Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A fun but flawed weed documentary

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  • simon g,

    Yes, it was a disappointing follow-up to last week's very good opener.

    It's important to cover the health risks, especially for young people, but you can't do that without highlighting that they are all still there while we continue doing nothing.

    If a viewer had no background info at all before seeing that final part, then s/he would be understandably tempted to say "oh dear, best leave well alone". But it isn't well, at all. The status quo is not tenable, and Gower's doco did little to address the debate we must have, on what type of changes are safest and most effective.

    The AM Show, Project etc are not going to give us anything beyond sound bites. On Weed was a rare opportunity to go deeper - and it was missed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1321 posts Report Reply

  • Stupid,

    It actually felt like there had to be a part 3 that dealt with the referendum, which as you say Russell was largely ignored, apart from mentioning that it was happening in 2020. The end of Part 2 left us hanging I feel.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    But he never mentions the research – reported very ably by his own company – that shows that in Colorado and every other legalised US state, youth use is either stable or declining.

    Youth use is also declining in New Zealand.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4310 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden,

    I did actually mention in the interview for the show that I was in favor of a heavily regulated legal market, but they didn't use much of the interview at all (I was interviewed by Arwen rather than Paddy).

    In their (partial) defence, much of the material was assembled late last year and early this year (I was interviewed last November), so it would have been well into production when the Cabinet paper came out in May. There's still an urgent need for discussion around the proposed rules and whether we're getting those right, but the general lack of evidence for increased use in places where cannabis has been legalized suggests we may be worrying too much.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Daniel Wilton,

    There was a number of problematic statements in the documentary, it felt as though Paddy became a bit of fanboy when talking to the overly charismatic entrepreneurs. He really didn't challenge the gentrification issue, i.e. what happens when illicit cash is taken out of some of these communities how would a law change offset that.

    There was very little around education and how to treat addiction or if addiction is even an issue.

    The mere mention of Gummy Bears showed that there was very little investigation into how New Zealand would look to implement the law.

    On the whole I personally thought the show (not investigative documentary) did more harm than good for giving those who are still on the fence a clear picture regarding the 2020 vote

    Wellington • Since Jan 2009 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Daniel Wilton,

    Paddy became a bit of fanboy when talking to the overly charismatic

    Same flaw as his politics reporting. Credulous and wanting approval.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    I am constantly surprised that people expect well-researched material from a show pony. He is mired in sensationalism and gotcha journalism, which is why I didn't bother watching his programme. You may see it as a good faith effort, Russell, but we need more than "good faith" to get us through to the point of the referendum.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Gower thinks he did a wonderful job.

    "My goal was to lift the standard of debate in New Zealand, and I know I've done that.

    "Twenty years working as a journalist in this country, out there to inform Kiwis, and to do it on this scale with an issue like this and featuring the people that we showed, it's a dream come true for me."

    Gower hoped to make more documentaries, together with his friend Justin Hawkes, who was was the creative force behind On Weed.

    "The audience is there," he said.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19683 posts Report Reply

  • Kathryn Reeves,

    Thanks Russell. This is a very elegant and incisive analysis that captures my frustration with the moral panic in that episode. Big fan of most of the work, but I totally agree re the scaremongering, and the elevation of that dude and his promise of corporate billions at all costs. You’ve made me smarter, cheers.

    Ōtautahi • Since Sep 2019 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to nzlemming,

    Yeah, I couldn't bear to watch it either, I knew I'd just end up angry. I'm glad more serious people have the fortitude to go through with it and then report on it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    We recorded it and watched the second part last night. If I was going to select a front-person for a cannabis doco, Paddy Gower would not have been my first choice. And he wasn't TV3's either. The programmes were originally written for Paul Henry according to media reports. His involvement would have ensured I didn't watch.

    It wasn't all bad. The drone footage was effective and there were some genuinely nice moments, like the lady from Ruatoria who said the hemp course was good, "But my plants at home are better." Even Rose Renton came across sympathetically.

