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Step Closer to Roadside Cannabis Testing

Technology Networks 31 March 2020
Family First Comment: Good news – especially if NZ makes foolish decision to legalise dope.

“Scientists now report that they are one step closer to a convenient saliva test for measuring cannabis levels at roadside stops. “People have the perception that driving after smoking marijuana is safer than driving drunk, but both substances can have similar effects, such as slowed reaction time, diminished alertness and reduced self-awareness. This is an emerging field, but preliminary clinical reports suggest that anywhere above 1 to 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is considered a level of impairment.””

In the U.S., those who consume alcohol and drive are often subjected to roadside stops, breathalyzer tests and stiff penalties if their blood alcohol content exceeds certain limits. Currently, no such test exists for cannabis intoxication, although the substance is known to impair driving, among other activities. Scientists now report that they are one step closer to a convenient saliva test for measuring cannabis levels at roadside stops.

The researchers are presenting their results through the American Chemical Society (ACS) SciMeetings online platform.

A brand-new video on the research is available at www.acs.org/philly-2020-thc.

“People have the perception that driving after smoking marijuana is safer than driving drunk, but both substances can have similar effects, such as slowed reaction time, diminished alertness and reduced self-awareness,” says Shalini Prasad, Ph.D., who led the study. However, unlike alcohol, the blood level of the psychoactive compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that constitutes impairment has not been well characterized. “This is an emerging field, but preliminary clinical reports suggest that anywhere above 1 to 15 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is considered a level of impairment,” Prasad says.

As more U.S. states decriminalize marijuana, law enforcement agencies are grappling with how to keep the roads safe from drivers who are high. Blood tests for THC, while accurate, are time-consuming and invasive, and many police officers lack the skills to perform such tests at roadside stops. Some researchers are working on devices that measure THC levels in breath (similar to a breathalyzer for alcohol), but according to Prasad, levels of the substance are low in breath, requiring extensive, error-prone data processing to filter out effects of other compounds. Because THC in saliva correlates closely with that in blood, Prasad and colleagues wanted to develop a simple, quick and accurate saliva test for the compound.

To do so, the researchers, who are at the University of Texas at Dallas, engineered THC sensor strips and an electronic reader. The sensor strips, which contained two electrodes, were coated with an antibody that binds THC so that the substance could be isolated from the many other compounds in saliva. “We used the antibody so that we could really only look at the needle in the haystack,” Prasad says. To perform the test, the researchers added a tiny drop of human saliva spiked with THC to the strip and inserted it into the electronic reader, which applied a specific voltage. When THC attached to the antibody, the electrical current changed because of polarization that occurred between the interacting antibody and THC surfaces. The e-reader converted these data into THC concentration.
READ MORE: https://www.technologynetworks.com/applied-sciences/news/step-closer-to-roadside-cannabis-testing-332741

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Cannabis users encouraged to take a break over lockdown period due to COVID-19 health risks

NewsHub 31 March 2020
Family First Comment: The health risks were already there before the coronavirus! Users are now just more at risk. Time to go DrugFree – for health’s sake.

Stoners are being told to ease up on the weed over the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, with scientists saying the health risks are significant.

Dr Marta Rychert, a senior research officer at Massey University’s SHORE and Whariki Research Centre says around five percent of New Zealand’s population uses cannabis as medication.

“People who self-medicate with cannabis are the most vulnerable in the terms of COVID-19,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

“They are older than recreational users and often suffer from multiple health problems.”

A recent survey by SHORE showed the most popular way to use marijuana was to smoke it.

“Smoking presents unique risks in the context of COVID-19 due to the impacts on lung function.”

People who self medicate using oils or tinctures will not suffer the same ill effects.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/03/cannabis-users-encouraged-to-take-a-break-over-lockdown-period-due-to-covid-19-health-risks.html
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New study shows a third of Kiwi students have tried vaping

TVNZ One News 31 March 2020
Family First Comment: And if we legalise cannabis and put out the welcome mat to the marijuana vaping market, we’ll be in big trouble!
Teenagers are being attracted to products such as vaping and dabbing high THC products.
#addiction #healthharms #saynopetodope

A new study shows about a third of Kiwi high school students have tried vaping, but two thirds of those had never smoked tobacco.

