

“The message about cigarettes has been heard fairly loud and clear, but vaping is not seen in the same light at all at this point.”
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/117737986/primary-school-children-vaping-backs-need-for-action-principals-say

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Police concerned cannabis reform can’t be policed, won’t shut out gangs from black market

Stuff co.nz 6 December 2019
Family First Comment: Read all the concerns from the police – and then ask yourself, who’s opinion do you trust more? The Police who deal with this every day, OR Chloe, Andrew, Helen and the Drug Foundation.
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
#saynopetodope

Police are raising concerns about how cannabis would be legalised if there’s a yes vote at next year’s referendum, and if gangs will really be shut out of the market.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the details of the cannabis bill to be voted on in next year’s referendum, and a new government website to provide information on both the cannabis and End of Life Choice referendum being held in 2020.

Personal possession of 14 grams of cannabis, the sale of cannabis edibles, and growing up to four cannabis plants per household, are all included in the bill, which the public will be asked to vote “yes or no” at the 2020 general election.

New Zealanders could buy the equivalent of 42 joints each day under the draft law to legalise cannabis use.

The New Zealand Police Association President Chris Cahill said, without a doubt, there would be challenges for cops and he questioned if they would even bother policing it.

Cahill has just returned from a trip to Canada, where cannabis has been legal for about one year.

The reality was that police in New Zealand, just like in Canada, did not spend a lot of time investigating cannabis supply because there were so many other drugs, Cahill said.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117981753/police-concerned-cannabis-reform-can-not-be-policed-and-shut-out-gangs-from-black-market

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Drug-Induced Psychoses May Signal Substantial Schizophrenia Risk

Psychcongress.com 6 November 2019
Family First Comment: “More than a third of people who experienced psychosis with cannabis use later transitioned to schizophrenia, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

More than a third of people who experienced psychosis with cannabis use later transitioned to schizophrenia, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published online in Schizophrenia Bulletin.

Similarly, schizophrenia transition risk among people who experienced psychosis from hallucinogen or amphetamine use was also considerable.

“These findings have important implications for mental health care and services. Substance-induced psychoses are common reasons for seeking mental health care,” a Psychiatric News Alert quoted from the study. “Yet despite this, people with substance-induced psychoses are often excluded from early psychosis services or assertive mental health care due to a perception that these are benign or self-limiting conditions.”

Cannabinoids Not Justified as Mental Health Treatment, Study Says

The meta-analysis spanned 50 studies which provided 79 estimates of transition to schizophrenia among 40,783 people with substance-induced, brief, or atypical psychoses. Some 25 of the studies, which included 34,244 people, had substance-specific estimates.

Overall, 25% of people who experienced substance-induced psychosis transitioned to schizophrenia, researchers reported. The rate of transition for people who transitioned to schizophrenia after brief, atypical, or not-otherwise-specified psychoses was 36%.

The highest rates of transition to schizophrenia were associated with cannabis-induced psychosis (34%), hallucinogen-induced psychosis (26%), and amphetamine-induced psychosis (22%), according to the study. Transition rates were lower when drug-induced psychosis was associated with opioids (12%), alcohol (10%), and sedatives (9%).

“Substance-induced psychoses associated with cannabis, hallucinogens, and amphetamines have a substantial risk of transition to schizophrenia,” researchers wrote, “and should be a focus for assertive psychiatric intervention.”
https://www.psychcongress.com/article/drug-induced-psychoses-may-signal-substantial-schizophrenia-risk

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Scientists Discover New Link Between Marijuana Smoking And Testicular Cancer Risk

Science Alert 4 December 2019
Family First Comment: Another good reason to avoid dope
“The study found that men who smoked one marijuana cigarette, or joint, daily for 10 years or more had an estimated 36 percent increased risk of developing testicular cancer compared with men who had never smoked the substance.”

There’s new evidence that a daily marijuana-smoking habit could increase your risk of testicular cancer.

study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open found that men who smoked one marijuana cigarette, or joint, daily for 10 years or more had an estimated 36 percent increased risk of developing testicular cancer compared with men who had never smoked the substance.

To come to their conclusion, researchers analysed 25 studies that looked at the link between marijuana use and testicular cancer, lung cancer, oral cancer, and head and neck cancer.

Though the researchers found no association between regular marijuana use and lung, neck, or oral cancer, they did find that regular weed smoking over many years could heighten a man’s risk of testicular cancer.

Smoking marijuana releases cancer-causing substances
Like smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana releases carcinogens, or substances that can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

That’s because cannabis, the plant marijuana is derived from, is like any other plant in that it burns and releases smoke when you light it, according to Dr. Jeffrey Chen, the director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative.

