Survey into Medicinal Cannabis use

A survey of users of medicinal cannabis has been launched. This should get useful information, but as a lot of medical cannabis use is likely to be illegal it may be difficult to get a comprehensive picture.


MCANZ launches its first study of Medical Cannabis users in NZ.

An unprecedented research project to discover how and why New Zealanders are using cannabis medicinally has been launched today by Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand.

The study, New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Use Research Survey 2019, is an online survey of patients using cannabis for medical reasons based on Australia’s Cannabis As Medicine Survey and has been designed in conjunction with University of Otago researcher Dr Geoff Noller. It has been granted ethics approval and is MCANZ’s first research project.

“During the Select Committee process last year, it became apparent that no one had any data on the trends in illicit medical use, such as the rate of criminalization or even a decent snapshot of what conditions were most common for illicit medical use,” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

“The only research relevant was a Ministry of Health study on cannabis use dating from 2012-2013, and frankly, medical use was only an afterthought in that research,” says MCANZ Le Brun.

“This research is a first for MCANZ and we’re delighted to be working with  Dr Noller. This first survey will give us a snapshot of current medical use in New Zealand and establish trends and areas that will need focus in the setting up of New Zealand’s new medicinal cannabis regime.” says Le Brun

“The intent is for this study to be conducted every 2 years, so the first study will serve as a baseline for the future, particularly to measure the impact of the Medical Cannabis Scheme,” says Lead investigator  Dr. Geoff Noller.

“The study covers topics ranging from perceived medical efficacy, knowledge of harm reduction such as vaping, and the impact of criminality on medical use,” says Noller.


If you use medicinal cannabis you can do the survey here:

New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Use Research Survey 2019

English dumps on cannabis proposals

Last week Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne suggested that the poorly working laws on cannabis need to be changed.

Stuff: Peter Dunne says ‘Class C’ drugs like cannabis should be made legal and regulated

Our current law isn’t stopping New Zealanders from using drugs.

This year’s Global Drug Survey quizzed 3795 Kiwis about their drug habits. Of them, 70.8 per cent said they’d used illegal drugs in the past, with 42.7 per cent using them in the past 12 months, and 13.6 per cent in the last month.

For some time now, Dunne’s been talking up the merits of Portugal’s drug laws, where every drug is decriminalised – albeit with a caveat: If you’re caught with less than 10 days of any drug – cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine, or anything in between – you won’t be prosecuted. Instead, you’ll be fined or sent to treatment.

While some dump on Dunne whenever he mentions cannabis he has been doing more than any other politician in trying to fix drug laws that are clearly failing.

The main impediment has been the dominant National Party position on cannabis.

Rather than creating a free-for-all, Portugal saw its people’s drug use slump: in the 1990s, one in every 100 people in Portugal was addicted to heroin; since then, overall drug use has dropped 75 per cent.

Dunne wants to see that replicated in New Zealand.

“I think the full Portuguese solution, personally, might be the way for us to go long term. That might be where we head,” he says.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily where it ends, because you still have the problem – particularly in New Zealand – of the production and distribution being by the gangs, which is illegal, and all that sort of conflict.”

This is supported by experts.

Medical anthropologist Geoff Noller explains why Portugal’s model works: “I think it removes the sexy factor, because [drugs become] just another thing, and it allows people to be educated about it”.

“Because it’s not illegal anymore, we can actually talk about it. It’s very hard to have rational, truthful education and information about safe use [when] you can’t. If you remove it from this big shadow of evilness, then you can actually start talking about it.”

While a “complete rewrite” of the Misuse of Drugs Act is expected over the next three years, it’s not clear whether that kind of shake-up would feature – although the Drug Foundation would hope so.

“The sky doesn’t fall in when you do a Portugal-style reform,” executive director Ross Bell says.

“Decriminalise all drugs, stop it from being a law enforcement issue, make it a health issue and invest in health. We should be able to do this by 2020.”

But not by all experts.

However, Otago University psychiatry lecturer Dr Giles Newton-Howes is on the fence.

