Significant Media Bias During Cannabis Referendum – Analysis

Family First commentary – 20 January 2021
An in-depth analysis of media coverage of the euthanasia and cannabis referendums has found that while both sides of the euthanasia referendum were given reasonably fair and balanced coverage, the YES position in the cannabis debate received a heavily biased share of the media coverage during the campaign period – especially from some particular media outlets and journalists.

The analysis looked at more than 400 New Zealand-based media articles and opinion pieces as they appeared online during the cannabis and euthanasia referendum campaign period between May and October 2020. For the euthanasia referendum, there were 123 (75 news items and 48 opinion pieces) and for the cannabis referendum, there were 281 (203 news items and 78 opinion pieces) – more than double the coverage than was given to the euthanasia debate.

The objective of the analysis was to assess the extent to which the set of articles and op-eds, as a whole, provided balanced coverage of both sides of debate – consistent with the New Zealand Media Council’s first principle of “accuracy, fairness and balance.”

In the cannabis referendum analysis:

  • More than a third (36%) of all headlines promoted the YES position, while only 18% promoted the NO position.
  • Advocates promoting the YES position were quoted twice as often as NO advocates.
  • More than half (126) of the 203 articles did not quote anybody from the NO side of the campaign, compared to only 64 articles not quoting someone from the YES side. While the NO position was mentioned in 44% of stories, it was typically deep in the story or a very small focus of the overall article.
  • 51% of all Op-Eds were YES-biased while only 27% presented a NO position.

In the euthanasia referendum analysis:

  • Across all 123 news and op-ed pieces on the Euthanasia Referendum, the coverage came out overall as balanced and reasonably representative of views on both sides.
  • Opinion pieces were somewhat more likely to represent the NO-vote – whereas news items leaned a little more towards representing the YES-vote overall.

“As these reports clearly highlight, there can be no doubt that the YES position in the cannabis debate received a heavily biased share of the media coverage during the campaign period. The media also seemed far more concerned about the outcome of the cannabis debate than they were the euthanasia debate, with more than double the amount of coverage. A cynical observer might wonder whether that was because the outcome of the euthanasia debate appeared to be settled in the polling, whereas there was concern that the legalisation of cannabis wasn’t so certain,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ who commissioned the research.

“It is disappointing that a number of media outlets and journalists pushed one side of the cannabis debate so biasedly. The media should report the debate – not lead it. It also shows just how miraculous it was that the NO vote still succeeded.”

All the articles obtained were based on the list provided by NZ Politics Daily, a comprehensive, nonpartisan list of articles, columns, and analysis relating to New Zealand politics and government, produced by the Democracy Project at Victoria University Wellington. This list was used to maintain the neutrality of the analysis and to avoid any accusation of searching for articles that leaned to one side or the other of the debate.

The analysis has been audited by an Emeritus Professor who specialises in research methods and statistics.

READ: CANNABIS MEDIA ANALYSIS

READ: EUTHANASIA MEDIA ANALYSIS

Cannabis might stop you getting pregnant – study

NewsHub 12 January 2021
Family First Comment: Yep – we warned voters about that. Affects reproductive health of both women and men
* erectile dysfunction in men and infertility in women.
* decreased sperm count.
* delayed or no ovulation
* prenatal exposure to marijuana and problems for the child
Read more
https://saynopetodope.org.nz/high-mums/

Cannabis users hoping to have a child should ease up on their smoking, researchers say – and not just because it’s bad for any potential baby. The drug could be preventing them from getting pregnant in the first place.

Scientists at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US looked at a study cataloguing the experiences of more than 1200 women who’d suffered a previous pregnancy loss. Each tried for up to six months to conceive, and filled out surveys on their drug use as well as undergo urine tests.

“While existing studies suggest that self-reported cannabis use is not associated with fecundability (the ability to conceive), self-report may not be reliable,” the study, published in the journal Human Reproduction this week, says.

But by the end of the six-month study, 66 percent of those who didn’t use cannabis had conceived, compared to just 42 percent of smokers – even though those who smoked regularly tended to have more sex.

“These findings highlight potential risks on fecundability among women attempting pregnancy with a history of pregnancy loss and the need for expanded evidence regarding the reproductive health effects of cannabis use in the current climate of increasing legalisation,” the researchers said.
READ MORE: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2021/01/cannabis-might-stop-you-getting-pregnant-study.html
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More Than Half of People Using Cannabis for Pain Experience Multiple Withdrawal Symptoms

Lab Blog 6 January 2021
Family First Comment: More than half of people who use medical marijuana products to ease pain also experience clusters of multiple withdrawal symptoms when they’re between uses, a new study finds. And about 10% of the patients taking part in the study experienced worsening changes to their sleep, mood, mental state, energy and appetite over the next two years as they continued to use cannabis.