“When you combust any plant, you’re creating significantly more carcinogens,” Chen previously told Insider.
READ MORE: https://www.sciencealert.com/men-who-smoke-marijuana-daily-may-be-more-likely-to-get-testicular-cancer

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Cannabis lollipops, soft drinks and protein powder could be on the market for Kiwis following cannabis referendum

NZ Herald 4 December 2019
Family First Comment: “But it is confectionery items like chocolates, lollipops, gummy lollies and soft drinks, that have raised the ire of Family First, with spokesman Bob McCoskrie saying such products could be targeted at children. Opposition lobby group Say Nope to Dope, of which Family First is a part, has run giant billboards throughout the year against the referendum, including a series featuring a deep green gummy bear smoking a joint.”

If the international market is anything to go by getting high off lollipops, gummy lollies, soft drinks and even protein powder could be an option following next year’s cannabis referendum.

The Government yesterday announced the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, designed to govern the recreational cannabis market should it come into effect.

The legislation specifies a minimum age of 20 to use or purchase a recreational cannabis product, and prohibits consumption in public spaces, among many other measures.

But two aspects have raised more questions than others – the inclusion of edible products, and a 14g carry limit.

In legal cannabis markets overseas cannabis edibles have gone well past the traditional brownies, to everything from protein powder, beer, and even THC-infused beef jerky.

But it is confectionery items like chocolates, lollipops, gummy lollies and soft drinks, that have raised the ire of Family First, with spokesman Bob McCoskrie saying such products could be targeted at children.

Opposition lobby group Say Nope to Dope, of which Family First is a part, has run giant billboards throughout the year against the referendum, including a series featuring a deep green gummy bear smoking a joint.

National’s drug and alcohol spokeswoman Paula Bennett said she was concerned about youth still accessing cannabis.

“Young people are still going to try it, but they will be getting it from the black market.”

In introducing the draft legislation, which will be open to submissions, Justice Minister Andrew Little said the primary objective was to “reduce overall cannabis use and limit the ability of young people to access cannabis”.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12290788

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Dr Terry Goldsworthy: Flawed Perceptions on Party Drugs Testing Police

Courier Mail (Aust) November 2019
Pill testing will not make our kids safer. As a former senior detective who spent more than 28 years in the frontline on the war against drugs, I am concerned by the calls for pill testing to be implemented and policing actions reduced in the wake of the NSW Coroner’s findings into the deaths of six young people at music festivals.

NSW Police Commissioner Mike Fuller is correct to resist such calls. The perception is that pill testing makes taking drugs safe for young kids. The reality is it doesn’t.

A number of toxicologists have highlighted concerns that current pill testing cannot identify pills that contain novel psychoactive substances. Quite simply, there is no hard evidence that pill testing saves lives.

Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, has said “demonstrating a clear reduction in deaths from pill testing was a real challenge”.

When this is put to the advocates, they say it is too hard to show and start talking about other pill-testing benefits that could and should be used as evidence, such as education and awareness.

Pill-testing advocates claim you will not be told at any stage that your drug is safe. Edith Cowan University addiction expert Stephen Bright has stated: “One of the biggest misconceptions around pill testing is that it will portray taking drugs as safe.” Ironically, the pilot project in Canberra was run by the Safety Testing Advisory Service At Festivals and Events (STA-SAFE) consortium. Perhaps aware of this fallacy, the same consortium changed its name to Pill Testing Australia for its second pilot in 2019.

Many of the supporters of pill testing laud the pilot study at the Groovin’ The Moo festival in Canberra in 2018 as an unmitigated success. But the devil is in detail. Of the 21,000 or so patrons who attended, only 83 patrons had their drugs tested – Less than .4 per cent.

Young people getting their drugs tested at the festival were forced to sign a legal waiver to access the pill-testing service. Signed forms were locked away immediately in a safety box. This gives some indication as to the level of confidence those providing the service had to ensure the safety of the young people they are servicing.

The waiver form finishes with the sage advice that the only way to guarantee, 100 per cent, that you are not harmed by consuming drugs is not to consume drugs. Isn’t that the whole premise of the war on drugs?

In reality, pill testing would not have saved the six young people who died. At least four of them took more than one tablet of MDMA or ecstasy. MDMA was found at toxic levels in all six people. At least four of the young people engaged in ploydrug use on the day of their death.

The fact that a death does not occur at an event with pill testing is not proof it works. It is not proof of causation; it is merely proof of correlation. The solution to deaths such as these is not to prevent the police from doing their duty, nor is it to put in place a pill-testing regime to give false confidence to young people as to their safety.

We need to make young people aware that with reckless actions can come deadly consequences, and that supposed harmless party drugs can never be rendered safe.

Dr Terry Goldsworthy is an Associate Professor at Bond University having previously worked as a Detective Inspector in the Queensland Police Service.