Pubdate: Tue, 19 Apr 2016
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2016 New Zealand Herald
Author: Bob McCoskrie
Note: Bob McCoskrie is national director of Family First NZ.


Professor Doug Sellman is wrong to believe "the days of cannabis 
prohibition in New Zealand appear to be coming to an end." New 
Zealanders need to be aware of a smokescreen around this issue. 
Politicians need to reject knee-jerk law changes and understand the 
real agenda behind liberalising drug laws and also the potential 
abuse of medicinal marijuana.

The Government is right to be cautious around this issue, but there 
must also be a compassionate response to those in real need.

In 1979, the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws 
said, "We'll use medical marijuana as a red-herring to give marijuana 
a good name". But a study in the United States found the average 
"patient" was a 32-year-old white male with a history of drug and 
alcohol abuse and no history of life-threatening illness.

The strategy of groups who want dope legalised is to promote 
medicinal marijuana which simply manipulates society's compassion for 
people with serious pain and health concerns. But marijuana will then 
be diverted from medical programmes, where it may be justified and 
effective, to simply "recreational" purposes.

As Project Sam (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) asserts, "Opium has 
medical value, and it is called morphine. Marijuana has medical 
value, too - but just as we don't smoke opium to receive beneficial 
effects, we need not smoke marijuana to get its medical value."

It is ironic that at the same time as Professor Sellman correctly 
calls for the drinking age to be raised and laws to restrict alcohol 
abuse, and we try to price and label cigarettes out of existence, 
supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed 
for far too long about tobacco - that marijuana is harmless.

Marijuana was made illegal because it is harmful. The Australian 
Medical Association has issued warnings on the health risks 
associated with smoking marijuana. They include memory loss, 
psychosis, impaired driving, hallucinations, asthma and lung cancer. 
Researchers from the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand found 
that a single cannabis joint could damage the lungs as much as 
smoking up to five tobacco cigarettes one after another.

And the Christchurch Health and Development study found that the 
risks of driving under the influence of cannabis may now be greater 
than the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Britain's Medical Research Council says the link between cannabis and 
psychosis is clear, which it wasn't 10 years ago.

Supporters of decriminalisation try to argue that the statutory 
penalties for cannabis use have not changed in over 35 years, and 
that drug use is a health issue and we are wasting time and resources 
focusing on the criminal aspect. But research in the International 
Journal of Drug Policy (2012) found there has been a substantial 
decline in arrests for cannabis use in New Zealand over the past 
decade, and police diversion and Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment 
Courts have been increasingly used.

Drug use is both a criminal and a health issue. There is a false 
dichotomy that criminal sanctions haven't worked so we should ditch 
them altogether and focus only on education and health initiatives. 
We should maintain both.

The "legalise but tax it" message is also seductive, but false. You 
just have to compare the taxes gained on alcohol versus the 
horrendous fiscal and social costs that alcohol causes to see the 
deficiency in this argument.

Decriminalising marijuana is the wrong path if we care about public 
health and public safety, and about our young people.

A feeble approach to marijuana use will simply send all the wrong 
messages to our young people and to our families - that drug use 
isn't that big a deal. That is not the message families want. As they 
say, the grass is not always greener.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom