Sunday, 20 May 2012

R20 for ALL. Gambling, Drinking and Smoking.

I have had over ten years experience working with clients with drug and alcohol problems. My speciality is youth, as I am a trained teacher and worked in residential treatment for young people with drug and alcohol problems. The range of problems was broad as was the choice of substances.
One thing that stood out clearly was the younger the using starts , the greater the problem later. When young people, as young as 12 , start regularly drinking alcohol they are like a cluster-bomb of potential accidents and risks. A drunken 12 year old is a lot more vulnerable than a drunken 20 year old. A drunken thirteen year old girl who looks sixteen is even more concern.

Unfortunately the child user is likely to be accessing their alcohol or cannabis or any other substance from home. There for it can be argued, that raising the age makes no difference.

Well, I do believe it makes sense, to raise the age back to 20, because, the well known fact, that people can do what they like in their own home. So if 18 year-olds want to continue to drink. That's fine, do it at home and make sure your parents look after you. No one wants to be tripping over your vomitess mess on Queen St at 2 am. Like wise the hoardes of mini skirted creatures who travel in loud raucous packs, barely able to stand or staggering along in stilettos. Girls some of you look about 14 or 15. ( I have a very impressionable 14 year old) I also think having bars open all night is madness.

I am certainly not a wowser or an angel. But I am tired of a patchwork of laws cobbled together that don't represent anything barely coherent. It is not public approval we want to appeal to with this issue. Nor do I require the permission of the alcohol and tobacco industries. Its a public health issue that we must tackle. In this instance we need to swing the pendulum out a little further before it can swing back and forth down the middle. Like all good bell curves the bulk of the population conforms to safe drinking practices. But there is a percentage that will not stop drinking or using any other substance till they physically can't. If you are dealing with the group of youth out at night, a quick round up of the most affected usually confirms they are already well known to the police and agencies.

If we removed alcohol from all supermarkets. (Not just the great ones in Waitakere) we have had a major step forward. Then remove cigarettes from them, dairies and garages. Why? Because they are drugs and for adults. These substances are psycho-active and alter our mood and behaviour. I think that is reason enough for them to made available to those only 20 and over. The equivalent, is visiting a doctor to be prescribed a psycho-active substance, which requires 7 years study to ensure the substance prescribed is the correct one.

There are a flood of drugs available and many young people are mixing them with the most readily available one, alcohol. Often the results are tragic, sometimes fatal.

5000 New Zealanders die each year as a result of smoking. I find that too many and unacceptable. I don't want to bury any of my family and friends due to smoking . Cigarettes are one drug that I don't want to see 12 year olds using and yet statistically most young people start smoking at 14. If we could break the uptake in young people we would have the problems associated with smoking half solved.

  So my reason for wanting the R20 to be considered is because I want R20 for all drugs and I want cannabis included in the equation. Cannabis is the third most popular drug used in new Zealand and the number one illegally used substance. Tried by 52% of the population and used regularly by 17 it is a waste of time criminalising people for this plant. However due to cannabis being illegal there are few studies to show whether cannabis is as harmful as tobacco when smoked.  Lets do a study, is all I can say.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

John Key , Evil Genius?

I must admit to thinking that John key's latest attack on cannabis users is not fitting for one in his position and nor does it reflect any real truth about drug use in New Zealand. Its actually a pretty low blow to report toxicologist reports showing both pilots, involved in two separate air accidents, had cannabis in their system.
As a person familiar with drug testing and toxicology reports I would be willing to gamble that both of the pilots  consumed alcohol ,a legal drug, in the previous 48 hours prior to the accident. Perhaps they took other medication as well.The thing with flight safety, a period of time must pass before the pilot is able to fly after consuming alcohol. Fortunately alcohol is rarely detected in air accident as it passes through the system usually in under 24 hours.

No one is suggesting that either of the pilots were anything less than professional and nor is the suggestion that cannabis was being consumed to cause the accident.

John Key, as head of tourism is attempting to shift the blame, and responsibility off him, and instead stir up the old bogey, cannabis. It is not original or new, and in this instance it is offensive. There is nothing to suggest that cannabis had any role in two air accidents. Cannabis is not a dangerous drug and it is not the drug that the police are struggling to combat every weekend. Alcohol is responsible for 70 % of hospital admissions in the weekends. ACC statistics will show far more accidents , injuries and deaths are, as the result of rugby and skiing not cannabis. And Extreme sports are called that, for a reason!

The second reason I am annoyed, that John Key believes, he can be so dismissive and critical of cannabis is, because it actually makes good economic sense to, look at taxing and regulating cannabis in New Zealand. Dr Don Brash does not smoke cannabis but he did have the economic numbers to show that decriminalising cannabis stacks up financially.