    But too much turned into docu-drama as we watched Paddy on some sort of journey to discover himself.*

    *Spoiler alert: he didn't get there.

    The drawn-out inclusion of the Wolf sequence was badly misjudged. His local company went belly-up in January and the man's past is well-documented. Why waste airtime giving him a platform like this? The production company had eight months to fix this, or to at least inform us about the conflict between this person's business and interpersonal skills. Poor show.

    While the programmes were conceived and started shooting last year, I've worked on enough documentaries to know that there's always flexibility in post-production to adapt to changing circumstances. It's how you craft docos.

    What might have been an opportunity to inform an important public debate in the end turned into just another TV3 "once-over-lightly-but-it'-rates" vehicle.

    An opportunity sadly lost.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Joe Boden,

    In their (partial) defence, much of the material was assembled late last year and early this year (I was interviewed last November), so it would have been well into production when the Cabinet paper came out in May.

    So I've heard. But that was four months ago. TV documentaries often get fiddled with right up till the week of broadcast, so they could have done it.

    There’s still an urgent need for discussion around the proposed rules and whether we’re getting those right, but the general lack of evidence for increased use in places where cannabis has been legalized suggests we may be worrying too much.

    I really want to hear – and I guess be part of – the regulatory and licensing discussion. As California is showing, that makes a huge difference to outcomes and the nature of the business. I need to read up a bit more on how Washington state did it – from what I hear, it does seem like Seattle is the place in the US where the whole thing has integrated best.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    The drawn-out inclusion of the Wolf sequence was badly misjudged. His local company went belly-up in January and the man’s past is well-documented. Why waste airtime giving him a platform like this? The production company had eight months to fix this, or to at least inform us about the conflict between this person’s business and interpersonal skills. Poor show.

    Quite. He should never have been given the platform. I'm sure they wanted him for colour, but it was a terrible editorial choice.

    An opportunity sadly lost.

    There's talk of a Part 3 focused specifically on our options, which would help.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22749 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    There’s talk of a Part 3 focused specifically on our options, which would help.

    I'd probably watch that

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    There’s talk of a Part 3 focused specifically on our options, which would help.

    I wouldn't watch it.

    Documentary filmmaking is an adaptive process. The jump from making 1:30" news items to structured one hour docos is a huge one. In this case it feels like an inexperienced production team started with a script (originally conceived as a Paul Henry vehicle) and refused to deviate from it, deliberately ignoring changing circumstances such as the downfall of the Wolf and all of the progress being made on our proposed legislation.

    TV3 received precious NZonAir funding for two docos and made a couple of half-arsed, poorly-researched programmes which were more like, Gee Whizz, Paddy tries a Spliff than anything informative.

    I agree that a grown-up doco is needed but in my opinion, TV3 ain't the people to do it. Every time either TVNZ or TV3 suck up doco funding, they tend to use their existing in-house crews and facilities which means they can make programmes cheaper than independent filmmakers. And they're taking precious funding from independents.

    Having not watched TV3 since Wheldon gutted their news and current affairs and sacked JC, I'd have to say it doesn't seem to have improved. I intended to watch the credits on the Gower shows, but TV3 do this super-crass thing and plaster their own self-promos over 3/4 of the screen, making all credits unreadable.

    TV3 have already had two shots at this subject. Any further NZonAir funding should be directed towards more talented local filmmakers.

    IMHO.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I really want to hear – and I guess be part of – the regulatory and licensing discussion. As California is showing, that makes a huge difference to outcomes and the nature of the business. I need to read up a bit more on how Washington state did it – from what I hear, it does seem like Seattle is the place in the US where the whole thing has integrated best.

    I should have been a bit more clear - in terms of harms, there is so far little evidence of an increase in cannabis-related harm in places where it has been legalized. So that's what I mean when I say that we may be "too concerned" about this aspect.

    In terms of benefits to the community, I think there are potentially big differences depending upon how legalization is implemented. The Drug Foundation's idea about the government serving as a wholesaler, which would allow small growers to be in the market, is a good idea (and far better than the California model which is keeping small growers out of the market).

