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Cannabis referendum: Andrew Little, Auckland University researchers trade barbs over NZ Government’s ‘unrealistic’ voting material

NewsHub 5 August 2020
Our additional comment: 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,” spokesman Aaron Ironside said. “Those against the legislation are arguing that legalisation will lead to more harm to people and communities, and this latest analysis backs our position.”
#votenopetodope

Andrew Little says a scientific review of the Government’s proposed cannabis legislation is anything but, after it suggested his ministry’s public information campaign about the referendum made “inflated and unrealistic” claims.

The Justice Minister on Wednesday issued a scathing takedown of the “evidence-based assessment and critique” of the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Regulation Bill, which was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal earlier this week.

The review was carried out by Benedikt Fischer and Dimitri Daldegan-Bueno, two members of Auckland University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, ahead of the cannabis legalisation and control referendum on September 19.

he study made a number of criticisms of the draft cannabis legislation, but Fischer and Daldegan-Bueno reserved their most scathing condemnation for the public information campaign run by the Ministry of Justice.

They wrote that the “political promises” laid out in the ministry’s resources – to eliminate the illegal supply of cannabis, restrict young people’s access to it and limit public visibility – were “inflated and unrealistic” and “unlikely to be achievable as stated”.

They also claimed the proposed Bill’s age limits were inconsistent with limits for other legal drug use, and that the laws as they stand could bring “substantial” health risks.

Anti-cannabis advocacy group Say Nope to Dope claimed a win after the review was published, calling it “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,” spokesman Aaron Ironside said.

“Those against the legislation are arguing that legalisation will lead to more harm to people and communities, and this latest analysis backs our position.”
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/cannabis-referendum-andrew-little-auckland-university-researchers-trade-barbs-over-nz-government-s-unrealistic-voting-material.html

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Drug-driver testing Bill passes first reading in Parliament

NewsHub 6 August 2020
A Bill giving the police power to conduct random roadside saliva drug testing has passed its first reading.

The Land Transport Amendment Bill will allow police to test if drivers are under the influence of drugs anywhere, anytime, as they do now for alcohol.

Drivers who test positive for the presence of drugs would be fined, immediately suspended from driving for 12 hours, and lose half of their demerit points.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said 103 people died in crashes last year where the driver was later found to have drugs in their system.

“These are preventable tragedies and we need to do more to stop drivers who are under the influence of drugs from choosing to drive. This Bill signifies our commitment to keeping road users safe from the problem of drug driving”, Genter said.

The Bill will go before a select committee after the election.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/08/drug-driver-testing-bill-passes-first-reading-in-parliament.html

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More education about cannabis needed, speakers tell Timaru

Stuff co.nz 4 August 2020
Our additional comment: “Aaron Ironside could not see how any new law which allowed a person to grow only two plants could be policed. Using statistics from other countries that had legalised the drug showed how usage and access by those under age had increased, he said. When it came to a business model addicts were the best customers, he said. “The reality of commercialisation is the total market grows. The black market and the legal market go into competition with each other.”
Yep!

New Zealand laws on cannabis use are not working, a public forum in Timaru on the Cannabis Legislation and Control Bill was told on Monday.

The forum’s five invited speakers were all in favour of decriminalisation and more education about the drug but disagreed on whether the bill was the way to do it as the country shapes to vote in a referendum on the issue on September 19.

The panellists, from a variety of backgrounds and opinions, put their views to more than 80 members of the public at the Gleniti Baptist Church event organised by the Timaru Christian Ministers’ Association to generate discussion ahead of the referendum.

Two panellists – research and policy consultant Dr Geoff Noller and Make it Legal NZ’s Mike Smith – were in favour and three – youth worker James Coyle, counsellor Aaron Ironside and registrar of rural hospital medicine Dr Natalie Cadzow – were against the bill.

Dr Noller said education had been stymied because it was illegal and it had also been hard to research it for the same reason. There were about 600,000 users in the country, he said.

The law as it stands was not a deterrent to usage with 95 per cent of those convicted continuing to use, Smith said, pointing out the bill, if implemented, could save $180 million in police resources.

“Those that disregard legalities are the most vulnerable,” Smith said.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/news/122337181/more-education-about-cannabis-needed-speakers-tell-timaru

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Kate Hawkesby: Legalising cannabis – why would we be so dumb?