The study was carried out by researchers from four New Zealand universities in 2019, and included 7700 adolescents aged between 13-18 in 52 Auckland, Northland and Waikato schools.

The universities involved in the research were the University of Auckland, Victoria University Wellington, University of Otago and AUT.

Vaping has been recommended as an alternative to smoking tobacco by the Government and health agencies, but they are trying to steer away from people taking up vaping if they are not already smokers – especially young people.

About ten per cent of the students surveyed said they vaped regularly, and six per cent said they vape weekly or more often.

Males were more likely to vape than females, and students from lower decile schools were more likely than those from higher decile schools.

Researchers cited a recent New Zealand study which showed the long-term decline in smoking among Year 10 students, which began in 2000, had stalled in 2015, and that it may even be reversing.
READ MORE: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/new-study-shows-third-kiwi-students-have-tried-vaping

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THC – Harmful even at low doses?

National Families in Action 25 March 2020
Family First Comment: Last week’s issue of The Lancet Psychiatry published a meta-analysis of 15 studies that demonstrate a single dose of THC induces positive (including delusions and hallucinations), negative (such as blunted affect and amotivation), and general (including depression and anxiety) psychiatric symptoms. “These findings highlight the acute risks of cannabis use, which are highly relevant as medical, societal, and political interest in cannabinoids continues to grow,” say the researchers.


Last week’s issue of The Lancet Psychiatry published a meta-analysis of 15 studies that demonstrate a single dose of THC induces positive (including delusions and hallucinations), negative (such as blunted affect and amotivation), and general (including depression and anxiety) psychiatric symptoms.

CBD does not induce such symptoms, nor does it moderate the effects of THC as is commonly believed.

“These findings highlight the acute risks of cannabis use, which are highly relevant as medical, societal, and political interest in cannabinoids continues to grow,” say the researchers. The findings “highlight the potential risks associated with the use of cannabis and other cannabinoids that contain THC for recreational or therapeutic purposes.”

This week’s issue contains a commentary which concludes, “There is sufficient evidence to warn people that using THC could increase their risk of developing psychiatric symptoms or even a psychotic illness.”

Read “Psychiatric symptoms caused by cannabis constituents: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” (full text) in The Lancet Psychiatry here.
Read “THC – Harmful even at low doses?” in this week’s issue here.

Big cannabis in the UK: is industry support for wider patient access motivated by promises of recreational market worth billions?

BMJ 18 March 2020
Family First Comment: The British Medical Journal has uncovered links between companies, campaign groups, and individuals lobbying for wider patient access to cannabis for medical use and a parallel campaign to create a lucrative recreational market for the drug in the UK.

We always said to ‘follow the money’.

We need a similar investigation in New Zealand.

The BMJ has uncovered links between companies, campaign groups, and individuals lobbying for wider patient access to cannabis for medical use and a parallel campaign to create a lucrative recreational market for the drug in the UK, Jonathan Gornall reports

When Charlotte Caldwell arrived at Heathrow on 11 June 2018 with a six month supply of cannabis medication to treat her son Billy’s epilepsy, it was no coincidence that journalists and TV crews were on hand for the press conference that followed the inevitable seizure of the drug by customs officers.
READ MORE: https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1002

Why is the tobacco industry supporting wider access to medical cannabis?
News Medical 18 March 2020
A new study published in the BMJ reveals disturbing connections between organizations and groups that are lobbying for broader access to medical cannabis and those who are fighting for the legalization of recreational cannabis. This raises questions as to the reasons behind the industry’s support for measures that will make it easier for patients to gain access to medical cannabis – is it because of the knowledge that by so doing, they will also be able to market the drug for recreational use in the UK?

The projected market for medical cannabis in the UK is estimated to be $1.3 billion, while that of recreational cannabis is thought to be still more significant, at about $1.7 billion.

Linkages between recreational and medical cannabis promoters
The study report has two parts and is authored by investigative journalist Jonathan Gornall for the BMJ. The first part deals with the nexus between the commercial groups that are campaigning to allow new markets to be opened for recreational cannabis and those individuals or patient groups that are working for a broader range of access to cannabis for medical use.

One such example he cites is that of Steve Moore, who was formerly the CEO of the Big Society Initiative headed by David Cameron. Moore helped Charlotte Caldwell, the mother of a severely epileptic boy called Billy Caldwell, to fly to Canada to obtain medical cannabis for her son from a company called Tilray. However, when she flew back, the drug was seized at customs – a predictable outcome that was duly captured in the press and used to promote the legalization argument. Moore has helped to promote Caldwell’s case. However, his interest in cannabis is not just to ensure it can be used medically in a broader setting.

Moore is also a strategic counsel for the Center for Medicinal Cannabis, which is a trade organization representing businesses and investors that deal with medicinal cannabis products. It has members such as the Supreme Cannabis Company, a Canada-based organization. Again, he is strategic counsel for Volteface, which is an advocacy group that was founded in 2017, to campaign for the legalization of recreational cannabis. Volteface and the Center for Medicinal Cannabis are the brainchildren of and are funded by Paul Birch, while Tilray’s chief executive was once an advisor to Volteface. Birch has said he supports both medicinal and recreational cannabis use. At the same time, Moore suggests the legalization of cannabis would not benefit any legal cannabis companies, nor is the government considering such reforms. However, the moves made by their organizations and by big cannabis companies do not support this view.

The implications of these connections
Ian Gilmore, who directs the Liverpool Centre for Alcohol Research, has sympathy for the plight of patients who would like to exploit the medical effects of cannabis and cannabis extracts in their particular situations, but cannot because it is not legally available.

On the other hand, says Gilmore, there is the ever-present danger that false arguments from third parties will prompt such a move to legalize recreational cannabis. In his words, “We must not drift into the situation we found ourselves in with tobacco and alcohol, where global companies seeking to maximize their markets distorted the arguments, often through third parties. We must protect patients from having groups with conflicts of interest, building up unrealistic hopes.”

Psychiatrist Marta Di Forti, who serves on the government task force to review the safety and effectiveness of cannabis in the treatment of pain, says she is unhappy about this association of patient cannabis groups and commercial cannabis companies. Her main concern is that this kind of lobbying could result in obtaining medicinal cannabis for many more medical conditions for which there is limited or no evidence of its efficacy.

The problem with the current conversation on the medical use of cannabis is that it is making it easier and more normal to talk about cannabis in all kinds of settings where it would have been unacceptable earlier. This shift is acknowledged and welcomed by Stephen Murray, the executive director of Prohibition Partners. This is a private investment organization based in the UK, bent on making cannabis “more accessible and acceptable.” Murray observes that big investors in the corporate world are now becoming more and more involved in the spectrum of business opportunities that cannabis offers.

The parent company of Murray’s firm, European Cannabis Holdings, recently split into a media wing and the Lyphe group of medical cannabis clinics, besides a medical cannabis ‘academy’ for clinicians, and an import-distribution company. The Lyphe group is also involved with Drug Science, headed by David Nutt, a sacked chairperson of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Drug Science is behind Project Twenty21, a huge trial of cannabis for seven different conditions from anxiety disorder to Tourette’s syndrome, to provide “largest body of evidence for the effectiveness and tolerability of medical cannabis” – but without a randomized controlled trial format, rather a general health questionnaire.

Links between tobacco and medical cannabis research
The second part of the report deals with the investigation of how the tobacco industry is funding research into medicinal cannabis. Here, Gornall examines the intricate network that has been woven between big commercial firms and the drive to legalize medical cannabis.

In this second part, he uses Gavin Sathianathan as an example of the “new breed of cannabis entrepreneur.” Sathianathan is both the founder and the main shareholder of a private limited company based out of London, called Alta Flora, which markets “wellness products from natural sources.” In addition, he is one of the trustees managing United Patients Alliance (UPA), which is a cannabis support group led by patients; the chief executive of Forma Holdings which is an investment fund specializing in cannabis; and co-founder as well as director of Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, which is a collaborative research effort including Oxford Universities.

Among these companies, Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies is funded in part by Casa Verde Capital; an American venture capital firm co-founded by Snoop Dogg, US rapper, and influential promoter of recreational cannabis, and Imperial Brands (formerly known as Imperial Tobacco), the giant tobacco company. In defense, Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies’ spokesperson says that Imperial Brands holds only a small percentage of the company’s value and that the firm will not be interested in the UK recreational cannabis market even if restrictions in that country are relaxed.

