“Sane, safe proposals for legislation of cannabis”

From the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council:


Medicinal cannabis industry welcomes sane, safe proposals for legislation of cannabis

The head of the New Zealand medicinal cannabis industry association is welcoming the release of the cannabis legalisation and control bill that will be voted on at the referendum as part of the general election this year.

Sally King of the NZ Medical Cannabis Council and says that while members will have their individual views, she believes the bill is designed to increase controls around access to cannabis by taking it out of the hands of criminals and young people.

“The Government has clearly looked at overseas examples of what works and come up with what looks like the best options globally to reduce access to young people and protect communities from harm.”

One of the biggest  lessons from Canada was that the medicinal and adult-use systems need to be kept quite separate.   The NZ Medicinal Cannabis Scheme became operational last month.

“The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme in New Zealand has been established with rules requiring pharmaceutical grade products only available through pharmacies and at this stage only through prescriptions. It is essential that medicinal cannabis production doesn’t get mixed up with non-medicinal or we will lose the trust and confidence of prescribers and patients.”

Ms King said allowing a small amount to be homegrown and the restrictions on legal age, public consumption and selling without a license would mean the plant is no longer controlled by gangs and criminals because people will be able to grow their own.

“The current laws are not working.  The level of Police resources tied up in prosecuting people in possession of a small amount for personal use is just ridiculous; and in 2017 half of prosecutions for minor drug offences were Māori.”

Ms King said while the Canadian experience was far from perfect and there were a number of lessons to be learnt, it was also clear that the sky hadn’t fallen in, thousands of jobs had been created, motor vehicle accidents and youth access hadn’t increased.

In both the United States and Canada, legalisation has been associated with minor increases in adult use of cannabis, but youth use has remained stable or decreased (following pre-legalisation trends). In fact, from 2018–2019, since legalisation Canada has seen the biggest drop in youth use (those aged 15–17) in history, going from 19.8% to 10.4%. It is often older age groups, those aged 45–64, who report the highest increases in use following legalisation, possibly reflecting therapeutic use in older populations.

While Canada is only 18 months into legalisation after a century of prohibition, other lessons NZ has clearly noted from the Canadian experience and avoided in the proposed bill  include the problems caused by a complex regulatory process, and long delays in licensing with not enough stores accessible, problems with quality and allowing corporate domination of the  industry instead of ensuring the opportunities are available to small producers and suppliers.

Cannabis legalisation polls and trends

Two recent polls suggested majorities opposing cannabis legislation, but one poll has a more supporting change, especially “When New Zealanders Have More Information”.

And data from Canada where cannabis is already legal suggests fewer young people are now using cannabis.

1 News (14 February): New Zealanders likely to vote against cannabis legalisation – 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll

Those polled were asked, ‘At this stage, do you think you will vote for cannabis to be legalised, or for cannabis to remain illegal?’

Remain illegal – 51%
Legalise cannabis – 39%
Will not vote – 1%
Don’t know / refused – 9%

The groups of people who were more likely than average to intend to vote against legalising cannabis were Asian New Zealanders, National Party supports and people aged 55 and over.

Those who were more likely to intend to vote for legalisation were Green Party supporters, women aged 18 to 34, Māori, people with annual household incomes between $30,001 to $70,000 and Labour Party supporters.

Between February 8 to 12, 1004 eligible voters were polled by landline (402) and mobile phone (602). The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level.

November/December 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll saw 49 per cent against legalisation and 43 per cent for, with the June 2019 poll seeing 52 per cent of people against and 39 per cent for legalisation.

In the October 2018 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton Poll, the results were slightly more in favour of legalisation than against, with nearly half wanting the drug to be legal. Forty-six per cent of Kiwis were in favour of legalisation and 41 per cent were against.

In the July 2017 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll, 47 per cent were in favour of cannabis legalisation and 41 per cent were opposed.

