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Speaker: Towards a realistic drug policy

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  • Angus Robertson,

    Good Luck, keep up the pressure, it wont change under National tho'

    The Nats made great efforts pre-election to proclaim that NZers did not need a "nanny state". They were against the banning of incandescent lightbulbs. They were against the banning of pies from school tuck shops. They were against the banning of smacking kids, for a while, before they weren't.

    They need to find some new revenue streams, but can't raise income taxes. They want to cut back on prison spending and court costs.

    And their coalition partners Act and the Maori Party are lots more inclined to support legalisation than NZ First or the Progressives ever were.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Parker,

    Can you explain further Tony. What is this "easy to spot"?I understand any kid with lack of sleep (possibly due to irresponsible parents) but could you elaborate?

    An inability to focus, listlessness, red eyes, drowsyness which could also be signs of tiredness but then you take into consideration the knowledge of family background and you make an assumption which may or may not be right. But with the 5 year olds in my room it's not a good thing either way.

    Napier • Since Nov 2008 • 232 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    Fair points but at the end of a hard day I would rather have a glass of beer than an unfiltered smoke of anything
    Of course now I don't have really hard days a glass of pinot noir does just as well

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 576 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    So I'd vote in favour of it being served in cannabis R18 or similar cafes, rather than legalised for general private use.

    This, to me, seems the obvious short-to-medium term solution. Good for tourism too :) Long-term, as the population gets used to the idea and drug education is ramped up, I see decriminalisation as inevitable.

    Prohibition of cannabis in NZ is demonstrably ineffective and, with regard to alcohol, hypocritical in the extreme. Especially so when looking at the relative social harm the abuse of each substance causes.

    My mother drank herself to death over 30 yrs. I often wonder what her life would have been like if she'd had pot as a legal/medical substitute.

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • John Fouhy,

    legally permitting adults the option of using a demonstratively safer drug – like cannabis – instead.

    The last word here is the magic one: "instead".

    Why do you think that people would take up cannabis as a replacement for alcohol? It seems more likely to me that cannabis would be a replacement for nicotine, and people would smoke it as well as drinking.

    What do the studies say about combining cannabis with alcohol?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Shay Lambert,

    The key flaw in this argument is the presumption that cannabis would become an alcohol substitute for a lot of people if it were legal.

    The vast majority of dope smokers I knew as a teenager were binge drinkers as well, and the majority of adults I know who smoke an occasional still enjoy a drink or two.

    I don't imagine there would be much reduction in social harm from both drugs being legal - some people use drugs responsibly, lots of people don't.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    All the same, I'd like it to not be around me, or around my kids. I think there's sufficient evidence that developing brains are affected by cannabis. So I'd vote in favour of it being served in cannabis R18 or similar cafes, rather than legalised for general private use.

    The Dunedin and Christchurch longitudinal studies have shown reasonably convincingly that the long-term risks of cannabis are much higher in users under 18, and the earlier the first use the greater the risk.

    I've had this conversation with one of my kids already, after he came in from shooting the breeze with some of his twentysomething online gaming buddies.

    "You know, I'd really like to try pot some time," he said.

    "Well, you probably will at some point, but not now. I'm not being a nana saying this -- the science says it's a very bad idea for you to have it at your age when your brain's still developing. Seriously. I'm glad you've brought it up, because I'd want to talk to you about it anyway."

    "Oh, okay."

    He came back a little later.

    "There's this other kind of pot, that's like super-pot, that the guys have mentioned."

    "Salvia?"

    "Actually, yeah, that was it."

    " Definitely talk to me before you go near that."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    "There's this other kind of pot, that's like super-pot, that the guys have mentioned."

    "Salvia?"

    "Actually, yeah, that was it."

    " Definitely talk to me before you go near that."

    I've been wondering about this stuff for a while. What's the bad word?

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Now it just makes me incredibly nervous and I never touch it. But man it served its purpose for a time.

    One of the more striking conclusions from the Auckland Uni School of Medicine survey on drug us is the major reason people give for stopping using cannabis: they didn't like it any more .

    The majority of New Zealanders who use cannabis stop using it at some point -- I know some very keen smokers who stopped for the same or similar reasons to you.

    The same survey consistently finds that only a very few people are deterred from use by marijuana's legal status. If the law is meant to stop people smoking pot, the evidence is that it simply does not do that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I have to agree with Shay. I don't think many people would switch either.

    For me, our binging to oblivion culture has deep roots and the substance abuse problem is the symptom of systemic unhappiness.

    But anyway, I do see a big "harm reduction" coming from cutting organised crime out of the market. I also see some benefits in allowing pipes, bongs, resin, etc -- the less tar people ingest, the better.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I've been wondering about this stuff for a while. What's the bad word?

    You've got to be a pretty keen psychonaut to use salvia more more than a handful of times -- it's like dropping in for five or 10 minutes at the peak of a strong acid trip. The first time I had a proper dose I felt like I went beyond space and time and came back. Apparently, I was only "out" for a few seconds.

    There's little evidence of long-term harm, but people can certainly hurt themselves or become distressed in the midst of it.

    Search YouTube for "salvia" -- there are tons of clips of young people blowing out their friends and making videos of it. Pete Cronshaw had some on TV a while ago and clearly did not enjoy it. Cameras aren't a good idea.

    Lying down, under the watch of someone who knows the score is more appropriate. Another issue: the herb is fortified for sale -- there's quite a big difference between 5x and 15x salvia.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But anyway, I do see a big "harm reduction" coming from cutting organised crime out of the market. I also see some benefits in allowing pipes, bongs, resin, etc -- the less tar people ingest, the better.

