Drug summit in July

A drug summit pushing for cannabis law reform is being organised to be held at parliament in July.There will be international and New Zealand speakers with Helen Clark a possibility.

Stuff: Stories of hardship and frustration inspire big-name drug summit

Arguments for cannabis law reform, and calls for politicians to stop “running scared”, are expected at a drug summit in Wellington to be chaired by broadcaster Ali Mau.

The suffering people endured while waiting to get medicinal cannabis approved was one reason Mau said she was interested in drug law reform.

Media has been pushing cannabis legal absurdities more, in particular highlighting Helen Kelly openly saying she was flouting the law to use cannabis to alleviate pain and suffering as she died of cancer.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell has long expressed frustration at the slow pace of drug law reform. In particular, he said the 1975 Misuse of Drugs Act was antiquated and unfit for purpose.

It had not tackled high rates of drug use and abuse, but instead had “burdened tens of thousands of young people and Maori with criminal convictions”.

Mau said this week: “I share Ross’ chagrin, or pain if you like, that the pace of change in New Zealand is way too slow.”

She had noticed a shift in public attitudes in recent years, with people increasingly voicing support for decriminalisation.

There has been a shift in attitude internationally, with a number of countries making changes to cannabis laws in particular.

There has also been a change in attitude in New Zealand, particularly on medicinal cannabis products, but parties and Parliament remain reluctant to do anything.

Speakers could include Helen Clark which would ensure a high profile:

Helen Clark could return to Parliament to discuss decriminalisation at the summit in July, and others are expected to voice frustration at drug law inertia, and what they see as an overemphasis on punishment.

Mau will not speak at the Parliamentary Drug Policy Symposium, but a dozen women with backgrounds in drug and alcohol research, politics, law and public health have confirmed their attendance.

“I’ve never seen a lineup as impressive,” Mau said.

Maori Party founder Tariana Turia was expected to discuss issues affecting Maori and wider criminal justice sector reforms on July 6.

Former Canadian deputy prime minister Anne McLellan, who headed that country’s task force on marijuana legalization and regulation, will speak on July 5.

Alison Holcomb, who drove efforts to legalise marijuana for recreational use in the state of Washington, will also address the two-day conference.

Bell hoped politicians would agree that drug law reforms were needed, and might realise they could make drug reform campaign promises instead of “running scared”.

This is good timing to push all parties to be clear about their drug policies and what priority they will put on them.

 

21 Comments

  1. Kevin

     /  April 24, 2017

    “There has been a shift in attitude internationally, with a number of countries making changes to cannabis laws in particular.”

    Here is an excellent resource on decriminalisation:

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/541b7c6de4b09a2902b6920d/t/56e76adc62cd940c184d3d43/1458006841798/Release-A+Quiet+Revolution+2016.pdf

    Strategy-wise I think people are wasting their time aiming at the MOH. There is absolutely no way in hell either Dunne or the government is going to change cannabis from a Class C drug to a legal one. English has said himself he doesn’t want a legal cannabis industry.

    The better strategy in my opinion is to target the Ministry of Justice. Remove all custodial sentences for possession under the amounts where there is a presumption of “dealing”. Have special courts to deal with people who habitually abuse drugs. Instruct judges to impose fines without conviction unless circumstances warrant otherwise. And allow police to issue spot fines like they do with alcohol in alcohol ban areas.

    • Blazer

       /  April 24, 2017

      very good post Kevin,some great ,practical ideas there.

    • Gezza

       /  April 24, 2017

      The imposition of fines on people who have no ability to pay them could be problematic though Kevin.

      • Blazer

         /  April 24, 2017

        no more problematic than currently exists with traffic fines G.Community service.

        • Gezza

           /  April 24, 2017

          Yes, but that’s what I was thinking of Blazer. They’ll still end up back in Court at some point for non-payment of fines, so there’s an element of kicking the can down the road with fines > non-payment> community service> rinse & repeat, isn’t there?

          • Gezza

             /  April 24, 2017

            Plus the added element of their possibly getting in to criminal activity to get money to pay the fines, which I think is a problem we already have with some of them.

            • Kevin

               /  April 24, 2017

              If someone racks up a long list of fines for doing drugs then more than likely they have a drug problem, especially if they keep getting caught doing drugs in public.

            • Blazer

               /  April 24, 2017

              I would be very surprised if people committed crimes to pay…fines!….mind you I have been surprised…before.

            • Gezza

               /  April 24, 2017

              I’m giving you a no downticks day. So you’re obviously annoying somebody else.

            • Gezza

               /  April 24, 2017

              I would be very surprised if people committed crimes to pay…fines!
              You might just be hanging round with the wrong people?

            • Blazer

               /  April 24, 2017

              how you arrive at that….baffles…me.You basing your original premise on experience.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  April 24, 2017

              LOL, commit crime to pay fines? Yeah right, G. What is far more likely to happen, is they commit more crime to buy drugs/booze, then get sent back to court, where they promise to behave, & their fines get wiped by some dud judge. So I guess you are sort of right…. 😉

            • Gezza

               /  April 24, 2017

              It’s no that difficult to understand Blazer.
              You getting hassled all the time over fines, little bro?
              We can take care of that for you – here.
              Now there’s something you can do for us to pay that back.

      • Kevin

         /  April 24, 2017

        The fines are already there – all I’m suggesting is that custodial sentencing be removed except in the case of those who continually give the middle finger to the system (think those who continually drink and drive for example).