More than half of people who use medical marijuana products to ease pain also experience clusters of multiple withdrawal symptoms when they’re between uses, a new study finds.

And about 10% of the patients taking part in the study experienced worsening changes to their sleep, mood, mental state, energy and appetite over the next two years as they continued to use cannabis.

Many of them may not recognize that these symptoms come not from their underlying condition, but from their brain and body’s reaction to the absence of substances in the cannabis products they’re smoking, vaping, eating or applying to their skin, says the University of Michigan Addiction Center psychologist who led the study.

When someone experiences more than a few such symptoms, it’s called cannabis withdrawal syndrome – and it can mean a higher risk of developing even more serious issues such as a cannabis use disorder.

In the new research published in the journal Addiction, a team from the University of Michigan Medical School and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System reports findings from detailed surveys across two years of 527 Michigan residents. All were participating in the state’s system to certify people with certain conditions for use of medical cannabis, and had non-cancer-related pain.

“Some people report experiencing significant benefits from medical cannabis, but our findings suggest a real need to increase awareness about the signs of withdrawal symptoms developing to decrease the potential downsides of cannabis use, especially among those who experience severe or worsening symptoms over time,” says Lara Coughlin, Ph.D., the addiction psychologist who led the analysis.
READ MORE: https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/body-work/more-than-half-of-people-using-cannabis-for-pain-experience-multiple-withdrawal-symptoms

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Amsterdam wants to ban tourists from its marijuana shops

Stuff co.nz 11 January 2021
Family First Comment: Oh! Not so successful then?
“The plan, backed by local police and prosecutors, is aimed at tackling the flow of hard drugs and organised crime linked to the marijuana trade.”

In an effort to clean up its image, Amsterdam aims to restrict a key tourist attraction: its coffee shops.

Only Dutch residents would be allowed to enter the cannabis-dealing outlets under a proposal by Mayor Femke Halsema. The plan, backed by local police and prosecutors, is aimed at tackling the flow of hard drugs and organised crime linked to the marijuana trade.

“The cannabis market is too big and overheated,” Halsema said in emailed comments. “I want to shrink the cannabis market and make it manageable. The residence condition is far-reaching, but I see no alternative.”

Halsema submitted the plan to the Amsterdam council on Friday, kicking off a political debate, including discussions over a transitional agreement with shop owners. She expects the policy to go into force next year at the earliest.

The initiative is the latest move by Amsterdam to actively reduce the flow of visitors and improve the quality of life for residents. Crowds have flocked to the city since cheaper flights made its historic centre a popular weekend destination.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/300202018/amsterdam-wants-to-ban-tourists-from-its-marijuana-shops?cid=app-iPhone

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Drug users don’t seem that motivated to adopt a ‘health’ approach

The ‘health’ approach to drugs: Less than one in 100 drug users engaging with services
NZ Herald 5 January 2021
Family First Comment: If you say you want a ‘health’ approach, the coercion of the law is necessary to force that drug addiction support. As we’ve always argued…..
“Those given a health referral are sent an automated text message from Homecare Medical that says: “Kia ora from the Alcohol Drug Helpline. For advice info & support on drug use reply to this or call 0800 733 808 anytime 24×7 free to kōrero with a counsellor”. National Party health spokesman Shane Reti said a health response centred on an automated text message “strains credibility”. “A text message is not a health response, and certainly not an otherwise alternative to a conviction for use or possession of drugs. The minimum for an adequate health response as an alternative to conviction for drugs should be a requirement to at least meet with a health professional.”

Less than 1 per cent of drug users engaged with any health services in the first year of a new law hailed as a game-changer in the Government’s health approach to drugs.

A concerted effort from the Ministry of Health has led to an increase in engagement in recent months, but the low take-up is still being called “disappointing” by the Drug Foundation.

The change to the Misuse of Drugs Act – which came into force in August 2019 – raised expectations that drug users would be diverted from the criminal justice system towards health professionals.

It codified police discretion into law for prosecuting drug use/possession, but consumers shouldn’t be charged if a health approach was “more beneficial to the public interest”.

In the first year it was in force, 5484 people faced the possibility of being charged with drug/use possession as their most serious offence; 565 people were referred to health services, or just over 10 per cent.