Newshub (18 February): New poll shows support for both recreational cannabis and euthanasia dropping

The latest Newshub Reid-Research poll asked the referendum question the public will be asked in the referendum this election: do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

  • 39.4 percent said ‘yes’
  • 47.7 percent said ‘no ‘
  • 11.6 percent said ‘don’t know’

The Bill would make recreational cannabis legal for over 20s, with restrictions.

Since the last time Newshub polled on this in June, despite additional details released in December, more people have moved from the ‘yes’ camp to the ‘don’t knows’.

Very few voters will know what Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill actually proposes.

(Note that the euthanasia part of the headline is a bit misleading, the result was 61.9% in favour, 23.7% against).

NZ Drug Foundation (21 February): Poll Shows Support For Cannabis Legalisation When New Zealanders Have More Information

Survey results released today by the Helen Clark Foundation and the New Zealand Drug Foundation show that support for cannabis legalisation grows when people know more about the proposed legislation.

When respondents were asked how they would vote in September’s referendum based on what they already know:

  • 46% said they would vote for the legalisation of cannabis
  • 44% said they would vote against it
  • 10% undecided

When people were then told more about the limits and restrictions on cannabis use and sale in the proposed legislation:

  • support for legalisation increased to 50%
  • opposition decreased to 42%
  • 8% undecided

Fieldwork for the survey was conducted between 22 January and 3 February 2020. The maximum sampling error for a sample size of 1000 at the 95% confidence level is ± 3.1%.

That looks promising for those wanting change, but there is likely to be a battle of information and misinformation.

“These results suggest New Zealanders are likely to support a sensible approach to cannabis harm reduction when they have accurate information about what is being proposed,” said Holly Walker, Deputy Director of the Helen Clark Foundation.

“The details matter. Armed with the facts, voters see that putting in place rules and enforcing these is better than the status quo.”

New Zealand Drug Foundation saw similar results in research commissioned in November last year. “When initially asked how they would vote, participants were evenly split, with around 14 percent undecided. Once the participants were given more information on the legislation, we saw stronger support for a yes vote,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director, NZ Drug Foundation.

Over the last two months the proportion of undecided voters has dropped, following the release of the draft Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill in December.

The draft legislation includes an age limit of 20, redistribution of tax into harm reduction, health and education programmes, a ban on all marketing and advertising of cannabis products, strict controls on the potency of cannabis, and other restrictions.

“When people learn about these proposed restrictions, they are more likely to support a law change,” said Ms Walker.

NZ Herald: Legalising cannabis: Supporters, opponents take swipes at each other as polls show knife-edge decision

The foundation said it showed more support for legalisation when voters were more informed, but Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said it was loaded to ask the same question either side of highlighting the proposed legal framework.

McCoskrie attributed the decline of the ‘yes’ vote to the strength of the ‘no’ campaign so far, including a 24-page pamphlet that had been delivered nationwide.

But Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the downward trend in ‘yes’ support was because of “well-funded and relentless opposition scaremongering”.

He has asked supporters to donate funds to the ‘yes’ campaign, which was putting together a strategy that included billboards, TV advertising and social media.

McCoskrie responded by saying he was giving the public the “facts”, adding that he had little faith in the Prime Minister’s expert advisory panel, headed by her Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard.

The panel is putting together publicly-available information about the impacts of cannabis use, what changes have occurred overseas, and how applicable that might be in New Zealand.

So McCoskrie doesn’t like people being informed when being polled, but is keen to ‘inform’ people against the legislation.

Meanwhile (NZH):

New data from the Youth Insights Survey, published yesterday in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found that between 2012 and 2018, the proportion of Year 10 students who had tried the drug fell by more than a quarter.

“This was predicted, since cannabis trends in this age group are strongly associated with tobacco trends, and it was already known that smoking in Year 10 students had continued to decline since 2012,” said the study’s Otago University authors.

However, the authors note that other research shows cannabis use is increasing among New Zealand adults generally.

Past year use increased from 9 per cent in 2012/13 to 15 per cent in 2018/19 overall – and from 19 per cent to 29 per cent among 15 to 24 year olds, the age group with the highest cannabis usage.