NZ Herald 4 August 2020
Our additional comment: Well said, Kate
“Why are we playing with fire here? Why would we want to normalise this and pretend the harms aren’t real? Often the people arguing for cannabis legalisation are adult casual users, not young adolescents who’ll be most impacted by it. The casual pot-smoking luvvie may well buy or grow the legalised amounts and varieties, but the kids won’t. They’ll still seek out black market cannabis with dangerously high levels of THC, still propping up gang manufacture. So, what changes? The message. The message from the adults around them – and the government – that cannabis is OK. You legalise something, you normalise it.”

I was pleased to see some sense finally reported on the comparison between harm caused by alcohol versus that by cannabis.

A Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Youth Mental Health, from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dr Mary Cannon pointed out the argument – that alcohol is legal and more harmful to people than cannabis, therefore cannabis should be legal too – is redundant.

Or as the professor describes it, “a spurious argument along the lines of ‘would you rather be run over by a truck or a bus’.”

It’s a cop-out for pro-cannabis legalisation lobbyists to argue along these lines, because the one big elephant in the room is psychotic disorder.

Cannabis use is now the most powerful single environmental risk factor for psychotic disorder, according to studies both recent and ongoing.

According to a Herald report, one study the professor was involved in found that “10 per cent of the young people who’d been using cannabis by age 15 developed a psychotic disorder in young adulthood”.

She argues that the association between cannabis and psychosis appears to be getting even stronger in line with the increase in strength of cannabis. That’s the THC content – which is now regularly over 20 per cent, and much higher than what it used to be.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=12353424

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Cannabis referendum: how legalisation could change access for medicinal cannabis patients

Stuff co.nz 4 August 2020
Our additional comment: A puff piece to persuade people that the referendum is about medicinal cannabis – which it’s not! But at least they quote us….

“Say Nope To Dope campaign spokesperson, Aaron Ironside, said medicinal cannabis campaigners’ “deafening silence” after the drawing out of the ballot of National MP Dr Shane Reti’s medicinal cannabis private members bill, which sought to improve access for patients, showed the “true agenda” of campaigners. “This is evidence that their campaign is fraudulent,” he said.”

Many medicinal cannabis patients say they’re “holding out all hope” for recreational cannabis to be legalised, so they have safer, more affordable options, and can stop turning to the illicit market.

In September, New Zealanders will vote on the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, which has been written to give Kiwis an idea of what the law for recreational cannabis might look like.

If the bill is passed and brought into law after the election, what would change for medicinal cannabis patients?

New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis regime officially took effect on April 1, 2020, but thousands of Kiwis are still relying on the illicit market, due to the limited and extremely high cost of accessing cannabis-based prescriptions.

For those who have gone down the legal route, their only option is to pay hundreds of dollars each month for a handful of approved but non-funded medicines.

Say Nope To Dope campaign spokesperson, Aaron Ironside​, said medicinal cannabis campaigners’ “deafening silence” after the drawing out of the ballot of National MP Dr Shane Reti’s medicinal cannabis private members bill, which sought to improve access for patients, showed the “true agenda” of campaigners.

“This is evidence that their campaign is fraudulent,” he said.

“If they supported this bill, it would undermine their ultimate goal of legalising cannabis for recreational use.”

He said it supported further quality research into the prescribed medicinal cannabis, for delivery via non-smoked forms, and had called for campaigners to “drop the facade” of helping patients.

“Their focus is purely on the right of people to use drugs for recreational reasons.”
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/cannabis-referendum/122247529/cannabis-referendum-how-legalisation-could-change-access-for-medicinal-cannabis-patients

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Mary Cannon: Cannabis is harmful for young adults and teens

NZ Herald 3 August 2020
Our additional comment: Superb article pushing back on the narrative that ‘cannabis is less harmful than alcohol’…
“Cannabis, on the other hand, 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… 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). It has been estimated that between one third to half of all the cases of psychotic illness in places like London or Amsterdam could be due to cannabis… I would argue that cannabis use is actually more damaging to the brain – especially the brains of young adults and teenagers, and their life prospects. 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.”
#VoteNopeToDope

A common argument in favour of legalising cannabis is that alcohol is legal and is more harmful to people and society than cannabis, and therefore cannabis should be legal too.

This is a somewhat spurious argument along the lines of “Would you rather be eaten by a lion or a bear” or “Would you rather be run over by a truck or a bus”. Nevertheless, it provides a good opportunity to examine the differential harms posed by both substances.

recent article by a Professor of Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine (NZ Herald, July 28) stated, “both cannabis and alcohol are known to cause psychotic conditions, but in both instances, these are rare events.”

