Marijuana legislation poll

Full details have been posted of a ONE News Colmar Brunton Poll on marijuana law preferences.

Which one of the following best describes your view on marijuana laws in New Zealand?:
(Current poll April 2015, movement from October 2003)

Remain the same 21% (down 4%):

  • Marijuana should remain illegal for all uses, as it is now:  21% (down 4%)

Change 77% (up 2%):

  • Marijuana should remain illegal, except in specific medical cases where a patient can be prescribed it to treat pain: 47% (up 11%)
  • Marijuana should be decriminalised so that while it would remain illegal, if someone is caught with a small amount they can be fined but would not receive a criminal record: 21% (down 11%)
  • Marijuana should be legalise: 9% (up 2%)

As has already been said they have combined two separate issues in one poll, perhaps to line it up with the 2003 poll but medical use and recreational use should be looked at as separate issues.

  • The proportion of eligible New Zealand voters favouring legalisation for medical purposes has increased substantially over the last twelve years, up from 36% in 2003 to 47% in 2014.
  • The proportion of eligible New Zealand voters favouring decimalisation has decreased substantially, down
    from 32% in 2003 to 21% in 2014.

That’s a nonsense statement. All the poll shows is that a preference has moved from recreational decriminalisation to medical use. If they were polled separately we get a more4 accurate picture.

Those more likely than average (47%) to favour legalisation for medical purposes:

  • women (55%)
  • those aged 55 years or more (52%).

Those more likely than average (21%) to favour decimalisation are:

  • those living in high income households, with an annual household income over $100,000 (27%)
  • Green Party supporters (36%).

Those more likely than average (9%) say marijuana should be legalised are:

  • Green Party supporters (20%).

Source (PDF)

Passive progress on medical cannabis

There is passive progress on the legal use of medical cannabis – Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has said he would consider allowing it’s use in New Zealand.

If medical cannabis is effective Dunne will back it

The Government is currently reviewing national drug policy and laws and while Mr Dunne won’t support legalising recreational use he is taking a wait and see approach on medicinal marijuana.

He wants proof of extensive, approved testing processes and says it depends entirely on whether it’s effective.

Three state governments in Australia are taking a more active approach to investigating it’s use.

Queensland and Victoria join New South Wales on medical cannabis trials

ABC news reports that medical cannabis trials are being supported by three states in Australia. The Queensland and Victorian state governments have joined forces with New South Wales to take part in medicinal cannabis clinical trials. The NSW Government introduced the scientific trials last year to help treat patients with drug-resistant and uncontrollable epilepsy.

But the lack of research is a problem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that while cannabinoids may have potential as therapy for a number of medical conditions, they do not recommend their use until more research can be done.

It may seem incomprehensible that a plant that has been used for millennia for medicinal purposes has had insufficient research done on it’s effectiveness and it’s negative effects. There has been some formal research:

The Institute of Medicine, run by the United States National Academy of Sciences, conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 assessing the potential health benefits of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking cannabis is not to be recommended for the treatment of any disease condition, but that nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety can all be mitigated by cannabis.

While the study expressed reservations about smoked cannabis due to the health risks associated with smoking, the study team concluded that until another mode of ingestion was perfected providing the same relief as smoked cannabis, there was no alternative.

More recently:

Citing “the dangers of cannabis and the lack of clinical research supporting its medicinal value” the American Society of Addiction Medicine in March 2011 issued a white paper recommending a halt on use of marijuana as medication in the U.S., even in states where it had been declared legal.

There’s a reason for a lack of large pharma commercial interest:

The study pointed out the inherent difficulty in marketing a non-patentable herb, as pharmaceutical companies will likely make smaller investments in product development if the result is not patentable.

So the problem is money – or rather a lack of money-making potential. That’s a sad reality of modern medicine.

A 2013 literature review found that exposure to marijuana had biologically-based physical, mental, behavioral and social health consequences and was “associated with diseases of the liver (particularly with co-existing hepatitis C), lungs, heart, and vasculature”.

There is insufficient data to draw strong conclusions about the safety of medical cannabis, although short-term use is associated with minor adverse effects such as dizziness. Although supporters of medical cannabis say that it is safe,[32] further research is required to assess the long-term safety of its use.

The opinion of the Food and Drug Administration and many scientists is that some of the many different cannabionoids included in cannabis can have medical value, but not as smoked cannabis and only with controlled and careful prescription and the same testing for safety and effect as other approved drugs, a process that normally takes about 10 to 15 years from start to commercial product.

So Government caution seems to be justified.

“About 10 to 15 years” sounds like a frustrating time period for people suffering now who want drug treatments readily and legally available.