The estimated tax from the  estimated amount spent on cannabis sales in New Zealand could be as high as NZ$200 million. Currently over NZ$120 million is spent on enforcing the current laws but does not include the court costs.

I think the evil genius of John Key's plan to make disparaging comments about cannabis and it's users is insulting. One real issue in Parliament that perhaps John Key does not want to draw attention to is his views on raising the alcohol age . His conscience votes shows little desire to mess with the relationship that the National Party has with the alcohol industry and indications show his intention is to split the age to 18 for an on licence and 20 for an off licence. A little twiddle unlikely to result in any noticeable difference.

Like the Emperors' new clothes. The fable has the Emperor, parading naked in the belief his clothes are wonderful. The actual real naked lie is the one that is being perpetuated , by a Minister of Tourism who could well benefit from seeing that cannabis and tourism may belong together. Hemp clothing is also very popular with thousands of New Zealanders and tourists who know a bit more about cannabis than our PM. I just wish he would stop, discriminating against cannabis users, many are medicinal, but that is a whole new blog.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Learning to get along, Lessons from Occupy

I have been a member of a number of groups. I like being part of a group and I especially like sharing a common -stated-goal. Maybe I am more goal orientated than other people. I like to achieve a goal. I don't know, but just as many groups I have worked with have failed in some ways. Or possibly I am too difficult to work with. I am not called the dissenter for nothin!

However after a few late night discussions with others, one idea struck me, that democracy is disappearing from our political landscape. It is being eroded by stealth by Corrupt people in Government, who although elected, tend to operate by stealth and without a mandate.

The opposite approach was, what we learnt at Occupy. The GA model meant consensus needed to be reached by all the people who take part in the meetings.

Too often, meetings have an agenda that gets rammed through and even, as part of a committee, who may mostly object, in many instances, the dominant members push through their own agenda. Sometimes deals are done, and even brought to the table mostly completed. To disagree, can be deemed to be time wasting or requesting more information deemed rude!

At Occupy we were able to be open to all questions, and continue the discussion until such a time, as all people were satisfied the outcome would be desirable and acceptable to all.

We all need to learn these skills and look at this type of model, if we truly want to have both, a democratic process and participatory public. Any group can learn to use this model.

What it ensures is that- in meetings and group decision making situations, appropriate time is allocated for all points of view to be heard. Too often, only two opposing views are presented without an opportunity to examine all possible options.

Meetings then tend to become unproductive and hostilities become entrenched. Many groups continue to function with two opposing factions, seeming more happy, to score points than cooperatively seek a solution. What a waste of time and money.

I loved the start of Occupy. It was bursting with new ideas and energy. The challenge to maintain the integrity of the movement and to remain cohesive, was not easy. But I do not believe all is over and done with either. The Occupy Movement is not a spent force, and in America, is reforming, as the cold winter has ended and the Presidential elections are in full swing.

I hope to take some wisdom from Occupy to any meetings I attend, and the main thing is to allow time for everyone to speak, encourage everyone to take part and have their say. Sitting round a table "the twinkle fingers" are also not required. To many people's relief.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Handshakes in politics!

A picture says a thousand words or so the saying goes. For those in Auckland the picture of the one handed hand shake between John Banks and not John Key, has captured another awkward moment for John B.
Hand shakes are the universal sign of acceptance and agreement on a deal.

When three hands are offered, like post RWC the squirmy moment was John Key's. Now it seems the hand is staying firmly in pocket and John Banks one handed shake is a clear sign all is not well.

This Government seems to be rapidly imploding .
Its bungled attempt to sell State assets seems stalled and about to back fire. Well it was not much of a deal now that Bill English seems to be saying the numbers were more of a guess than an accurate prediction.
Well Mr English, as Minister of Finance a guess isn't really good enough.

Things seem to be a little strained between two Mayors as well.
I guess that it doesn't matter?

Gerry Brownlee has not been able to make much progress in Christchurch. It seems that the Salvation Army has largely done the work of the Government and now that it's resources are almost gone, things look bleak in Christchurch.

Len Brown also does not seem to be able to please two masters.
The casino deal stinks and we all know it.

All in all I really don't think it will take much more to pop this balloon of hot air that is the current Government. Protesters marched on Peter Dunne's Electorate to protest the State Asset sales and he did not even come out to talk with them

Self serving is the only way to describe the crop of politicians we have in power.

We elected these people , yet half of us did not want them at all? How did we manage to change the voting system, get MMP and still be stuck with the same FPP mentality ?
Isn't obvious that the National Government is looking after business interests, (its own) before acting in the best interests of the Nation?

I don't have an answer, as to how to fix the problems.
Namely low employment and growing inequality .

But I if the question was, What would be best for the 4 million new Zealanders?
I am sure the answer would not be ,
This Government.