The authors said there were likely two key reasons for the conflicting trends.

“Firstly, the average age at which young people are initiating risk behaviours, including cannabis use, has increased in recent years,” they wrote.

“Secondly, normalisation of cannabis use has been counteracted by decreasing prevalence and frequency of smoking and drinking in this age group.

“The evidence suggests that adolescents’ willingness to try cannabis has increased, but their opportunities for doing so have decreased due to less face to face time with friends and fewer drinking and smoking occasions.”

But statistics from Canada shows the opposite has happened there, with youth use of cannabis dropping significantly since legalisation and regulation.

And:

 

Swarbrick and Bennett debate legalisation of personal use of cannabis

On NZ Q&A last night Chlöe Swarbrick and Paula Bennett debated the legalisation of cannabis for personal use. This will be put to the public next year in a referendum.

Bennett seems to have changed her mind. In May she refused to debate Swarbrick – Cannabis referendum: Paula Bennett on why she won’t debate Chlöe Swarbrick

Last night:

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick argues it’s time to reduce the harm caused by a drug market controlled by criminals. National MP Paula Bennett says there isn’t enough evidence to support legalisation.

The Spinoff:  A play-by-play of Paula Bennett and Chlöe Swarbrick’s cannabis referendum debate on Q&A

…they’ve come head-to-head on the cannabis referendum, with heated exchanges on social media about the issue, and Paula’s reluctance/refusal (choose applicable given your generosity) to debate Swarbrick, the Green Party spokesperson for the issue.

I’ll be perfectly honest: I came into this expecting, and kind of wanting, an utter shitfight. Two politicians, on relatively opposing sides of an issue, on the television?

What I got was instead… an informed, low heat, debate about an issue that two politicians are informed about, are passionate about, and happen to be on opposite sides of. Which is really nice, and comforting to watch.

Sounds promising. I will watch the debate and read the Talking points at The Spinoff, who quote the final statements:

Chlöe Swarbrick:

“The point that I want to leave people with is that right now we have the worst possible situation. We are empowering the criminal underground and we know for a fact that 400,000 New Zealanders are using cannabis on an annual basis and 10% of New Zealanders will have tried cannabis by the time they’re 21. The majority of people will have been exposed to it while they’re at high school.

“We have the opportunity to have some kind of control over what is currently chaos and the best way to do that is to legally regulate cannabis and to ensure that we’re providing those wrap-around supports and that potential for the disruption in the supply chain with that duty of care imposed on those who are purchasing.”

Paula Bennett:

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think that our teens are all of a sudden going to stop consuming cannabis because we legalise it. They’ll still get it from the black market because they won’t be able to get it legally because they’ll be underage, and the harms and the dangers will still be there with them. There are real issues around impairment, drug driving, what it’ll mean.

“What I saw in Canada was that the 25 stores that were in one province were not enough, they were estimating going to 1000 within eight years because actually people have a right to have access to it. I’m not sure if I want that in New Zealand, I think we should wait, get more evidence from places like Canada and then debate it and decide as a country.”

Q+A: Helen Clark on why NZ should give up the war on drugs

On Q+A last night Helen Clark talked about why New Zealand should give up on the war on drugs.

“I support the New Zealand Drug Foundation on this, and their position is that there should be a binding referendum in 2020.”

I’d prefer to see a binding referendum before the 2020 election (and that could be done in early 2020). It is important enough to be dealt with on it’s own, without the distraction of a general election. This means having legislation written and agreed in Parliament to put to the referendum for approval or rejection before that.

The Greens have a confidence and supply agreement with Labour to have a referendum before or alongside the 2020 general election.

This isn’t new from Clark. In March 2018: War on drugs has failed – Helen Clark

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says a bill that would quadruple the maximum prison sentence for people supplying synthetic cannabis reflects a failed war on drugs mentality.

National MP Simeon Brown’s bill would extend the maximum prison term for supplying synthetic cannabis from two years to eight.

