Facts and factions for cannabis law reform

Two articles show how the debate over cannabis law reform is growing, with a referendum of some sort promised before or alongside the 2020 election.

Newshub: Cannabis: Where is the data? (Joel Rindelaub):

New Zealand is gearing up for a contentious cannabis conversation. Looking to temper the current NZ opinion, which – according to recent polls – is 67 percent in favour of cannabis reform, Family First’s Bob McCoskrie recently submitted a comment to the NZ Herald that condemned the marijuana movement in Colorado, comparing it to a Big Tobacco industry that doesn’t care about the health and safety of consumers.

Using statistics from a highly criticised report that Forbes Magazine has called “dishonest”, McCoskrie claimed that adolescent use has increased in Colorado, that cannabis is responsible for significant societal harm, and that “Big Marijuana” is trying to get kids addicted. Of course, none of this is true, based on the data available from credible scientific studies.

Instead, since legalisation, Colorado has seen its lowest rates of adolescent use in a decade, a reduction in deaths from opioid use, an increase in closing unsolved crimes, and – to date – nearly $1 billion in government revenue.

While Colorado’s results should be considered preliminary, they are consistent with others that have changed their stance on the substance. In addition to a decrease in drug-related homicides, the implementation of progressive marijuana laws in the State of Washington has coincided with a reduction in sexual assault and property crimes as well as a decrease in the abuse of other substances, such as alcohol.

Supporters of the substance also turn to its medical applications, including its use to alleviate symptoms of chemotherapy, reduce seizures in epilepsy patients, and its potential as a safer, less addictive pain reliever. In fact, the World Health Organisation has called for a component of cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), to be removed from internationally controlled substance lists, due to its lack of harm and potential therapeutic benefits.

This news has fuelled cannabis activists, who claim that legalisation will allow police to shift focus onto violent offences, ease the burden on the prison systems, reduce organised crime, lead to better drug education, and provide less societal dependence on dangerous opioid painkillers.

The cannabis activists Flying the flag for cannabis law reform (Russell Brown):

A referendum on legalising cannabis will take place either next year or in 2020. The crucial details – the timing of the referendum, the nature of the process and the question voters will be asked – will be announced by the responsible minister, Andrew Little, before Christmas. But already, the government’s decision to do something no nation has before – put the question of whether to reform drug laws directly to its voters – is changing the face of cannabis advocacy.

Last month, the bland conference level of the James Cook hotel in Wellington was host to something different to the corporate away-days that are its usual fare: a cannabis conference. Or, more specifically, a conference about New Zealand’s coming cannabis referendum.

The event was a bid by the Cannabis Referendum Coalition (CRC) – a new group of old campaigners – to move beyond the loose and sometimes fractious history of cannabis advocacy and present a coherent, even respectable, face.

It largely succeeded.

Ironically, the CRC and its veteran activists look in some ways like a conservative party in the referendum debate. Over the day of the conference, it became clear that there was a strong mood on the floor for a non-profit-at-retail model, something like Spain’s cannabis social clubs, rather than a commercial one. And the final conference resolutions called for a two-part question: the first part asking whether possession and use should be legalised, and the second on allowing regulated sale.

But if the legalise cannabis advocates now have their ducks in a row, who and what will constitute a “no” campaign? Murray suggests that gangs who fear the loss of black-market cannabis income could weigh in against legalisation. Right now, however, the obvious opposition consists of one man, Family First’s Bob McCoskrie, known for opposing euthanasia, abortion and smacking law reform.

McCoskrie has been churning out press statements that seem to draw heavily from US religious conservative groups. In an opinion piece published by the New Zealand Herald last week – almost identical to one published two weeks before by Stuff – he focused on the risk of ‘Big Marijuana’, high potency cannabis, and the appeal of the drug to children.

Ironically, the reformers aren’t at all keen on Big Cannabis either. Neither proponents or opponents of change see an excess of capitalism as desirable.

There is likely to be a growing debate over cannabis law reform next year. This will be helped when a timetable for the referendum is known.


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  1. Noel

     /  4th December 2018

    That 67 figure is interesting. Half from those who agree it is a health issue and the other half from those who want their records modified.

  2. I just wish that the ‘naysayers’ (eg Family 1st) would cut out their B-S. The ‘pro-reform’ lobby are not demanding that if there is a law change.. that everyone will have to become ‘Mad Pot-smokers’. Under the current regime, the black-market is totally UNREGULATED. Prohibition/Zero-tolerance has not worked, just as with Alcohol in 1920-33 USA.. in fact has made it worse, with Gangsters/org. Crime running things.

    The WAR on Drugs has failed to meet its stated objectives; reduce use & harm. NOW it is time we went down another track; Education, harm reduction, health care & Regulation being the priority.
    Even Police Exec. have admitted ‘We cannot arrest our way out of drug use’

    Aotearoa/NZ is moving further & further behind most other OECD/Western countries, that have ALREADY reformed their cannabis/Drug laws. It is time to get with the program folks.. it is 2018 :/

    • methink McCoskie & Co. seriously need to ‘pull their heads out of their As’ & ask themselves, ‘Is the status Quo working ?’
      NO SERIOUSLY… If they say ‘YES’, then I just wonder ‘what are they smoking ?’

      It actually sounds strange that a so-called ‘Christian’ group would support ‘the DEVIL they know’ (Draconian/punitive ZERO-tolerance)rather than something different, that in many other countries, is now being seen as a more viable option, to minimise/reduce HARM.. ie Regulation with a focus on health care

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th December 2018

        I have just done a Horizon Poll, much of which was would you want it available for/from….

        I ticked Strongly Agree to everything.

        Family Fist are unaware that as a medicine it’s been around for ??? years, inc. in the West. It’s in LOUISA MAY ALCOTT’S books, forsooth, as a medicine and as people getting stoned as headless chooks on it, which she approves of.

  3. PartisanZ

     /  4th December 2018

    In today’s Northland Age the ‘National Columns’ – usually 3 of 4 commentary columns per issue [if you count Federated Farmers] – are dominated by Shane Reti’s pathetic justification about Labour’s Medicinal Cannabis reform Bill now being dependent on National’s support in the House and that being dependent on Labour incorporating Supplementary Order Papers provided by National …

    In their compassion and due diligence National want to make Labour’s ‘Clayton’s Legislation’ for the terminally-ill with 12 months or less to live workable at the Big Pharma/Pharmac level … No chronic pain, no debilitating illness, no extension on terminal illness and no home grow shall be included …

    Why Big Pharma DON’T want to extend their reach to these other conditions via doctor-dealers defies explanation. They’re going to be in control of the product … and more product sales means more profit, surely?

    Meantime the Bluey’s think they’re doing us a favour after voting down the Greens Amendment Bill, the only half-way sensible cannabis law reform proposed in 17-odd years … and what’s more they’re trying to take credit for the few tid-bits they’ve cherry-picked from the Greens Bill to ‘create’ their own …

    Reti comes across as slightly more intelligent than Matt King, which isn’t saying much. King’s regular column regularly makes him look about as thick as two planks … His thoughts on housing last week plumbing new depths in intellectual decrepitude …

    All this is to take nothing away from NZFirst’s culpability in the situation. This tiny one-man-band party representing 4 – 7% max of the population have effectively got the spikes laid across the roadway toward reasonable, decent, compassionate law reform … threatening to disable all traffic … playing ‘Right’ into McCroskie’s hands … and FOR WHAT!?

    To try and win back the Right Brigade voters they shafted last election …?

  4. The biggest problem we have in Aotearoa/NZ, regarding Drug laws: IGNORANCE

    I still hear that some think ‘smoking Marijuana’ (slang name) causes Insanity & is the Gateway to HARD drugs, even though there is no clear evidence of either.

    I read that many trials done on Cannabis, show that only about 5-10% of people who use it develop ‘mental issues’ & often they were probably predisposed to it. Cannabis may have brought it on, but also many ‘self prescribe it’ to help relieve their condition !
    It is also believed, that fear of arrest or negative stereotyping, could also be the trigger for Paranoia. It is NOT the drug itself.

    Whilst it is true that many who use Heroin, Meth/P etc. often do also use cannabis.. many also drink booze & smoke ciggies too. If was actually true that ‘Cannabis is a gateway drug’ then why is it that only a small portion of cannabis users ‘progress’ to using these other Drugs (I dont mean just try them). It has often been said that the REAL gateway is the illegal black-market dealers, who offer other drugs & may want to get Pot-smokers hooked on these Drugs, because they cost more & are more addictive (financially more lucrative)

    Nearly ALL of the issues around ‘Drug use’ are actually the results of PROHIBITION… not from personal use

    BUT; listen to the ‘Naysayers’ & others who support the Status Quo & this is still the regular RUBBISH you hear !

  1. Facts and factions for cannabis law reform — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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