Changes To Marijuana Laws Should Now Stop

Media Release 11 December 2018
Family First NZ says that with the cannabis medicine bill being passed today, it is now time for politicians to move on from the issue and not to make any further changes which liberalise the law or legitimise and normalise the use of dope in the community as strongly lobbied for by groups such as the Greens and the Drug Foundation.

Family First is also calling for strong monitoring and research around the unintended consequences of allowing medicinal marijuana with the regulations yet to be determined, and the potential for societal harm.

“Groups like NORML and other marijuana advocates have used medicinal marijuana as a smokescreen and to manipulate society’s compassion for people with serious pain and health concerns. But marijuana can then be diverted from medical programs to ‘recreational’ purposes. A recent study examining recreation and reported medicinal users of cannabis found that 86% of those reporting medicinal use also used cannabis recreationally,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“We absolutely support a compassionate response to those in real need, but any legislation on cannabis medicine should be based on legitimate and responsible scientific research on the potential benefits and risks of medical cannabis. The Green’s earlier private members bill completely failed the test in terms of public health, public safety, and protecting our young people and the politicians were right to steer clear of it – but the bill passed today has major flaws. No other medicine is lit up and inhaled. We need to say no to ‘medicinal marijuana’, and yes to ‘medicinal cannabinoids’ products.”

“But it is now time for politicians to say ‘enough’. At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we go further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“If we listen to drug advocates internationally, there will be calls for legalisation of not just this drug but all drugs – cocaine, heroin, P. The Drug Foundation has already admitted that it wants to decriminalise these drugs! This is a shocking scenario.”

A study released in 2017 in the US and published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that marijuana use and marijuana use disorders – in which people use the drug in unhealthy or abusive ways – increased at a “significantly greater rate” in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without the laws. The lead researcher from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health said that these laws seem to send a message that use of this drug is safe and acceptable in some way.

In a recent article in the Journal of the NZ Medical Association, the authors – both addiction psychiatrists – said that the discussion between the legal framework of cannabis and the medicinal framework of cannabinoids should be kept separate to prevent the ‘decriminalisation’ of cannabis via a medical route, and that “the use of medicinal cannabinoids needs a dialogue that clearly differentiates it from the dialogue about the legal status of cannabis.” One of their key proposals is: “It is hard to justify a place for a smoked medication, in light of the serious public health harms related to smoking and availability of other methods of delivery. For this reason, the authors would not recommend continuing a debate about the use of smoked medicinal cannabinoids.”

Family First is supporting the rapid expansion of further quality research into the components of the marijuana plant for delivery via non-smoked forms, and the establishment of a programme that allows seriously ill patients to obtain other non-smoked components of marijuana approved and listed by the Ministry of Health via their doctor – with appropriate funding and pricing for patients. Neurologists, palliative care and pain specialists should have a key role in this process.

“Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains. People should always come before profits.”

Briefing Paper sent to all MPs