Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Nearly one million users can’t be wrong.

Banning a book, a movie, behaviour or a substance, such as tobacco or alcohol usually creates more demand, an increase in price or even a black market. The consequences of the American prohibition of alcohol resulted in more organised crime, faster cars and more guns. The situation is parallel today in New Zealand with P.

The question I think should be, is why is the demand for Kronic, (and the other herbal smoking products) so high? Why have a legal product Kronic, that mimics a banned product? The psychoactive properties of kronic are cannabinoids; the same found in organic cannabis but lack THC. Many drugs prescribed drugs on the market are also analogues or chemical copies that are altered by one molecule to create a new drug or to make a cheaper generic version. Banning cannabis has resulted in the increased popularity of an untried substance. It’s not only in New Zealand. This has been a worldwide event.

Peter Dunne takes a rather peculiar approach to politics by having his one claim to fame, the Continued Prohibition of Cannabis. His time in Parliament has seen the arrests and conviction of over 100,000 people. What was he thinking by banning Kronic, when prohibition has not worked? Overseas countries have shown, despite high levels of Kronic sales more people still prefer to use cannabis. A UK survey from “mixmag” found that one in 8 respondents had used “Spice” (the dominant UK brand in 2009) compared to 85% who had used cannabis. It should be asked, is why is demand for Kronic so high? Is it because people are looking for an alternative to alcohol?

I feel that a lot more questions need asking and more research done as well. New Zealand has gone from a world leader in social reform to one lagging behind. One of the problems by maintaining the prohibition on cannabis is that we are denying a valuable medicine to those most in need. In New Zealand the biggest barrier is unfortunately the Associate Minister of Health Mr Peter Dunne who has a particularly narrow view, or is it because of pressure from the liquor, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries I cannot speculate. But cannabis is used very safely in around the world. Many states in the USA, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, Israel and Spain allow medicinal use of marijuana.  In parts of Asia and India it grows wild.  It is part of Ayurvedic medicine in India and commonly used in China. It is favoured in Muslim countries where alcohol is banned as well.  

I have been involved with Drug Law Reform in New Zealand since MMP came into New Zealand. I am a trained school teacher with a Degree in Education and a Diploma in Alcohol and other Drug counselling. I can’t stand by and watch as thousands of lives are trashed through archaic laws, the 1975 Misuse of Drug Act, was written well before the “rave” culture of the 1980’s and rampant ecstasy use and the 1990’s with BZP and other  legal designer drugs. Plus New Zealand has one the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. The health effects, as most people know are minimal, compared to the harms associated with cigarettes and tobacco, cannabis pretty safe. That is why there is no public health message against cannabis. The worst that can happen is being caught. However even the law is catching up and now, warnings notices are regularly given and no offence is noted. 

The combined total of the 400,000 people who have identified themselves to having tried cannabis in the past year and the 500,000 doses for synthetic cannabis sold equate to nearly a million people and/ or doses when combined. The biggest elephant in the room blocking better access to services, faster courts and more money for dependency treatment is the money wasted on policing cannabis. The harm to society through the enforcement of the law is greater than the harms from cannabis.

Recreational drug use is not a deviant behaviour illicit drug taking may have become the norm. What is important is allowing proper education about safe drug use. Not using substances alone for the first time is a golden rule. I can only imagine that a few presentations at the emergency dept could be avoided with better drug use advice. We are far too tolerant of the harm in society that alcohol and tobacco cause. The RWC is case in point of the acceptance of alcohol and refusal to see the harms. 

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