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    Potentially more serious is this piece that featured on Spinoff and TVNZ about psychiatrists opposed to liberalisation of cannabis laws. What's your response to this, Russell, Joe and others?: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/nz-psychiatrists-stress-potential-harm-cannabis-ahead-2020-referendum

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 566 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Joe Boden,

    The Drug Foundation’s idea about the government serving as a wholesaler, which would allow small growers to be in the market, is a good idea (and far better than the California model which is keeping small growers out of the market).

    Amen to that Joe. I've been wanting to hear this sort of approach from our government since I first read the Drug Foundation proposals, but so far the emphasis seems to be on large commercial operations.

    Is the 'mum & dad' small business model even a possibility under legislation being considered? I'd rather purchase from a boutique local grower than a multinational any day. And for all sorts of reasons.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Brad SHB, in reply to Craig Young,

    What is more dangerous is professional psychiatrists taking results of past studies on cannabis and its links to psychosis out of context. Studies have shown there is a link between cannabis and certain mental illnesses, for instance schizophrenia but these studies typically do not go as far as to explain causation (unless they have an agenda bias).
    The point is, the studies do not go as far as explaining that there is a real possibility that sufferers of mental health illnesses are seeking out cannabinoids as to decrease symptoms of their illness.
    The NZ psychiatrists are doing their industry and New Zealanders a disservice by not doing more research themselves and simply giving in to reefer madness.

    Since Oct 2019 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    I think the question is the standard and provenance of the cannabis harm and risk research relied upon by opponents of cannabis liberalisation and whether the premises and methodology are faulty, which I suspect may be the case.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 566 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Craig Young,

    Potentially more serious is this piece that featured on Spinoff and TVNZ about psychiatrists opposed to liberalisation of cannabis laws. What’s your response to this, Russell, Joe and others?: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/nz-psychiatrists-stress-potential-harm-cannabis-ahead-2020-referendum</q>

    Sorry for the late reply. A lot of my colleagues at UOC are psychiatrists and they are mostly on board with cannabis law reform, but I wonder if others are overlooking the fact that harm reduction can be better accomplished by supply control (cf. tobacco regulations).

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Alfie,

    Amen to that Joe. I’ve been wanting to hear this sort of approach from our government since I first read the Drug Foundation proposals, but so far the emphasis seems to be on large commercial operations.

    Is the ‘mum & dad’ small business model even a possibility under legislation being considered? I’d rather purchase from a boutique local grower than a multinational any day. And for all sorts of reasons.

    Andrew Little said yesterday in a meeting of cannabis "experts" that he doesn't want to "keep anyone out" of the potential marketplace, which will include small producers and in particular Maori. However, it is possible to parse his words as saying that he is not opposed to larger corporate interests in the marketplace as well.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Craig Young,

    I think the question is the standard and provenance of the cannabis harm and risk research relied upon by opponents of cannabis liberalisation and whether the premises and methodology are faulty, which I suspect may be the case.

    Our methods for ascertaining reverse causality (i.e. determining how much of the effect is in the form of cannabis ==> psychosis, and how much is in the form of psychosis ==> cannabis) are most definitely flawed, and this is mentioned in the "limitations" sections of most papers (including ours).

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    I think the perspective amongst mental health consumers is to steer well clear of some subspecies of weed which may exacerbate pre-existing latent psychosis, especially in the case of people with schizophrenia. That said, I understand that methamphetamine can also cause severer psychosis, and of longer duration. Surely therefore containment and interdiction should be directed toward that objective, given that severity.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 566 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Craig Young,

    I think the perspective amongst mental health consumers is to steer well clear of some subspecies of weed which may exacerbate pre-existing latent psychosis, especially in the case of people with schizophrenia. That said, I understand that methamphetamine can also cause severer psychosis, and of longer duration. Surely therefore containment and interdiction should be directed toward that objective, given that severity.

    I agree completely.

    We're actually going to be examining this question (meth and psychosis) using data from our cohort and a few Australian cohorts... stay tuned!

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 87 posts Report Reply

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