Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious matter – so be serious about it

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  • Craig Young,

    And the latest scare tactic is (drumroll) cannabis toxicity, adverse reactions and psychosis (c/o Canada's tabloid National Post):
    https://nationalpost.com/opinion/opinion-think-cannabis-is-harmless-i-used-to-too-i-know-better-now

    What about New Zealand's pharmacovigilance regulators? Wouldn't they undertake assessment of specfic subspecies of weed in the event of legalisation? It'd be interesting to see if any human genome research has identified particular genes that affect the onset of adverse reactions to pot and specific other drugs.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Craig Young,

    adverse reactions and psychosis

    As she points out her friend who had the same dose as her was fine and able to comfort her. Individual differences make a difference. I dont want to downplay how traumatic it must have been for her. She writes "at a time when I was stressed, and therefore vulnerable to a breakdown". She should have paid attention to that and refused the gummy bear. Many things can lay bare your "soul" overuse of alcohol can do it, albeit briefly before you get drunk. That dread of death and impermanence is always with us. As Shulgin and others can attest pure MDMA taken in the right circumstance(not at a dance party) can offer a less confronting way of facing those demons we carry with us. We cant just shut it out, now more than ever we(all of us) need to pay attention. And get our societies back on track to care for those who, for whatever reason, lose their way. But using her story as a scare tactic is a bad idea, but tabloids make a habit of this kind of thing.

    white entitlement anti gang argument also being used by Greens.

    Its a dumbed down argument I guess it appeals to people who see "gangs" or the criminal element as the main problem. Cant see where the "white entitlement" comes into it. Please point out what Im missing. Tho I do find the tone condescending at times. I guess thats what happens when trying to cover all bases.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Young,

    From Spinoff, this time. A columnist talks about her father's deadend life using pot to blot out an otherwise grim deadend life. The most obvious rejoinder to this is which subsspecies of weed he was using, and whether there were meaningful intervention services in the area her dad lived in. If not, that explains the pattern of his problematic use, Compare her description to that of anyone who's lived with an alcoholic parent: https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/04-02-2019/my-father-lost-in-smoke/

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden,

    Doug Sellman and I have an op-ed in the ODT today about the wording of the referendum.

    https://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/question-important-%E2%80%98bit-detail%E2%80%99

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Armstrong, in reply to andin,

    Please point out what I'm missing.

    It just seems like with their one wish we have a binding referendum where people who can't score think it is somehow OK to bash gangs in public so they can avoid growing their own.

    I don't know what kind of cabbage the Green party smokes but the alienation and memory loss in store for them when they get hit with something a bit stronger makes me kinda sad.

    If they get back in Paula may suggest they all start peeing in a cup on a random basis.

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin, in reply to Joe Boden,

    A two stage referendum maybe? First stage - Choose Which Option; Second stage: Status Quo vs Chosen Alternative

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    Im with you now, and yep.

    As per Joe's post option 3 or 4 seem the better ones, and maybe "gangs" could be part of the licensed retailers or growers. As long as a person can grow a few plants of their own if they want. An upper limit could be set. Any sort of control shouldnt fall into corporate hands, unless it has something to do with the medical side and price are controlled to make it affordable for those who need it.
    But lets gt thru the referendum first eh!

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to ,

    I've been invited to have a discussion with some folks from the MoJ who are spearheading the development of the referendum, so I'm hoping to be able press our points with them in person.

    A two-stage referendum sounds like a good idea, even if it is run at the same time. Hypothetical: Question 1: change or no change? Question 2: If change, rank choice for options for change. If there is a majority in favor of change on Q1, then the rank choice result for Q2 will indicate which direction we will go in.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Cannabis is incompatible with human happiness because capitalism. These are the takes that led to the over-stimulation of my mesolimbic system when reading Danyl, and the resulting anhedonia has long since worn off since I quit.

    I've been quite surprised by the praise for Danyl's essay, because I rather strongly dislike it and think it says far less than it purports to. Framing all drug use in terms of some sort of dystopian dopamine chase ignores a lot of the actual reasons that people take drugs, including social ones.

    And "we should have an agency that decides what to do about drugs" is a very bloody thin conclusion.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to ,

    The wording of the referendum that Big Business is likely to push for will emphasise freedom to buy cannabis as a matter of individual choice, with no reference to the type of regulation surrounding the sale of cannabis; wording such as: Do you think it should be legal to buy cannabis in New Zealand? Yes. No.

    Thanks Joe, this is worth taking very seriously.

    I think Joe and Doug will get their wish. The proposed model was always going to severely limit commercial exploitation of any new market.

    But by the same token, I'm not clear that there will actually be a "Big Business" lobby for a liberal commercial regime along the lines they expect. There's no sign of that yet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I was recently interviewed for Patrick Gower's upcoming documentary about cannabis in New Zealand (in which I state that I would support a highly regulated legal regime!). His producer was telling me about some other interviewees who are already involved in growing, and they seem to be gearing up to be making some big money. It could just be wishful thinking... time will tell, I guess.

    I wish I could be more optimistic, but if we look at what came out of Alcohol law reform, the only substantive thing we got was a private member's bill that reduced the allowable BAC to 0.05... and that was a total fluke.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Joe Boden,

    His producer was telling me about some other interviewees who are already involved in growing, and they seem to be gearing up to be making some big money. It could just be wishful thinking... time will tell, I guess.

    I think there's a difference between allowing commerce on the production side – where there are costs and compliance and it can't be done for free – and a highly commercial retail sector.

    I don't think there's a serious lobby here behind open-slather regulation – the longtime reform advocates almost universally don't want a highly commercial model. The only person in NZ I've seen argue for Big Cannabis is Karl du Fresne, and he's an idiot.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see the government opt for a NZ take on cannabis social clubs. They don't have to do anything of the kind, of course – the original MoU is vague enough that they could just propose legalising use and possession but not any kind of production. Which I think would be a mistake.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Framing all drug use in terms of some sort of dystopian dopamine chase ignores a lot of the actual reasons that people take drugs, including social ones.

    Those social reasons are themselves based on dopamine release and are follwed by a depletion period where peolpe are less pro-social. It’s the dopamine release people after and the downside comes on Tuesday.

    I don’t see it as an argument against decriminalisation but I think Danyl’s central point is that we are creating new and disturbing was to get addicted and perhaps the classic harm reduction model has been overtaken by events.

    Since Nov 2016 • 382 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank, in reply to Joe Boden,

    I thought the five options seemed an intelligent design. Just one obvious design flaw: three were for legalisation but failed to say so. I only becomes apparent when you read and interpret the text.

    Just remember: half the voters have below-average intelligence! Imagine the enormous queues that will develop at polling places, caused by voters scratching their heads trying to figure out where the legalisation option is, so they can tick it.

    The kiss formula applies: keep it simple (too many folks are) stupid. Both/and logic could be applied via supplying them with a legalisation option to tick, followed by the three regulation options you describe (in a sub-section).

    I also didn't like the psychological signalling involved in the choice to put the status quo first. The status quo is so disreputable, it ought to be last!

    Anyway, what would I choose to vote for? One of these two:

    • State-owned monopoly with no private profit involved (similar to alcohol in Scandinavia).

    • Strongly regulated private businesses; no marketing, limited hours of purchase, R20 (similar to tobacco in New Zealand).

    The problem with the state option is that it forces us to trust bureaucrats to get it right. Since when has that ever worked?? If legislation included a clause requiring the bureaucrats to obtain approval from the Drug Foundation for their methodology, that could suffice to produce trust in their competence. The DF would be a compulsory consultancy in both design and implementation phases.

    The problem with the private enterprise option is that enterprises compete in the market on the basis of quality differentiation. Okay, they also compete on the basis of false promises, but let's assume regulators will eliminate that! So producers must be able to specify what makes their product better. Consumer choice requires that info to be available. That means advertising, even if only at point of sale...

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Armstrong,

    Found a rant I posted on facebook in August 2017 and it brought back all the anger over damage done to my whanau. I think legalisation of recreational drug usage in New Zealand after the debacle of legal highs is being a bit optimistic (in which mainstream New Zealanders don't appreciate the obvious differences with new proposal).

    Peter Dunne is not sorry baby Isaiah Neil died in a car while caregivers smoked themselves into oblivion on drugs he made available in dairies across the land.
    Peter Dunne does not regret knee capping the local marijuana industry so that his own son could profit from legalising a toxic gateway drug that led to the P epidemic in his country.
    Peter Dunne will not apologise to the parents of teenagers that suffered most during the worst period of mental health our nation has weathered.
    Peter Dunne can retire happy knowing his contributions to the poor and downtrodden allowed him to celebrate the privilege and power with the smug content that he be accustomed without remorse.

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 78 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    The problem with the state option is that it forces us to trust bureaucrats to get it right. Since when has that ever worked??

    Only the health system, the education system, most of government and almost any big institution. Its dead simple to slag "government bureaucrats". But maybe too simple?