    I've spoken to someone from the Hemp Store about vapourisers. They really work -- although the problem seems to be that they work too well.

    They'll always tell a purchaser to go go easy, start small, etc. And most people go home and get themselves way more stoned than they meant to be.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    Prohibition makes no sense. It is irrational to ban a substance that is only mildly harmful, while allowing other more harmful substances to be legally sold.

    Cannabis is harmful - exactly how harmful is clearly a matter of some contention. But alcohol and tobacco are also harmful. More so.

    It is irrational to argue in favour of continuing the prohibition on cannabis, unless you are also in favour of banning alcohol and tobacco.

    We accept that people are allowed to drink, and we legislate to control where it can be purchased, carried and consumed, and what you can do while under its influence. There are similar rules around the sale of tobacco.

    Legalise it, control it and tax it. This will reduce crime, lessen the ower of the gangs, and provide revenues that should cover any potential health cost.

    This is not something that affects me personally as a smoker, because I don't smoke anything. I grew up in a family of smokers and this has made be rabidly anti-tobacco. I also never found marijuana to be my thing.

    West • Since Feb 2009 • 794 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I started learning how to read and write proper, when I was 35.

    I didn't say you stopped learning as an adult, clearly you can keep learning until the day you die.

    But your brain stops physically developing in your youth. That's when all the connections that are going to be made, are made. Not something you want to screw up with chemicals.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'd be keen to see the harm caused by smoking the drug reduced. To that end the criminalisation of vaporisers was a disappointing move.

    Still, cookies aren't yet illegal.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen McIntyre,

    Just Thinking wrote: "But come on, your source for Dak doesn't cause cancer is the Washington Post."

    Here's the original study: Hashibe et al., Marijuana Use and the Risk of Lung Cancer and Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancer: Results of a Population-based Case-control Study," Cancer Epidemiolgy Biomarkers & Prevention 15 (2006): 1829-34.

    The study's conclusions were reported in the Washington Post, May 26, 2006. Here's a quote: "We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the asociation would be more positive with heavier use. What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect among marijuana smokers who had lower incidences of cancer compared to nonusers of the drug" - Dr Donald Tashkin, University of California

    Auckland • Since Jan 2010 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    To explain: Stephen's op-ed was originally for the Herald, which wouldn't run it. I was happy to do so, but too lazy to find all those cites and provide links where possible.

    Stephen or anyone else -- can we crowdsource this? -- deel free to post those links in comments.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But come on, your source for Dak doesn't cause cancer is the Washington Post.

    The Washington Post reporting a study doesn't make the study wrong.

    All mass murderers were pot smokers.

    Uh, you got a cite for that, buddy? Because it looks like something you just made up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts,

    But your brain stops physically developing in your youth. That's when all the connections that are going to be made, are made. Not something you want to screw up with chemicals.

    I thought that scientific consensus on this had moved slightly. Can't give you a proper citation, but one of the endless repeat interviews on NatRad over the summer mentioned it. Which could have a small impact on the question of legalising for adults, which I hadn't thought of before.

    While I'm talking to the experts, what do people feel about the duration of effect from smoking dope? I know that it is 'measurable' for days, and note that Tony reckons it lingers a couple of days (in kids) after the weekend. In practise, how much does this constrict where and when it is safe and responsible to smoke?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    But anyway, I do see a big "harm reduction" coming from cutting organised crime out of the market.

    Organized grime will only move into garbage disposal, and you know it!

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4306 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    We accept that people are allowed to drink, and we legislate to control where it can be purchased, carried and consumed, and what you can do while under its influence.

    Yes but we also advertise the stuff as being an almost essential, to being a civilized human being.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4306 posts Report Reply

  • MikeE,

    The argument is a lot simpler.

    Its my body. Not yours.

    Noone should be able to dictate what I can or cannot consume, regardless of the harm to myself if I so choose - unless I harm others.

    And it should be the harm to the others that should be punished, not the consumption that may or may not lead to said harm.

    Kingsland • Since Nov 2006 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen McIntyre,

    The key flaw in this argument is the presumption that cannabis would become an alcohol substitute for a lot of people if it were legal.

    No, not for a lot, but for some.

    The balloon effect describes a situation where the proactive prohibition of one action produces a similar counter-action – like when you squeeze one end of a balloon, you simply shift air to the other end. We exist in a society where pressure is being applied to marijuana end of the balloon; as a result, air is shifted to the alcohol end and it’s use has artificially expanded.

    Take the pressure off the cannabis end and we will see a shift - albeit slight - in the use rates away from alcohol and towards cannabis.

    I also believe that legalising pot will reduce tobacco consumption - possibly quite considerably.

    Because both alcohol and tobacco are demonstratively more dangerous than cannabis, even a slight reduction in their use will have an immediate postive impact on public health.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2010 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Shay Lambert,

    But anyway, I do see a big "harm reduction" coming from cutting organised crime out of the market.

    I don't see how you cut out organised crime without making cannabis as readily available as alcohol is currently.

    Any restrictions on the sale of cannabis will keep drug dealers in business because their supply, distribution and sales networks are so well established.

    If we got rid of booze in supermarket shelves and 24-hour liquor stores, on the other hand, I doubt there would be a sudden proliferation of sly groggers and illegal stills.

    I agree with the decriminalisation by the way - prohibition doesn't work and is inconsistent. I just don't see any great social benefits from legalising cannabis either.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Shay Lambert,

    The balloon effect describes a situation where the proactive prohibition of one action produces a similar counter-action

    But when it comes to drug use - at least in NZ - the more readily available a drug is, the higher the use. And I simply don't see how legalising cannabis will make it less available.

    Auckland • Since May 2009 • 78 posts Report Reply

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