This statement is true in one regard. Psychotic disorder related solely to alcohol is indeed a rare event. It is generally in the form of an uncommon condition called Alcoholic Hallucinosis, which occurs in older individuals who have been using alcohol heavily for many years. I have seen only one or two cases in my clinical career.

Individuals who are withdrawing from alcohol can suffer with hallucinations and acute paranoia as part of the withdrawal reaction but this is not a psychotic disorder. Cannabis, on the other hand, 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.

Many well-designed studies have examined this association, and the majority have shown that cannabis is significantly related to psychotic disorder with the remainder showing a strong trend in that direction.

In the early 2000s, I was involved in a research team investigating the link between cannabis use in adolescence and the risk of psychotic disorder in adulthood. This research was carried out on a group of approximately 1000 young people from Dunedin, who had been followed up since the 1970s (and are still being followed up to this day).

We found that young people who started using cannabis before age 15 had had a four times increased risk of being diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder by age 26. To put this in perspective, 10 per cent of the young people who had been using cannabis by age 15 developed a psychotic disorder in young adulthood compared with 3 per cent of the remainder of the group – a one in 10 chance is certainly not a rare occurrence.

The association between cannabis and psychosis appears to be getting even stronger in line with the increase in strength of cannabis (the THC content is now regularly over 20 per cent, whereas it was only about 1-2 per cent in the 1960s and 70s.)

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.

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). It has been estimated that between one third to half of all the cases of psychotic illness in places like London or Amsterdam could be due to cannabis.

In my clinical experience, I have observed an increase in presentations of young men with psychosis related to cannabis over the past few years. The type of psychosis associated with cannabis is one with high levels of agitation, aggression and paranoia and can present a risk to family and others.

In a groundbreaking study in the UK, 16 healthy volunteers were given one dose of intravenous THC.

Remarkably, 70 per cent developed psychotic symptoms within 20 minutes and this demonstrates the powerful impact of the THC component of cannabis on psychosis.

Aside from its effect on psychosis, several large international studies have shown that cannabis use in youth has a more detrimental effect on cognition and later functioning in adulthood than alcohol use in youth.

A study from Christchurch showed that young cannabis users had greater rates of school dropout, unemployment and dependence on social welfare payments than their peers did even after taking account of alcohol use.

The Dunedin study showed that young cannabis users had lower incomes later in adulthood than their alcohol using peers. Heavy, early onset cannabis use has been associated with up to 8-point drop in IQ that appears to be irreversible.

No one would deny that alcohol is associated with a host of social problems and serious physical health problems.

However, I would argue that cannabis use is actually more damaging to the brain – especially the brains of young adults and teenagers, and their life prospects.

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.

Once society normalises the widespread use of a drug it is almost impossible to undo that and put the genie back in the bottle.

• Mary Cannon is Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Youth Mental Health, with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12352685

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TP+ Election 2020: Cannabis referendum

Join host Alistar Kata and our panel of guests every week as they discuss the upcoming election from the Pasifika perspective.
In this year’s election, New Zealanders will be asked to vote in a referendum on whether the recreational use of cannabis should become legal.
This week we hear arguments both for and against cannabis legalisation from Presbyterian Minister Rev Mua Strickson-Pua and South Auckland community worker Ronji Tanielu.

 

NZ cannabis campaign on a knife edge

7 News 31 July 2020
Our additional comment: Are they getting desperate?
“Many [on the Yes campaign] want the country’s most popular politician, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to join the push to get the measure over the line.”
NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says “every vote is going to count”. “It’s tracking very tight. That’s what keeps me awake at night,”
(PS: We’re sleeping like babies 🙂 )

Fifty days out from a national referendum, cannabis legalisation campaigners in New Zealand are fearful a lack of public advocates could cost them a chance at carefully crafted law reform.

And many want the country’s most popular politician, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to join the push to get the measure over the line.

Kiwis will decide whether to legalise personal marijuana use as one of two public votes – the other being euthanasia – alongside the election on September 19.

Opinion polls for the “reeferendum” show a tight contest.

Proponents have spruiked online polls showing the ‘Yes’ vote ahead, though the last six polls taken by broadcaster-backed public pollsters have ‘No’ in front.

