Le­gal­is­ing weed raises ques­tions

Manukau Courier - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - BOB MCCOSKRIE

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.

SUP­PLIED

Bob McCoskrie, Fam­ily First NZ direc­tor.

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