Today I went to my much awaited Cutting Edge Conference in Auckland for the Alcohol and Drug Treatment workers. I am a trained Alcohol and Drug clinician but my invite to the Conference was as a whanau member of a consumer. The consumer means of AOD services, not a consumer of drugs ideally.
I looked around the room and in a sea of three hundred and sixty faces (I was told) I saw some familiar ones and some of old friends and colleagues.
My lasting interest or addiction even, is to cannabis law reform. For the past 13 years I have been a passionate vocal advocate for the decriminalising if not legalising of cannabis. Some would argue: with alcohol and tobacco we don't need another drug.
I say its already here and this issue has been hotly debated for the past 35 years. How is that we can have a law that sees fit to send people to jail for growing a plant, when all scientific evidence shows alcohol is far more harmful to public health and tobacco will kill one in two of its users?
The Saddest thing to me was being an outsider and really feeling like an outsider at this conference, for what seems to me to be more than an oversight but there was no mention of cannabis in the programme and no speakers on or presentations about cannabis at all.
I can't understand how the most popular illicit substance in New Zealand fails to rate a mention, and given that cannabis is the second reason for all presentations at CADS so why not some treatment information or research on cannabis.
Is the reason cannabis is not on the programme because it is not a problem or does not cause the same amount of problems for its users as other drugs?
Is the reason no one wants to talk about it, related to contracts and funding?
I don't understand how 360 workers in the health field can continue to allow people to go to jail for cannabis cultivation when I thought cannabis dependency is a health problem.
I also think cannabis is a valuable medicine and also viable alternative to alcohol for many people.
Who will help me find the answers?
I am forming the cannabis consumer group for people who are in treatment or want to receive treatment for cannabis dependency. As was stated at the formation of the nationwide network of consumer groups , sometimes you have to start at the end point or goal first .
MY first question is can cannabis users expect the same level of treatment , information and support as alcoholics, gamblers and opiate users? Where can they access this service?
Despite 35 plus years of campaigning for cannabis law reform and the latest suggestions from the Law Commission I am sure that the status quo is maintained very nicely thanks, and every one gets paid when a cannabis consumer goes through the court system and then to jail.
In my 45 years on this planet I have yet to hear a person come out of court and say , Hell Yes! that Judge was so right. I am never smoking cannabis again. Tonight I send my apologies to the estimated 400,000 cannabis users who will continue to feel stigmatised and discriminated against while the health workers sit on their hands or watch.