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell says “every vote is going to count”.

“It’s tracking very tight. That’s what keeps me awake at night,” he tells AAP.

The ‘No’ campaign – badged ‘Say Nope to Dope’ – is resolute in opposition, arguing the dangers of more widespread use through legalisation.
READ MORE: https://7news.com.au/news/crime/nz-cannabis-campaign-on-a-knife-edge-c-1207476

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Roadside drug driver testing Bill introduced

NewsTalk ZB 31 July 2020
Our additional comment: Drug Detection Agency chief executive Kirk Hardy told Mike Hosking it’s difficult to determine the limits of impairment, given some drugs can stay in the human body for several weeks. “If you look at the NZ Drug Foundation’s website on driving while high, they say that even people who use cannabis regularly are likely to be impede.”

It seems a new bill which aims to prevent drug-driving still has some hurdles to overcome.

Introduced into Parliament yesterday, the law would allow Police to conduct saliva-tests on drivers, for drugs such as cannabis, P, cocaine and MDMA.

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter says under the bill, there would be consequences for anyone caught driving while under the influence.

She says if a person returns two positive saliva-test’s they will get an immediate infringement fine, demerit points and be unable to drive for 12 hours.

Drug Detection Agency chief executive Kirk Hardy told Mike Hosking it’s difficult to determine the limits of impairment, given some drugs can stay in the human body for several weeks.

“If you look at the NZ Drug Foundation’s website on driving while high, they say that even people who use cannabis regularly are likely to be impede.”
https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/mike-hosking-breakfast/audio/kirk-hardy-roadside-drug-driver-testing-bill-introduced/

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Cannabis referendum: A few puffs of cannabis led our son to drug addiction

Stuff co.nz 31 July 2020
Our additional comment: This is a must read – based on facts and experience, not ideology and drug advocacy!!
“Despite what some would have you believe, cannabis is not a harmless recreational drug. It can introduce the user to far more potent drugs. We know this only too well and we write from personal experience. Our son’s tragic end began with a few innocent puffs of cannabis while at high school. His casual puff grew into an addiction and he was expelled from sixth form college for the use of illicit substances. He then spent his days walking the streets of our local town, at one time being unwilling to speak to, or even meet us – his parents. During this period he progressed from cannabis to ecstasy, cocaine, LSD, heroin and more. You name it, he’d tried it… Eventually he came to his senses, came to us for help and we put him through an expensive rehabilitation course at one of the renowned priory clinics in the UK. After completing this course, he remained clean for many years, but sadly we learned that you never can be confident that the habit has been beaten… We urge you, indeed we beg you to vote no to cannabis legalisation, if not for your own sake, for that of others. If you already are a user, we urge you to stop now. And if you’re not a user, please, please don’t even try a few experimental puffs. It can be a slippery slope once you are on it.”

OPINION: Despite what some would have you believe, cannabis is not a harmless recreational drug. It can introduce the user to far more potent drugs. We know this only too well and we write from personal experience.

Death. It’s a horrible word, isn’t it? Think about it – the curtain falling at the end of a show. It’s all over. The unnecessary and premature end of a potentially long and fulfilling life.

Neither of us are ones to weep, but my wife and I each spent a sleepless night, lying in bed weeping after we received a life-shattering telephone call from a police officer in England.

The poor man had the unwanted task of telling us that at 5:30 that morning, a cleaner had found the body of our 25-year-old son where he had died on the floor of a restaurant toilet in Hong Kong.

We wept again at our son’s cremation service in England.

In your heart, would you really want to increase the chance of your children or grandchildren being at even the slightest risk of such a cold and lonely death? Most children look to their parents as role models and think, quite understandably, “If Mum and Dad do it, then it must be OK”.

Our son’s tragic end began with a few innocent puffs of cannabis while at high school. His casual puff grew into an addiction and he was expelled from sixth form college for the use of illicit substances.

You learn to live with your loss (eventually) but you never forget, and not a day passes without each of us remembering and thinking of our ‘lost’ son.

We urge you, indeed we beg you to vote no to cannabis legalisation, if not for your own sake, for that of others. If you already are a user, we urge you to stop now. And if you’re not a user, please, please don’t even try a few experimental puffs. It can be a slippery slope once you are on it.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/cannabis-referendum/122203579/cannabis-referendum-a-few-puffs-of-cannabis-led-our-son-to-drug-addiction

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