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    the health system, the education system,

    Off the top of my head those were basically set up by a Labour govt in the 1930's, last century. And a claw back of those reforms basically got underway from the 1970-80's. Under different policy settings oddly enough started by a Labour govt and continued by succeeding Nat/Lab govts. So maybe its the policy settings we should put under constant scrutiny not the people. Sometimes it hard to separate them tho' and at times some are so wedded to their beliefs they wont give them up. Funny that.
    I can only guess, but perhaps searching their conscience is something some are not very good at. Or shift the fields of reference and justification is right there to be used to condone actions that were previously unthinkable. We can be such fickle creatures. It does take deep serious thought to run large groupings of people such as nations and we need time off to just relax. I like the Spanish word for that Tranquillo

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Neil,

    Those social reasons are themselves based on dopamine release and are follwed by a depletion period where peolpe are less pro-social. It’s the dopamine release people after and the downside comes on Tuesday.

    That's one theory, based on the idea that dopamine chasing is 100% of human motivation. Which is bunk, IMHO. It oversimplifies why people do things, and possibly conflates cause and effect too.

    Yes, there is a dopamine response to doing a number of things, many of which do not even involve putting chemicals into your body. You can get it from watching a movie, or talking to friends. Do you talk to your friends just for the dopamine? Or do you do it because you like it, and that's why the dopamine releases, because you anticipate the reward of something enjoyable.

    Cannabis probably works directly on the dopamine, via an indirect pathway, and the brain compensates by slowing its own production down if the cannabis use is continual. In other words it balances out and stops being much of a motivator, other than that you do want more cannabis to get back to balance. This depression of your natural production is pretty much temporary - addicted users who stop basically return to normal balance after some time.

    But is that imbalance the only reason the user is addicted? I don't think it's the whole reason - they may use, say, daily, because they like being high, and the removal of a dopamine low is something of a bonus side effect, psychologically.

    You might say that "liking being high" and "being addicted to a dopamine uptick from that drug" are the same thing, but I think that is not true. Being high on cannabis is being in a state that is not just "feeling good because dopamine is in balance", it's also got it's own quite signature effect on your consciousness, which some people for whatever reason just really like.

    I think it can be enjoyable in different ways for different people for different reasons. In my own case, the times I've had it, I've enjoyed that it slows my brain down (which ordinarily goes way too fast) and makes unusual connections that I would not ordinarily have. It can sometimes be "inspirational" in that way, particularly if I've been working on a problem for a while and hit a wall. It is rarely useful like that, but it certainly has occasionally happened.

    At other times, the temporary disruption of short term memory (which is clearly strongly adversely affected by cannabis when you are actually high) leads to a peculiar state of experiencing only the moment, because you can't really hold onto the moments before. This is a very, very enjoyable state to be in when engaging in an activity that requires concentration without memory - like playing an intense video or sports game, or listening to (or playing) music, or just watching a film or even just watching a view.

    I do, of course, still enjoy listening to music, or watching films, or playing sports, without it. Almost all of the time. Like Danyl, my interest in it decayed as I got older - although I would not say that had jack shit to do with the joyless state of dopamine reduction that he was talking about. Unless he was a very heavy user I would be surprised if it affected him either.

    I can be honest that my decay in interest is IMHO a function of the transition into middle age, with the increase in the burdens of responsibility and the decay in general health simply leaving no time for it. When you have to look after children, and hold down your job, and do quite a lot of complicated things in your non-work time too, and you are driving a car a lot, often with many people in it, you just can't afford to be high. It's dangerous and inappropriate, so you don't. In the precious moments of release from responsibility that you do get, a drug that will probably have the side effect of lethargic hangover is not something I felt like having.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Dennis Frank, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    I take the point. Somewhat. Glass half-empty situation. With governance in question all over western civilisation, anyone who speaks up on behalf of bureaucracy is such a threatened species that an attitude of compassion kicks in.

    Professional competence probably does exist, but likely is only detectable on a chance basis. Group-think probably isn't as dire as within Labour, but still an operational handicap. I've interacted with some public servants who seem to be genuinely motivated to provide public service (they also seem elderly).

    If they formed a lobby group entitled Bureaucrats for Legalisation we could start to see them as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. But I imagine you'd be quick to declare that public servants cannot be allowed to take an ethical stance in public, because the law doesn't allow them the same civil rights as other citizens. If so, could be another case of leftists trying to get away with discrimination, and defending the establishment in consequence. Seen that shit since the sixties...

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to BenWilson,

    it’s also got it’s own quite signature effect on your consciousness, which some people for whatever reason just really like.

    And there are many, many reasons

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    That's great news, especially the now un-suppressed other non-convictions. But it does rather reinforce the point that the legal system uses discretion to keep nice middle class white people safe from the howling mob of Laura Norder crusaders. And that's why we need reform.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

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