Legalising weed raises questions
The Drug Foundation’s recent polling suggested that approximately a third of respondents want personal cannabis use legalised, a third decriminalised, and a third want it to remain illegal.
A question the Drug Foundation should have included is - what’s the difference between decriminalisation and legalisation?
As we have learnt from Oregon, Alaska and Colorado, decriminalisation is simply a stepping stone to full legalisation. And does ‘medicinal’ marijuana actually deliver – and how?
But this is part of the ‘smokescreen’ being put up by supporters of marijuana. As Australian ethicist Dr Gregory Pike says: ‘‘Changing the image of cannabis by promoting it as medicine is powerful. There doesn’t need to be much nuance in the idea that medicines are good and abstracted from that nasty business of ‘‘illicit drugs’’. The latter wreck lives whereas the former heal people. The image change… overtake(s) even strong contrary evidence of harm.’’
Of course, a new business market is also very exciting – especially one based on addiction. Past chair of theNZMA Dr Stephen Child exposes the paradox that New Zealand finds itself in right now. ‘‘How can we tout ‘Smokefree 2025’ while we discuss legalising an inhaled product with more than 100 harmful substances?’’
It remains highly ironic that at the same time as we tear the labelling off cigarette packets and price them out of existence, supporters of marijuana are peddling the same myths that we believed for far too long about tobacco – that marijuana is harmless. Massey University drug researcher Dr Chris Wilkins warns; ‘‘If you’re using high potency, using daily or if you’ve a history of mental illness or drug addiction it can have serious health problems bringing on mental illness or further addiction.’’
Liberalising marijuana laws is the wrong path if we care about public health, public safety, and about our young people.
Drug use is both a criminal and a health issue. There is a false dichotomy that criminal sanctions aren’t working so we should ditch them all together and we should focus only on education and health initiatives. We should maintain both. Kevin Sabet from Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) states: ‘‘The regulation of (legal) alcohol and tobacco has been an utter disaster from a public cost and publicpolicy point of view. We’ve never regulated those drugs in a responsible way ... do we really want to repeat history once again?’’
As a taxpayer, are you happy to fund the ongoing costs of marijuana legalisation in public awareness campaigns, law enforcement, healthcare treatment and education programmes? No, don’t let NZ go to pot. The grass is not always greener.
Bob McCoskrie, Family First NZ director.