It’s possible that there’s enough research already been done to shorten this period substantially. But it’s tough on people who want something now.

Passive progress offers paltry hope for people desperate for legal medical relief (which incidentally would at least be safer than self administering by smoking pot).

This Child

It’s very difficult for parents of chronically sick children. And of course it’s awful for the children.

And it’s very frustrating for them when they see there are possible effective treatments that are being denied them due to anti-cannabis political pig-headedness.

A plea to Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne has been put into a poem by one mother.

Here is my poem about my little girl and why she needs medical marijuana

ThisChildThere is a glimmer of hope – see Poll supports medical cannabis, Dunne considering.

Parents need more than glimmers of hope. They need to know one way or another whether medical cannabis can be legally used in New Zealand to help This Child.

If medical cannabis is effective Dunne will back it

One News finally got their medical cannabis report on air on Saturday (from news and interviews gathered on Wednesday).

Medicinal marijuana: If it’s effective Peter Dunne will back it

A group called United in Compassion which wants more trials of medicinal marijuana has met with Mr Dunne to discuss the issue and the ONE News Colmar Brunton poll also backs them.

Nearly half (47%) say marijuana should be legal for medical cases while 21% say it should remain illegal. But just 9% believe marijuana should be legalised for recreational use with 21% saying possession of a small amount should only incur a fine and no criminal conviction.

“I think fundamentally people have some real compassion for people who are suffering who could benefit from the medicinal properties of cannabis,” Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell says.

The Government is currently reviewing national drug policy and laws and while Mr Dunne won’t support legalising recreational use he is taking a wait and see approach on medicinal marijuana.

He wants proof of extensive, approved testing processes and says it depends entirely on whether it’s effective.

Like any drug it should be proven effective and relatively safe.

The pool looks poorly done, combining two issues in one response. But playing that game if if you add up the numbers:

  • 77% think marijuana should be legal for medical cases, should be legalised for recreational use, or should only incur a fine and no criminal conviction.
  • 21% say it should remain illegal

This One News item follows up a ‘pre-news’ item on Friday – Should medicinal marijuana become more available in New Zealand?

See a post on that –  Poll supports medical cannabis, Dunne considering

Poll supports medical cannabis, Dunne considering

A ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll shows public support for medical cannabis and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne says “he’s open to more medicinal products being available if they undergo a comprehensive testing regime”

Should medicinal marijuana become more available in New Zealand?

The poll:

  • 47% think marijuana should be legal for medical cases
  • Nearly a quarter say it should remain illegal

So that’s twice as many think it should be legal.

  • 21% say possession of a small amount should only incur a fine and no criminal conviction
  • 9% believe marijuana should be legalised for general use

It’s not clear if they are part of one poll but the numbers suggest they are. It’s odd to pool two separate issues like that.

If so that would mean 68% think marijuana should be legal for medical cases or possession of a small amount should only incur a fine and no criminal conviction.

One News reports:

Mr Dunne says if products are “shown as a result of the normal testing programme to be fit for purpose” then he’ll permit them to be made available here.

“It depends entirely on whether it is credible, I don’t think the notion of just puffing a few joints in your backyard is credible.”

Dunne had a meeting with Toni Marie Matich, a representative of United in Compassion NZ:

Matich has a teenage daughter with a rare form of epilepsy that sees her suffer multiple seizures and says she would benefit from medicinal marijuana.

“I feel a lot of the general public, if they had a child as sick as mine, they would do anything they could to try and make their child better,” she told One News.

She’s set up an organisation called United in Compassion, which is linked to the Australian version, and met with Mr Dunne this week to discuss the way forward.

“It isn’t an overnight thing that’s going to happen, it’s going to take a long time, but I feel as a small country we have the ability to catch up with the rest of the world.”

She says more products are needed to help people with a range of illnesses

United In Compassion is a non profit lobby for the re-introduction of medicinal cannabis and a community for patients and carers. There is a similar group in Australia: http://www.unitedincompassion.com.au/

Three states in Australia are currently working together investigating the use of medical cannabis – see Queensland and Victoria join New South Wales on medical cannabis trials.

UPDATE: The poll results are unclear in the news report, I’ve asked Colmar Brunton and they have said they will put the results up on their website on Monday.

United in Compassion on medical cannabis

Posted on at ‘United in Compassion’ on Facebook:

In 2010 the NZ Law Commission released a report recommending and supporting changes in legislation to allow for the use of Medical Cannabis, imagine how progressed we could have been on this issue in NZ had the review been acted on by those able to do so!? Instead New Zealander’s from every walk of life, young and old where illness knows no boundaries are suffering and watching from afar while other people globally are benefiting from the use of Medical Cannabis through various individual govt regimes in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Iran, North Korea, Mexico, The Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, 23 State’s of the USA and soon to be allowed in Puerto Rico.

Part of the 2010 NZ Law Commission’s report below;

‘Under a proposed scheme, people suffering from chronic or debilitating illnesses would be able to use cannabis under medical supervision, particularly where conventional treatment options had proven ineffective.

Cannabis cultivators would be licensed to provide medicinal marijuana in the same way as other legitimate dealers in controlled drugs, the report said.’

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

The Economist is hardly a radical rag. Under Democracy in America it has a blog that asks Is marijuana a gateway drug?

“AS LONG as I am governor of New Jersey, there won’t be legalised marijuana in this state,” vowed Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, on March 25th. A potential Republican contender in the 2016 presidential race, Mr Christie explained that “every bit of objective data tells us that it’s a gateway drug to other drugs”. Is he right?

A politician claiming “every bit of objective data tells us” should be viewed with suspicion.

The gateway theory seems reasonable enough at first. Most people who take hard drugs start with soft ones. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that among people who have tried illicit drugs, about two-thirds began with marijuana. Hardly anyone jumps straight in at the deep end: less than 1% of drug users reported that their first-ever outing was with heroin or cocaine.

But then, it’s also a fact that most heroin addicts had previously tried chocolate. The trouble is that marijuana is so common—about four out of ten Americans, including the president, admit to having tried it—that any abuser of hard drugs is likely to have encountered it along the way. Establishing a causal link is the tricky bit.

The number of marijuana tryers is likely to be higher than that as some people won’t admit to using it (although denials can be genuine – I’ve never tried smoking cannabis, I have an aversion to smoking anything).

Proponents of the “gateway” theory cite two arguments. One is biological: lab rats exposed to THC, the fun bit in marijuana, show greater sensitivity when later exposed to other drugs, such as morphine. Alcohol and nicotine have the same “cross-sensitising” effect. In other words, rats (and perhaps people) that have tried one gently mind-altering substance seem to get more of a kick out of others.

The other argument is social: smoking marijuana, a banned substance, gets youngsters in with the wrong crowd, making them more likely to flout other laws. Breaking one taboo makes it easier to break another. And knowing a marijuana dealer certainly makes it simpler to acquire other substances: drug pushers are notorious for giving free samples of new drugs to their customers.

The first argument is in Mr Christie’s favour. Exposing more people to marijuana, as legalisation probably would, could prime more brains to enjoy other substances. The effect would probably be weak, since those same brains are already exposed to alcohol and tobacco, which have the same sensitising effect. Nonetheless, legalisation would give people another way to mess with their minds. Not everyone would prosper.

But the second argument rather undermines Mr Christie’s position. To the extent that marijuana acts as a social gateway to other drugs, legalisation slams that gateway shut. In Colorado and Washington—and, soon, Alaska and Oregon—marijuana is sold not by drug pushers but by heavily regulated dispensaries, which sell only one drug. The chances of being offered hard drugs under the counter in a Denver pot shop are roughly the same as being offered cocaine along with your beer by a cashier in Walmart.

Drug addiction wrecks people’s lives, but so does too much chocolate, coke, fried food, alcohol and tobacco over time.

Peters huffs pot then blows cold

Winston Peters is being reported as huffing hot on pot reform them blowing cold a short time later while campaigning in Northland.

Claire Trevett in Winston Peters backtracks on marijuana referendum:

NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to hold a referendum on legalising marijuana while campaigning for the Northland byelection, but rapidly backtracked on it straight afterwards.

Mr Peters was holding a street meeting in Kaikohe when a man asked whether he would legalise marijuana.

Mr Peters replied: “you want to legalise marijuana? I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a referendum and if the answer is yes, the answer is yes. I’ll give you a vote on the referendum and if the answer is no, it’s no. Yes if you’ve got the majority, no if you haven’t. That fair enough? Wonderful.”

Peters was shown on 3 News saying that.

But…

Asked about it later he denied he was supporting any such proposal or putting up a referendum himself, saying his comments were simply the shorthand required on a campaign trail. “I didn’t say ‘I’m going to give you the referendum. I said our policy is a referendum and if you want one, you’ve got to go and get one.”

He didn’t say either, but was closer to the first – ” I’ll give you a vote on the referendum “.

That’s a Clayton’s election promise – he’s not offering anything, especially after his backtrack.

He did not personally support it and had never smoked cannabis himself.

He was setting out NZ First’s longstanding policy that citizens’ initiated referendums should be enforceable.

That’s not how it came across at all. Peters is promoted as being very experienced at campaigning. He was initially misleading and then made things up to try and cover up his mistake.

