Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Leaf and Tips

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  • George Darroch,

    Prohibition has made for some great commercial television. What would we do then?

    I tend to think that any relaxation of cannabis prohibition in New Zealand would have to be accompanied by a significant public health outreach.

    More seriously, inhalation of burnt organic compounds at high temperatures has significant public health implications; implications which are waved away by advocates of an entirely unregulated sphere*. Whatever our policy decisions, these need to be grappled with.

    *You ever see those Facebook posts attributing 0 deaths annually to marijuana? I do, frequently.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    More seriously, inhalation of burnt organic compounds at high temperatures has significant public health implications; implications which are waved away by advocates of an entirely unregulated sphere*. Whatever our policy decisions, these need to be grappled with.

    Indeed. It feels jarring watching people in American Weed inhaling huge quantities of smoke in the name of “health” (although I've read credible arguments that cannabis is less damaging than tobacco smoke). The harm-minimisation approach would presumably favour something like this

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The harm-minimisation approach would presumably favour something like this

    LOL, classic. But would it take off? There's even smaller, easier to use things for nicotine smokers, that actually look like cigarettes, but they're not making major inroads.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Jos,

    ^^ hopefully the database of interested people will be somewhat private...

    Whakatane • Since Jan 2012 • 865 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene, in reply to George Darroch,

    More seriously, inhalation of burnt organic compounds at high temperatures has significant public health implications; implications which are waved away by advocates of an entirely unregulated sphere*. Whatever our policy decisions, these need to be grappled with.

    *You ever see those Facebook posts attributing 0 deaths annually to marijuana? I do, frequently.

    Ideally, some medpot patients would prefer to eat their medicine. However, the law considers this as processing a drug and therefore baking cookies for an Auntie with leukemia is a Class B offence, with a maximum term similar to rape.

    Secondly, Professor Lester Grinspoon was given Federal funding to prove the hypothesis that smoking cannabis is bad for you. His conclusion changed his worldview. Cannabis only smokers had less incidence of lung cancer than even non-smokers.

    Thirdly, many prescription meds have far worse addiction potential and side effects than cannabis.

    As Victoria Davis asked, why must she go to a lawyer for her husband's medicine?

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    The harm-minimisation approach would presumably favour something like this

    Absolutely. We well know the irony inherent in the current approach, which has made illegal a great number of harm-minimisation devices. Hopefully this doesn't attract negative attention from the law.

    There are a range of harms and benefits, and a responsible society seeks to decrease the former while providing for the latter. It has to be acknowledged that many of the staunch opponents of marijuana consider the pleasure derived to be a harm inflicted on society. They're of the sort that would ban dancing if they had the chance.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Cannabis only smokers had less incidence of lung cancer than even non-smokers.

    Thirdly, many prescription meds have far worse addiction potential and side effects than cannabis.

    There are good health and societal reasons why cannabis should be legalised, or at the very least decriminalised. And there are good health and societal reasons why it should be restricted. The incessant attempts of cannabis-advocates to pretend the latter do not exist does their cause no benefit.

    Professor Lester Grinspoon was given Federal funding to prove the hypothesis that smoking cannabis is bad for you.

    I'll readily accept this contention if you provide evidence for it (this is the internet, after all).

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    And what would Greg O'Connor et al say about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4365 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    I'll readily accept this contention if you provide evidence for it (this is the internet, after all).

    Yeah I know, it sounds like a joke name doesnt it!
    he exists, it being the internet an' all

    ‘Cannabis seedlings and the mother plant’M

    Poor mum incinerated with her offspring...

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1231 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene, in reply to George Darroch,

    I’ll readily accept this contention if you provide evidence for it (this is the internet, after all).

    You could start with Wikipedia or Google, but here's an online reprint from his book Marihuana Reconsidered.

    It might be worth adding that both the US Shafer Commission prior to Nixon's War on Drugs, and the Blake Palmer Commission here in NZ before the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, both noted the relatively innocuous nature of cannabis.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    THC RTD. Heard it here first. I predict young women would love it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1811 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    One would be fairly f..d up on twenty joints a day. I think lung cancer would be the least of your worries.

    Also, one could use those pictures to illustrate a book on cultivation techniques (all images courtesy NZ police).

    Anyways, the question for me isn't "is weed safe" - it clearly isn't. It's more, should we throw people in jail for an activity that harms only themselves?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4467 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    In conclusion, cannabis has been shown to have a range of effects on lung function that are different to those found with tobacco. Acute inhalation of cannabis produces bronchodilation, but chronic use is associated with bronchitic symptoms, central airway inflammation, and increased large airway resistance to airflow. There is also evidence for lung hyperinflation, but no convincing evidence that cannabis smoking leads to airflow obstruction and COPD. Despite the case reports of emphysematous bullae among heavy cannabis users, it has not yet been proven that cannabis causes emphysema. Cannabis also contains many carcinogenic substances but it remains controversial whether it is a cause of lung malignancies.

    The above concludes a fairly comprehensive review of the evidence on lung function. The authors note a 'paucity of research' though, so feel free to dismiss their conclusions.

    (For completeness, they also state:

    It is beyond the scope of this article to consider whether these harms are best reduced by maintaining the illegal status of cannabis, decriminalization, or by legalising and regulating its use. What we can say is that cannabis is harmful to lungs and that drug policies should take this into consideration. We also recommend that future policies should encourage further research into the health effects of smoking cannabis.

    Which is entirely in line with a sensible evidence-based discussion.)

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to George Darroch,

    Professor Lester Grinspoon was given Federal funding to prove the hypothesis that smoking cannabis is bad for you.