He says the idea of being rehabilitative instead of punitive “makes a lot of sense”, but he’d want to see more evidence of the treatment outcomes before signing New Zealand up.

“I would be cautiously interested in seeing how that Portugal experiment evolves. I wouldn’t want New Zealand to be running down that road yet, because there are lots of drugs which are really not very safe, especially for the developing brain.

“I’m not convinced that that’s a safe road for us to be going down just yet, but I do think it’s something we should be keeping a really close eye on.”

But New Zealand is lagging other countries in addressing a failing ‘war on drugs’, especially drugs causing less harm than alcohol.

Cannabis lobby group Norml welcomes the idea of putting the drug under Psychoactive Substances Act: in fact, it came up with it.

“When we were making our views known when the law was being drafted, that was always our objective, to have it so natural cannabis and other low-risk drugs can go through there too,” Norml president Chris Fowlie says.

While he says “any form of law reform” would be better than the current law, Norml would prefer legalisation to decriminalisation.

Bell agrees Dunne’s plan for cannabis “has a whole lot of merit”.

“The classification of low-risk drugs like cannabis, with a real strong public health focus, I think, is an inevitability.”

Newshub: Expert backs MP’s call for rewrite of drug laws

A drug expert is urging the Government to seriously consider an MP’s case for legalising Class C drugs.

United Future Leader Peter Dunne wants drugs like cannabis to be legalised, saying this might actually help cut down the nation’s use.

“The test is evidence based around the risk posed to the user… there are clear controls on the manufacture, sale and distribution of any such products that might be approved.”

Associate Professor Chris Wilkins of Massey University says it might not be a bad idea.

“I think New Zealand needs to start having a serious discussion and develop some evidence and get some expert opinion about where we should be heading, rather than just taking a kneejerk reaction that might come out of an election or a particular politician’s approach.”

Prof Wilkins says he’s been working on a draft regulatory model that will be released in the next week.

“It’s important that some of the money from the cannabis industry gets earmarked for drug treatment, for drug prevention. The model we’ve been working on goes down that route.”

Other countries are looking at reform.

New Zealand wouldn’t need to reinvent the wheel either, with several other countries years ahead in decriminalisation.

“Eight states in the US have legalised the supply and use of cannabis. Canada will legalise use and supply this year. There are a lot of innovative approaches out there, so I think it’s something definitely we could discuss and debate.”

But, while some younger National MPs support drug law reform, the current Government under Bill English is digging it’s toes in, and keeping it’s head in the sand.

From @TheAMShowNZ

Bill English says they don’t support Peter Dunne’s idea for licensed manufacturers to test and sell class C drugs like marijuana.

“we don’t want to create more damage”

It’s hard to see how more damage can be created by the current mess of law and police practice.

So the prospects of drug law reform in New Zealand don’t look good. Even if National loose the election Labour have said “it is not a priority” meaning they don’t want to propose anything that could be controversial or contentious (that approach has failed them so far).

Unless something can be negotiated as part of a coalition arrangement.

Dunne may not be an MP after the election. If he survives his one vote is unlikely to hold much power.

ACT don’t look like having more than one voter either at this stage.

The Maori Party have said they would consider drug law changes but I doubt they would make it a part of any coalition agreement.

The Greens are possibly the only party that are likely to have enough votes and enough sway to force the issue – if they are willing to back many years of supposed support for drug law reform.

Misuse of drugs is a major factor in ‘poverty’ and imprisonment problems, things the Greens think need addressing.

That’s for sure.

Another poll supports medical cannabis

A UMR poll commissioned by cannabis lobby group Start The Conversation shows strong public support for medical cannabis, in line with other polls.

“Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that patients have safe legal access to affordable medicinal cannabis and cannabis products when prescribed by a licensed doctor?”

  • Supported 76%
  • Opposed 12%
  • Undecided 12%

Only 15% of National voters were opposed.

“Should Parliament change the laws of New Zealand so that natural cannabis and medicinal cannabis products are treated as herbal remedies when used therapeutically?”

  • Supported 61%
  • Opposed 24%
  • Undecided 15%

NZ Doctor: New UMR poll shows overwhelming support for medical cannabis law change, says NORML

The poll was conducted by UMR for Start the Conversation from 29th July to 17th August 2016.

The poll will be used by the group, which includes representatives of NORML, to decide whether to proceed with organising a cannabis law reform referendum to coincide with next year’s general election.

URM’s previous cannabis poll in March 2016 reported that 72% of respondents agreed with “the use of marijuana being allowed for medical purposes”.

Chris Fowlie, spokesperson for the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML NZ Inc:

“John Key thinks cannabis law reform sends the wrong message, yet NORML’s message is getting through. Most New Zealanders now know cannabis is not only safer than alcohol but is also an effective remedy for a variety of conditions, and they want the law to change.”

“The message John Key needs to hear is that very few people support the status quo, including National Party voters, and he ignores them at his own peril,” said Mr Fowlie.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

  • Start The Conversation is a group representing cannabis and community activists, researchers and policy analysts throughout New Zealand, including NORML, Helen Kelly, Prof Max Abbott, Dr Geoff Noller, The Cannabis Party, Medical Cannabis Awareness NZ, It’s Medicine (Rose Renton), MildGreens and more. Start The Conversation organised a cannabis debate at the Auckland Town Hall in June, which led to this poll, and is holding its next community forum in Whangarei on Saturday 17th September.
  • Chris Fowlie is NORML’s spokesperson and a candidate for the Waitakere Licensing Trust in this year’s local body elections. He is running on a ticket of “Regulate Cannabis Like Alcohol”, and says under the current law the Trust could run Cannabis Social Clubs for medicinal and/or research purposes. As with West Auckland liquor sales, any profits would be returned to the community.
  • The UMR poll is available here: Changing Marijuana laws Jul-16.pptx

NZ Herald: Another poll shows strong support for medicinal cannabis reform

The poll was commissioned by Start the Conversation, a medicinal cannabis lobby group. The group includes Helen Kelly, a former CTU president who has been campaigning for medicinal cannabis after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Kelly said the campaign group would use the poll to decide whether to try and force a Citizens Initiated Referendum on the issue during the election in 2017.

“Politicians now have the choice. Force those who are mainly unwell to collect signatures simply so the public will be believed or act quickly and with mercy and fix this mess up so people like me and many others have safe and legal guaranteed access.”

Dr Geoff Noller, an independent cannabis policy researcher who is part of Start the Conversation, said the poll showed there was little political risk involved in making a change because New Zealanders were ready for reform.

Geoff Noller on current synthetic problems

On a previous post Geoff Noller commented, this is worth a separate post:

I think that the current raft of problems we’re facing with synthetics are primarily a clear cut case of the prohibition chickens coming home to roost.

An NZ report in 1973 (the ‘Blake-Palmer’ report) warned that continuing the ban on natural or ‘raw’ cannabis (the Law Commission’s [2011] term) would likely result in a black market – which at that time was barely in existence – and increased use. It proposed education, along with accepting that a generational shift towards drugs other than alcohol might be occurring.

Fast forward 40 years and…gee, maybe someone should have listened.

The Psychotic Substances Act represents a further attempt to engage with this issue and is actually a major shift in NZ’s approach to recreational drug taking. Unfortunately, those responsible for it didn’t appreciate the need for education around drug taking that follows from unlocking the lolly jar, so long kept behind the counter.

As a result we’ve seen possibly thousands of NZ’ers, many of them young and inexperienced, accessing a class of drugs about which they know nothing, far too frequently and heavily.

What that boils down to is that with access to whatever substances, also comes the responsibility of appropriate use. This is something we all have to own.

For those interested in synthetics and an assessment of their current impact in NZ, along with comparators, have a look at a recent report here:

http://www.thestartrust.org/images/pdf/Synthetic%20cannab%20harms%20NZ%20final%20draft-3.pdf