NZ First appear to have no policy on cannabis. There is no reference to it in their policies, and their only policy mentioning drugs is under Law and Order:

  • Reintroduce the chargeable offence of being intoxicated and disorderly in public, to include intoxication from the use of drugs whether legal or illicit.

Mark Osborne seems to have a similar position to National, unsurprisingly.

For the record I don’t support legalisation of marijuana and won’t be putting up a bill for it; or promising it and then unpromising it 5 minutes later.

National appear to want to leave the current legislation as it is – which means leave the same mess in place. But they don’t refer to cannabis in their Law and Order policy.

“Marijuana laws don’t make sense”

This is from the USA but similar applies here, our cannabis laws aren’t working well – they are working poorly.

There’s momentum in the US to view marijuana, and it’s being pushed by the President.

Obama: If Enough States Decriminalize Marijuana, Congress May Change Federal Law

President Barack Obama said if enough states reform their marijuana laws, Congress may change federal law that continues to make the drug illegal.

Obama, during an interview with Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith released in full on Monday, said he’s encouraged that liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans seem to agree that current U.S. marijuana laws don’t make sense.

“We may be able to make some progress on the decriminalization side,” Obama said. “At a certain point, if enough states end up decriminalizing, then Congress may then reschedule marijuana.”

Meanwhile our Ministry of Health and our Parliament keeps claiming there’s insufficient evidence to support changes even on medical cannabis.

Last week, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced a billthat would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which has high potential for abuse and no medical value, to a Schedule II drug, which has lower potential danger and recognized medical benefits.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Twenty-three states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Four states, as well as D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.

And much of the shift in stance is recent.

Obama cautioned that legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, or any other substance, isn’t a panacea.

“I think there is a legitimate concern about the overall effects this has on society, particularly vulnerable parts of our society,” Obama said. “Substance abuse generally, legal and illegal substances, is a problem. Locking somebody up for 20 years is probably not the best strategy, and that is something we have to rethink as a society as a whole.”

And out Parliament should be rethinking their inaction seriously too. If they don’t they are failing to address laws on cannabis in New Zealand that are failing.

We have led the world on innovative ways to deal with synthetic drugs and trail growing change around the world by doing nothing on natural cannabis.

Currently our cannabis laws don’t make sense.

Drug Foundation responds to MOH “underwhelming” evidence on medical cannabis

Ross Bell from the Drug Foundation has queried Ministry of Health advice to Peter Dunne that evidence supporting the effectiveness of medical marijuana is “underwhelming”.

Bell says he fears the information is outdated and says comprehensive research has been done evidence available and “the drug foundation has concluded that cannabis has therapeutic benefits”.

This is inresponse to a speech Dunne has given to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna – see On Peter Dunne’s speech to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

NZ Herald reports in Ministry of Health investigates medicinal cannabis use.

An investigation into the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been carried out by the Ministry of Health.

Growing numbers of jurisdictions allow cannabis for medical use and the Government has come under pressure to re-examine its use here.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne, who oversaw New Zealand’s innovative regulations on so-called legal highs, asked officials to look into the issue.

“My office receives regular correspondence seeking legislative change … cannabis, I am told, is apparently the panacea for a plethora of ailments, some of which, sadly, are painfully debilitating,” Mr Dunne said.

“For those suffering from such ailments I have enormous sympathy … the evidence [supplied by officials], however, has been underwhelming.”

Bell’s response:

However, NZ Drug Foundation director Ross Bell, who attended the meeting, said he feared advice provided to Mr Dunne was outdated.

“There are lots of countries that have quite well-established medical cannabis regimes, they have experience with this and they have seen some benefit.”

Mr Bell said comprehensive research had been done on the issue.

However, the drug foundation has concluded that cannabis has therapeutic benefits for conditions such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.

“We should be looking at delivering that benefit through proper medical products … it’s not smokable cannabis.”

Mr Dunne also spoke about how “compassion, innovation and proportion” should be front of mind in the development of drug policy.

“We, as a global community, must continue to move away from rigid law and order responses, and apply a health lens when dealing with those adversely affected by drug use,” Mr Dunne told the gathering.

That message was bold, Mr Bell said, and clearly aligned New Zealand with countries moving beyond a “war on drugs” punitive approach.

However, he was concerned at the dismissal of cannabis for medical use. Mr Bell was told of the ministry’s investigation in a meeting with Mr Dunne in late January.

Sativex mouth spray is the only form of medicinal cannabis currently available, but is not funded by Pharmac and costs about $1300 a month.

Dunne is still in Vienna and unavailable for comment, but his comments have initiated comment an issue of growing importance to many people.

In particular it’s important to find out why the Ministry of Health is so luke-warm on the use of medical cannabis.

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