It passed its first reading at Parliament last night – supported by National and New Zealand First MPs.

At a conference on drugs at Parliament today, Ms Clark, who is a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, said the global war on drugs had failed, with devastating consequences for individuals.

Ms Clark said the proposed synthetic cannabis law change was more of the same.

“That is heading in the war on drugs direction which isn’t going to work – but going to a select committee to a bill is one thing, what will come out the other end.

“And I think all the people who know about drug policy, who know what’s happening around the world, need to come to the (select) committee and spell it out how it is.”

Ms Clark said it was time for New Zealand to have a fresh look at its drug policy.

“We have to look at the evidence of what works – and if we looked at Portugal or to Switzerland or any number of countries now we see more enlightened drug policies, which are bringing down the rate of death and not driving up prison populations.”

Full Q+A interview:

 

“If we look at penal policy, clearly it’s failed.”

“I’m personally totally opposed to three strikes and you’re out, I think that’s a ridiculous approach.”

On drug reform:

“That would be the gold standard, to go to the Portuguese model, which is decriminalisation surrounded by massive harm reduction measures.

“New Zealand innovated more than thirty years ago with the needle exchange scheme, and we did that because it was absolutely essential to stop the spread of HIV aids.

“But we haven’t really done much in all the years since, and if we look at what Canada is now doing, you have safe consumption spaces where people who inject drugs are able to inject in safety where their drugs are tested, and also in a number of countries much readier access to the anti-overdose drug Naxolone, which WHO says should be in the hands of anyone likely to witness an overdose.

“So I have no doubt that we could do much better, and we need to look at what’s Norway doing, what’s Canada doing, what’s Portugal doing, who’s doing things that are working.”

Corin Dann: “Again though where does leadership come in here, because this current Government has said they would look at a referendum, but then there’s no guarantee they would act on that referendum. It seems to me that once again politicians are very nervous about leading on this issue. What should they do?”

Clark:

“Well I support the New Zealand Drug Foundation on this, and their position is that there should be a binding referendum in 2020. and for it to be binding you need to prepare the legislation beforehand so people know what they are voting on and you can have an informed debate.

“In referendums the question is always the question, and it needs to be simple, but if it’s a simple yes/no around a law that’s been passed and will be activated by a ‘yes’ vote, that becomes clearer to explain.”

I hope she convinces Jacinda Ardern and Labour on this.

Passing legislation next year that is subject to a binding referendum in early 2020, months in advance of the general election is do-able and should be a no-brainer if Parliament is prepared to lead on this and address what is currently a very poor situation on drugs.

“The current policies aren’t working”.

Do you think the public feels that?

“Yes I do, but I also think what has changed is that around the world we’re seeing a lot of movement on these issues. Certainly on cannabis decriminalisation and even legalisation in US states and Canada and European jurisdictions.

And in the area of the other illicit drugs we’re also seeing a lot of innovation around harm reduction measures. So I think follow the evidence, see what’s working.

Portugal in the mid-late nineties, when it went down this road, had the highest rate of drug related deaths in all of Western Europe. Today it has the lowest, so clearly they’ve got something right.

Decriminalisation or legalisation is the approach that Portugal and others take, but they then have regulation.

Now New Zealand did try regulation of some psycho-active drugs back in 2013, then for whatever reason it got dropped like a hot cake the following year, but I think it is worth going back and looking at the principle of that with respect to that particular group of drugs.

That refers to the legislation promoted by Peter Dunne, passed by Parliament but then dumped by National when they panicked after bad media.

The global drug commission that I’m on will be bringing out a new report in September that will be talking about legalisation AND regulation, you have to have regulation, and you have to have major harm reduction measures.

If Ardern really wants to demonstrate that her Government is truly progressive then they will address drug policies that are currently failing badly.

Minister of Health David Cl;ark seems to have been given the responsibility for dealing with this, and he has seemed tol be far from progressive, he is more conservative, and doesn’t seem keen to lead on it.

 

 

“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.