        • Gezza

           /  April 24, 2017

          Yes, I understand that Kevin, & I initially favoured decriminalisation as the right approach, but as time has gone on & I’ve read more on the debate, I’ve shifted more to the regulation, education, abuse to be dealt with as a health problem argument.

          • Kevin

             /  April 24, 2017

            Personally I favour legalisation and regulation over decriminalisation but decriminalisation is currently the more “realistic” option. A lot of what makes illicit drugs dangerous is that they are illegal and users never quite know they are getting – less than half of Ecstasy tablets contain any MDMA for example.

            There was a doco on Prohibition and it said that ironically alcohol is less available today than during Prohibition because of the laws restricting the sale of alcohol. Go figure.

  2. A clear and sensible cannabis law reform and drug policy could net TOP significant numbers of votes due to the major parties’ blind and increasingly out-of-touch adherence to ‘prohibition’ and enforcing unjust laws to keep the ‘drug’ money-go-round going …

  3. Pickled Possum

     /  April 24, 2017

    A recent study has stumbled upon a surprising finding: in states with legalised medical cannabis programs, opioid painkiller deaths have taken a sharp downward turn.

    “Medical cannabis laws may have reduced hospitalisations related to opioid pain relievers,” study author Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego, told Reuters. “This study and a few others provided some evidence regarding the potential positive benefits of legalising cannabis to reduce opioid use and abuse, but they are still preliminary.”

    Analysing the hospital records of 27 states — nine of which have medical cannabis laws in effect — from 1997 through 2014, Shi’s study was the fifth to show significant declines in opioid use or deaths in states that had legalised medical cannabis.
    This 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine also established that states with medical cannabis laws had lower opioid-related mortality rates, a decrease of around 25 percent. Moreover, a study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found that data from 18 states, between 1999 and 2013, showed a reduction in fatal car accidents involving opioid use for states with medical cannabis laws.

    Though Dr. Esther Choo, a professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, was not involved in the study, she found the findings intriguing.
    “It is becoming increasingly clear that battling the opioid epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach and a good deal of creativity,” she said. “Could increased liberalisation of cannabis be part of the solution? It seems plausible.”

    The report; https://apnews.com/86e948d183d14091a80f5c3bfb429c68
    focused on the period between 2006 and 2015, when deaths from opioid use exploded. Business Insider lists a few of the most striking findings:

    Opioid drugmakers including Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, spent more than $880 million, or roughly $98 million per year, on lobbying and campaign contributions that included efforts to support the drugs.

    Drugmakers and allied advocacy groups employed a yearly average of 1,350 lobbyists in legislative centers.

    In 2015 alone, 227 million opioid prescriptions were given out in the US, or “enough to hand a bottle of pills to nine out of every 10 American adults.”

    Purdue Pharma made $2.4 billion from opioid sales last year alone.

    Oxycontin and Vicodin — has quadrupled since 1999.

    These highly addictive opioids kill 91 Americans a day

    Beyond unnecessary delays, the DEA has created a “Catch-22” — saying cannabis has no medicinal value, while impeding research which would likely prove otherwise.

    1970 federal law puts cannabis in the same category as heroin, a schedule one drug

    A simple, legal cheap pain killer known to be the best analgesic, is with-in all the chronically ill capabilities to produce. Beam me up!!

    • Kevin

       /  April 24, 2017

      “Oxycontin and Vicodin — has quadrupled since 1999.”

      Oxycontin and Vicodin is basically pharmaceutical Heroin.

      “These highly addictive opioids kill 91 Americans a day”

      And how many has cannabis killed? None.

      “1970 federal law puts cannabis in the same category as heroin, a schedule one drug”

      In the US MDMA was outlawed as a result of a study on monkeys. The study turned to be bogus as the monkeys were given large doses of methamphetamine not MDMA. Despite this there was no attempt at changing the legal status of MDMA.

      Meanwhile in the UK the government classified MDMA as a Class A drug despite Peter Nutt and 19 other experts saying it was much less harmful to users than alcohol, and ended up sacking him.

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/dec/06/david-nutt-drugs-alcohol

      And people think cannabis laws are insane.

  4. Intriguing to find an article this very day in the Northern Advocate with the headline ‘Convictions DROP, Imprisonment RISES’ in Northland …

    More people in Northland were imprisoned in the each of the last three years than any other year since records began in 1980 – (seems very recent?) – despite “the number of Northlanders convicted in Court falling by a quarter or 25% since 2008, including a 20% drop in the number of Maori” …

    However, the vast majority imprisoned last year in the region were Maori, 444 of 590, or 75%. Nationwide, 56% of all people imprisoned in 2016 were Maori.

    Labour Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis has a few choice words to say about this …

    “There needs to be an enquiry into why Maori disproportionately are not getting alternatives to prison at the same rate as others … How many years do we need to keep waiting?”

    But no-one is game to mention the possibility that our judicial system’s ‘implicit bias’ – pervading police, courts, judges and corrections – is feeding the crime-and-punishment, money-go-round, PPP growth-industry …

    SecureFuture Consortium will no doubt be very glad to hear these tidings …?

    They can surely “only do good” by fostering the ‘personal’ ambitions of their owners, shareholders, management and staff …

  5. good news.. as long as their starting point; IS law reform, not just another talk-fest that ends with ‘more of the status quo’… BORING !