And of those people, only 49 engaged with any health service – or less than 1 per cent of those who faced police action.
READ MORE: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/the-health-approach-to-drugs-less-than-one-in-100-drug-users-engaging-with-services/D2AFHDUOZJIZ5TXQ5URYAVE6TE/

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Young adults who vape cannabis are more likely to experience cough, bronchitis and wheezing, study finds

CNN Health 24 December 2020
Family First Comment: “Participants who had vaped cannabis any number of times from within the last month to their overall lifetime had a stronger link to symptoms of bronchitis (daily cough, congestion and phlegm) in comparison to people who had never vaped cannabis.”

The associations between vaping cannabis and respiratory health symptoms haven’t been fully known before — but one new study has revealed a key discovery.

The study, which published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, found that vaping cannabis at any frequency was linked with symptoms of bronchitis and wheezing in young adults around 19 years old.

Toward the end of 2019, mysterious cases of lung injury associated with using e-cigarettes or vaping products — described by the US Centers for Disease Control as EVALI (which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) — broke out.

More than 2,800 people from all 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands had been hospitalized for or died from EVALI by mid-February of 2020, according to the CDC.

That was shortly before the spread of coronavirus, which can also harm a person’s respiratory health if that person gets infected with coronavirus and then develops the respiratory disease Covid-19.

“With (Covid-19) happening, we just kind of knew that people who had vaped nicotine or had vaped cannabis were presenting a unique respiratory illness that wasn’t really well understood,” said the study’s first author Jessica Braymiller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science at the University of Southern California.
READ MORE: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/24/health/cannabis-vaping-cough-bronchitis-vaping-wellness/index.html

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As New States Legalize, Cannabis’s Environmental Footprint Looms

Benzinga 27 December 2020
Family First Comment: Not so green eh
“The connotation that marijuana is grown by hippies up in the mountains with only the most holistic, organic practices is a far cry from a multibillion dollar industry that packages everything in child-proof plastic while competing against a robust black market where cultivation, manufacturing and testing standards can be circumvented.”

Between Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota and New Jersey – all states who have expanded medical and/or adult-use cannabis legalization statewide – there are over 143 million acres of agricultural land for over 20 million Americans.

But what about the cannabis environmental impact?

The economic possibilities may have investors and entrepreneurs and seeing green, but as climate disasters ravage the United States with floods, fires and storms, one must not forget the impact cannabis mass cultivation can have on local ecology.

The connotation that marijuana is grown by hippies up in the mountains  with only the most holistic, organic practices is a far cry from a multibillion dollar industry that packages everything in child-proof plastic while competing against a robust black market where cultivation, manufacturing and testing standards can be circumvented.

As of now, there are no universal standards for organic cannabis cultivation beyond certain restricted pesticides and few incentives for farms to clean up their act in the face of cannabis environmental factors.

In other words, cannabis, as an industry without conscious practice, contributes significantly to carbon emissions, disrupts local ecology, and creates mountains of garbage.

Sharp Rise in Use of Electricity and Power

No two cannabis grows are run the same. Indoor, outdoor, greenhouse  – they vary in yield, labor, and carbon footprint. A small indoor operation running lights, A/C, and bringing in water for hydroponics uses vastly more resources than an outdoor operation using the sun and well water, for example.

While indoor cultivation allows for the most control of elements, pests, and environments to create these photogenic, high-THC buds, it is also the most costly in terms of resources.

A Bloomberg Environment and Energy report from 2019 showed that in just a year, the legal cannabis industry emits 472 tons of electricity-related carbon. In the city of Denver alone, there was a 36 percent increase in electricity and power between 2012 and 2016 to cultivate cannabis and manufacture products.
https://www.benzinga.com/markets/cannabis/20/12/18860032/as-new-states-legalize-cannabiss-environmental-footprint-looms

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Government Should Respect Cannabis Referendum Result – Poll

Media Release 30 December 2020
Polling by Curia Market Research has found that only 1 in 4 New Zealanders want the government to ignore the results of the cannabis referendum despite the close result, and that even half of the YES voters believe that the result should count.

In the poll of 1,000 New Zealanders surveyed this month, respondents were asked “Should the government respect the result of the cannabis referendum and not legalise cannabis for recreational use, even though it was a close result?” 

Just 26% said the result should be ignored, while 66% disagreed (8% unsure). A strong majority of Labour, National and ACT voters said the result should be binding, contrary to a majority of Green voters.

Respondents were also asked how they voted in the referendum. While 94% of NO voters obviously wanted the result respected, YES voters were also marginally more supportive than not of the result being binding – 47% to 44%.

“Despite court cases and petitions since the results were announced, it is clear that New Zealanders want the referendum to be binding and respected – as Helen Clark originally demanded. Fortunately – and to their credit – both Jacinda Ardern and Andrew Little are willing to honour the result. It’s also pretty clear from the latest data coming out of both the USA and Canadian that we dodged a health and social harm bullet when the majority of kiwi voters voted no. New Zealand is too precious to be wasted,” says Bob McCoskrie of Family First.