Twisting the narrative
However, Marta Di Forti is not convinced. She remembers the story of how tobacco and alcohol companies fed their own skewed version of facts to the public and the medical establishment through paid research and managed to get away with actively peddling deadly and addictive substances to young and old alike for decades before their bluff was called.

Calling the fact that Imperial owns any stock in this cannabis research firm “dreadful and shocking”, Di Forti says, “It is always very dangerous to forget history and we are now seeing the sort of connections that we have seen happening before. We are lacking in funding for cannabis research from independent organizations such as the Wellcome Trust or the Medical Research Council. The result will be that more and more, you are going to see even prestigious and reputable academic institutions accepting money from some of these companies.”

Ian Gilmore supports this stance: “It is vital that there is complete transparency in those making the case and supporting patient groups. We must not drift into the situation we found ourselves in with tobacco and alcohol, where global companies seeking to maximize their markets distorted the arguments, often through third parties. We must protect patients from having groups with conflicts of interest, building up unrealistic hopes.”
https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200318/Why-is-the-tobacco-industry-supporting-wider-access-to-medical-cannabis.aspx

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SAY NOPE TO DOPE: Vincent’s story – As an ex-cannabis user, I’ll be voting NO.

Starting off with cannabis as a young person in West Auckland, Vincent’s weekend use became everyday use. And then became all day use. He’d do what was called wake and bake & go to work high. And then get high at lunchtime. And get high when he got home. It was a gateway drug to LSD, methamphetamine, cocaine, synthetic cannabis and opioid abuse.

“As an ex cannabis user, I’ll be voting no. I do want this cycle to stop. I don’t want my children to have to go through what I had. I don’t want my children to be told that cannabis is safe. I want my kids to have every opportunity that I should have got.”

“The destruction of relationships, the laziness & procrastination, the loss of dreams & ambitions & opportunities that go with it. I love being drug free – I wish I’d done it a lot sooner.”

“I’d encourage everybody else that doesn’t use cannabis and doesn’t want to see the detrimental effects on society to vote no.”
#saynopetodope
VoteNO.nz

‘The legal stuff is garbage’: why Canada’s cannabis black market keeps thriving

The Guardian 18 March 2020
Family First Comment: The black market flourishes in legalised places:
“The government’s pot is too expensive. The government doesn’t show you a picture of what you’re buying before you buy it, so you cannot be informed as a consumer. The government weed has been full of bugs, mouldy or too dry in some cases, and often takes too long to get there,” one user said. “The legal stuff is garbage,” said another Reddit user. A third said: “Friends don’t let friends smoke government weed.” Canadian government survey results released last month found that 40% of the country’s marijuana consumers admit to having obtained the drug illegally since legalisation.

North America’s biggest companies have seen their market values lose billions, prompting comparisons to dotcom bust

Cannabis may be legal in Vancouver but visitors looking to score are likely to run into a seemingly counterintuitive suggestion: try the black market.

Recreational marijuana was legalised across Canada in October 2018. And yet on Reddit, the specialist forum website used by millions every day, many of Vancouver’s cannabis connoisseurs still swear by their underground supply.

This is one of the major issues facing North America’s marijuana companies, which experts say are in the midst of a dotcom-style market crash.

Canada and 11 US states have legalised recreational use of the drug, and a little over a year ago companies that cultivate and sell cannabis were seen by investors as one of the hottest tickets in town. Now billions of dollars have been wiped off the market values of the industry’s largest companies.

The North American Marijuana Index, which tracks listed firms in the sector, has plummeted about 80% in the last year and is at its lowest value since 2016, before much legalisation had taken place.
READ MORE: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/18/cannabis-canada-legal-recreational-business
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9 students at Commerce City middle school taken to hospital after ingesting marijuana edibles

Fox News Denver 9 March 2020
Family First Comment: The consequences of legalisation 
“ “It’s important that kids know that not everyone is using marijuana. Oftentimes, children think, ‘Everyone’s doing it, so I should too.'”