    I’ll readily accept this contention if you provide evidence for it (this is the internet, after all).

    Grinspoon's qualifications are in psychiatry. He didn't do research -- it was a literature review, in 1967. The idea that this should be the last word on the topic doesn't hold up at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    There's this report from earlier in the year, but there was a meta-study a few years ago I'll try to dig out. Grinspoon's not the only one.

    I do not consider cannabis to be harmless. If there was no risk, there would be no reward. Nor does it have no medical properties, as the government maintains. Is the current approach the best, most reasonable method to manage those risks, harms and rewards? Not at all.

    BFM also had a good yak about that longitudinal study with Dr. Simon Adamson.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    How about Dr. Donald Tashkin? He's Pulmonary specialist and Federal Government researcher from UCLA Geffen School of Medicine:

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 105 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Will de Cleene,

    There’s this report from earlier in the year, but there was a meta-study a few years ago I’ll try to dig out. Grinspoon’s not the only one.

    No. And for a higher-level perspective, this review published this month in the British Medical Journal (blog article here ), places cannabis lower on a scale of harm than basically every other drug. Alcohol is fourth.

    The evidence of other countries also doesn't suggest that reform of the law would result in a major increase in use. So the public health issues you're deal with a basically the ones you're dealing with now. But I do fret about easier availability for adolescents. Everyone has to get their heads around the idea that younger teenagers smoking pot is a very bad thing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    The police in Colorado appear to raid illicit marijuana operations with some gusto -- but they have to be careful to only take a little leaf for testing, in case it's claimed that the crop is being legally grown for medical use.

    The "state legal" drug dispensaries aren't legal under federal law and they are being shut down.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Will de Cleene,

    How about Dr. Donald Tashkin?

    Interesting stuff. Good honest science finds things that are highly counter-intuitive, sometimes. So much the worse for intuition. So many reasons based on micro analysis, why cannabis should cause lung cancer, and yet, it seems not to. I was very interested to hear about the strong connection to chronic bronchitis, though.

    Alcohol is fourth.

    Another counter-intuitive result. It's so close on that graph to P, that there's barely any excuse to get down on a meth-head at all. They're no different to millions of people in this country going home and cracking open a few beers. Or I'm reading the data wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham,

    Speaking of health, there's the latest from the Dunedin longitudinal study. The finding that consistent use of cannabis by young teenagers is likely to result in lower IQ scores later in life shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has followed this important body study. It's very clear now that the use of cannabis by young adolescents -- the younger, the worse it is -- is unacceptably risky.

    Although it's not too late to have your say at the Herald.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Another point is that there are two problems with correlating IQ against drug use:
    - there is substantial dispute as to the validity of the very concept of IQ
    - there is a cause/effect ambiguity.

    Perhaps the same people who use cannabis at a young age also take up life paths that militate against maintaining 'IQ' as they age (manual rather than knowledge work, less stimulating environments, etc). There's also the known cultural bias in IQ testing.

    I wonder whether they also monitored cocaine use (pretty small sample in Dunedin). You might find that cocaine users show improved 'IQ' results - this being due not to any effect of the drug, but that only really smart people can earn enough dollars to afford the stuff.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4467 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Another point is that there are two problems with correlating IQ against drug use:
    - there is substantial dispute as to the validity of the very concept of IQ
    - there is a cause/effect ambiguity.

    Sure. But this comes on top of similar findings in the same study with respect to mental illness later in life. It’s becoming clear that the long-term risks of frequent cannabis use for people under (about) 18 are substantially greater than those for adults.

    Perhaps the same people who use cannabis at a young age also take up life paths that militate against maintaining ‘IQ’ as they age (manual rather than knowledge work, less stimulating environments, etc). There’s also the known cultural bias in IQ testing.

    The authors say they've done their best to correct for factors like those.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    It should be noted that the review cited above is a survey of Scottish Health professionals. The majority of respondents were in community nursing roles, some interviewed, some not. By far the greater point here is that this was only a measure of expert opinion. There are some interesting results, open to some disingenuous mischief IMHO.

    For example, given that the social harm of alcohol was rated more highly than tobacco, should we kick drinkers out of restaurants and make them pursue their anti-social habit on street corners?

    Perhaps more seriously the paper lends some weight to balancing the priorities of policy devoted to reducing harm. This should at the very least, start with balanced research into what actually harms people (cars, particle emissions, open fires…).

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 728 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    there is a cause/effect ambiguity.

    That's always extremely difficult to decouple. The ambiguity stood against proof that tobacco was harmful for a very long time.

    This should at the very least, start with balanced research into what actually harms people

    I've often wonder if a policy of harm reduction is itself, in many ways, harmful. Bike helmets mean less people riding, discouraging healthy exercise. Stopping people doing things they like makes them suicidal. Preventing violent disagreement can mean group tyranny, and individual weakness. Etc. Not a simple question in the abstract. Harm minimization is in itself an offshoot of utilitarian moral philosophy, which is hardly the only moral theory.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Another point is that there are two problems with correlating IQ against drug use:
    - there is substantial dispute as to the validity of the very concept of IQ
    - there is a cause/effect ambiguity.

    Yeah nah.

    This is a part of a long term study done by some good people. They are very experienced in this kind of research and I really don't think they are silly enough to describe cause and effect, they find correlations from these studies and no scientist mistake correlation for causation.

    You can argue that IQ does not necessarily equal intelligence. But their study does pretty much show that cannibis use by young folk results in a decrease in the numbers scored on an IQ test. Their stats are good it's a real result. Why you see that effect is another question and the subject for further research.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3426 posts Report Reply

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