Recent U.S. state-level 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 significant increases in youth cannabis use in several recently legalised marijuana states versus last year. At the same time, mental illness indicators worsened across the country while alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco use dropped, especially among young people.

The latest data from Health Canada’s Canadian Cannabis Survey reveals that there has been three years of consecutive increases in use since legalisation, and that almost 1 in 3 Canadian males over 16 consumed cannabis in the past 12 months, and 1 in 4 females. In 2020, 27% of Canadians reported having used cannabis in the past 12 months, an increase from 25% (2019) and 22% (2018). This is growing to almost double the rate in New Zealand, with past year use at just 15% in NZ compared to Canada’s 27% under legalisation.

The nationwide poll was carried out during December and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.
READ THE FULL POLL RESULTS
ENDS

Canada’s Cannabis Use Continues To Climb

Media Release 23 December 2020
The latest data from Health Canada’s Canadian Cannabis Survey reveals that there has been three years of consecutive increases in use since legalisation, and that almost 1 in 3 Canadian males over 16 consumed cannabis in the past 12 months, and 1 in 4 females.

In 2020, 27% of Canadians reported having used cannabis in the past 12 months, an increase from 25% (2019) and 22% (2018).

This is growing to almost double the rate in New Zealand, with past year use at just 15% compared to Canada’s 27% under legalisation.

Contrary to claims made by the Drug Foundation, use by teenagers is disturbingly high at 44% (up from 36% just two years ago). In fact, 21% of teenage users were using daily or almost daily. People between the ages of 16 to 24 years reported cannabis use in the past year at a percentage that was approximately double that of those 25 years and older.

Prevalence of use by users was also high. 47% of past-year cannabis users used at least weekly, with 25% using daily or almost daily.

21% of teen users and 23% of young adult users were using daily or almost daily.

For self-reported mental health, the percentage reporting past 12-month cannabis use increases as mental health ratings decrease. For physical health, the group with the highest proportion reporting past 12-month cannabis use was those who report only fair physical health (31%). The groups with the lowest proportions reporting cannabis use were those reporting excellent (25%) and very good (26%) physical health.

People who had reported using cannabis in the past 30 days were asked about the number of hours they would spend “stoned” or “high” on a typical use day. 36% reported they would be “stoned” or “high” on a typical use day for three or four hours (an increase from 30% in 2019).

Smoking remains the most common method of consuming cannabis, but it has declined while eating cannabis products (edibles) has increased since 2019.

Although 41% reported they had made a purchase from a legal storefront (significantly higher than in 2019 when it was 24%), they also reported spending approximately $49 in the past 30 days to obtain cannabis from legal sources, and $47 from illegal sources.

“It’s pretty clear from Canada’s ongoing experiment with legalisation that we dodged a health and social harm bullet when kiwi voters rejected legalisation in the recent referendum. New Zealand is too precious to be wasted,” says Bob McCoskrie of Family First.
ENDS

Significant Youth Cannabis Use Increases in Legalised US States

Media Release 22 December 2020
US state-level 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 significant increases in youth cannabis use in several recently legalised marijuana states versus last year. At the same time, mental illness indicators worsened across the country while alcohol, cocaine, and tobacco use dropped, especially among young people.

According to the data, adolescents aged 12-17 using marijuana in the past year significantly increased versus last year in the legalised states of Nevada, Oregon, and California. All other legal states showed increases as well, but versus last year they did not reach statistical levels of significance.

Nevada experienced a 17.4% increase, while Oregon and California witnessed increases of 15.4% and 14.5%, respectively. These increases were not witnessed in non-legal states. In non-legal Virginia and New York, adolescent past year marijuana use significantly fell, as it did in the non-legal Southern region of the United States.

The data additionally show a statistically significant 25.5% increase in past-month use in California among those aged 12-17.

The data also show us that youth use in states that have “legalised” marijuana far outstrips use in states that have not. Past-month marijuana use among young people aged 12-17 in “legal” states is 54.5% higher than past-month marijuana use among 12-17-year-olds in “non-legal” states (10% versus 6.47%). Past-year marijuana use among this age group in “legal” states is 41% higher than that of 12-17-year-olds in “non-legal” states (17.12% versus 12.14%).

Use among young adults aged 18-25 skyrocketed, especially in legal states.

At the same time, mental health indicators, including major depressive episodes, suicidal thoughts, and serious mental illness have worsened.
ENDS