Eleven middle school students at Adams City Middle School in Commerce City consumed THC on Monday, sparking a criminal investigation, officials said. Most of the students were sent to a hospital.

A spokesman for Adams 14 School District said the affected students were disoriented and vomiting. School officials called for emergency services shortly before 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Eleven students consumed what officials describe as marijuana-infused candy.

Nine of the 11 students were put on ambulances and taken to a hospital for observation. Two were well enough to be released to their parents.

“No one was, at any time, in any life-threatening danger,” said district spokesman John Poynton.

Experts say youth THC use remains flat. But for children who do use marijuana, surveys show more are turning to edibles.

“When you take high-THC marijuana-concentrated oil and you combine that with candy, you’re asking for trouble,” said Henny Lasley with Smart Colorado.

Smart Colorado is an advocacy group for children. It was created following marijuana legalization in Colorado.
READ MORE: https://kdvr.com/news/local/8-students-at-commerce-city-middle-school-taken-to-hospital-after-ingesting-unknown-substance/

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New Zealand an attractive target for cartels in war against meth

Stuff co.nz 10 March 2020
Family First Comment: “We need to continue to disrupt the organised crime group and take their assets. We need to demonstrate to these organisations that organised crime activity won’t be tolerated in New Zealand, and it is simply not worth it. But on the other end we need to work with our communities to address the problem of addiction.” – Detective Constable Blair MacDonald, manager of the National Drug Intelligence Bureau (NDIB).
Exactly, but don’t legalise it. That would be a public health and societal disaster.

Almost 1.8 tonnes of methamphetamine was seized in New Zealand last year, yet the drug continues to dominate the illicit substance abuse market. Are we losing the war against meth? MARINÉ LOURENS reports.

“I didn’t even know what meth was until family members introduced me to it. They were dealers and they were like, ‘You have to try this!’ I guess it was peer pressure. And when I tried it, it was really good. At first I didn’t think I was addicted, but then I started using more and more.”

Melanie* was 33 years old when she first used methamphetamine. What was first a novelty quickly became a habit. It wasn’t long until she was using the drug a few times a week.

But it is a slippery slope to rock bottom. Melanie ended up on the street after losing her house, her furniture and custody of her children before she realised she needed to seek help.

She has now been clean for more than a year.

Melanie is one of thousands of New Zealanders who has fallen victim to the surge of meth across the country.

A record amount of meth was seized by New Zealand law enforcement agencies in 2019 – just under 1.8 tonnes.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/119876871/new-zealand-an-attractive-target-for-cartels-in-war-against-meth

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Harete Hipango: Cannabis decriminalisation safer option to legalisation

NZ Herald 4 March 2020
Family First Comment: Excellent commentary by National MP Harete Hipango…
“This is the reality of the people and communities I have worked amidst throughout my almost 30 years in criminal, family, youth, child welfare and mental health law. Do I have a bias? Most definitely.
Cannabis addiction is a pre-cursor to ongoing and intensified harm, domestic and social problems, family violence, intra and inter-familial issues, mental health afflictions and inter-generational cyclical manifestations.”

The Whanganui Science Forum organised a public meeting last Tuesday as an opportunity to share views with the public – views from divergent speakers and contexts on the potentially soon to be smokin’ and hot topic of cannabis.

As the election approaches, so too does the referendum, where voters will be asked whether or not they support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill.

There are two things worth pointing out – one, this bill (and debate) is different from the Medicinal Cannabis Bill which was passed into law last December, and two, decriminalising and legalising are two very different issues with their own implications.

I support decriminalising – in other words, users/consumers of small amounts of cannabis for personal use are exempt from criminal conviction, which has enduring consequences for many.

I am yet to be persuaded by and convinced of a robust and plausible argument in favour of the legalisation of recreational cannabis.

Cannabis is used by people from all socio-economic backgrounds, and while some consume it for “recreation”, others become dependent on and captive to it.

The “recreational” users – those who use for leisure and temporary sensory pleasure (often associated with higher socio-economic classes and/or “white privilege”), are not the same type of users as those most prone or predisposed to addiction – the need/desire to escape reality of economic and/or societal hardships and prejudice.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/wanganui-chronicle/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503426&objectid=12313388

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