Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The last – and best – parts of the cannabis bill have arrived

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  • Alfie,

    Pass the joint and praise the Lord! Big Canna has been excluded. Canadian pot money has been distorting world markets for a while, even if some of the bigger players like Canopy Growth seem to be heading out the back door at the moment.

    The social equity provisions are excellent, especially the ongoing monitoring element. And we are going to be allowed some form of coffee bars. Good. That's just civilised.

    It feels a bit churlish to criticise, but the 15% THC limit feels low as many popular strains currently come in around the 20% mark. That creates an obvious and sizeable niche for the black market. And while that 14g limit still seems silly -- akin to limiting spirit sales to half bottles, that's surely bound improve over time.

    I'd have to say I've been looking forward to some pleasant retail experiences post-legalisation. But no looking, smelling or becoming in any way informed about the product you're buying? Seriously? If diseminating helpful information at retail is going to be this crippled, we may as well buy via mail order.

    But hey, as a starting point I'm very happy with what we've seen so far. I really had not expected to be this close to common sense legalisation in my country, in my lifetime. Bring on the referendum.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1435 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    But no looking, smelling or becoming in any way informed about the product you’re buying? Seriously? If diseminating helpful information at retail is going to be this crippled, we may as well buy via mail order.

    I've updated the post. Clause 158 g (iii) would seem to allow a store operator to offer advice and information and for the customer to see and possibly smell the bud. Perils of trying to absorb a very detailed bill quickly on my part, but it could have been clearer, especially given the extremely broad definition of "advertising" in the bill.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Trevor Nicholls,

    "Infantilising" is a good word for the kind of campaign that will likely be run against this proposal, alas.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Worik Stanton,

    I can vote for this

    Otepoti • Since Nov 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Dean Wallis,

    With the bill offering encouragement to production by Maori in impoverished areas, I hope the supply chain does not end up mirroring the fishing industry, where the producers operate on subsistence returns while the distributors make hefty profits

    Point Chevalier • Since Jan 2013 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • John McKinnon,

    Sensible and civilised. I can vote for this.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2016 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    Any word on the drug impairment testing set for driving and working?

    As NZ seeks to avoid a depression through state infrastructure works, movement on the zero tolerance test currently in place would be meaningful.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2020 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Helga,

    What’s the argument for no beverages? I recall a Kim Hill interview discussing the teas produced in California by a New Zealand expat - teas for relaxation and sleep and getting high or not getting high - all sounded wonderfully civilised. Why not here?

    New Zealand • Since May 2012 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Helga,

    What’s the argument for no beverages? I recall a Kim Hill interview discussing the teas produced in California by a New Zealand expat – teas for relaxation and sleep and getting high or not getting high – all sounded wonderfully civilised. Why not here?

    It's more of a general wariness about novel products I think. The rush to create drinks in California has a few issues.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    While some of the more civilised consumption methods may not be commercially available for a start, in theory we'll all be able to grow four plants per bubble. Anyone who theoretically invested in a Magic Butter Maker would be able to produce a range of healthy and delicious edibles at home.

    Warning: when the Amazon algorithm keeps "suggesting" you need gummy bear moulds, you know that big data has your number.

    Aside: Does anyone else think in bubbles now?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1435 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    After saying earlier I thought "the 15% THC limit feels low as many popular strains currently come in around the 20% mark", I was surprised to read this from Ross Bell.

    Under the proposed regime, authorities could restrict dried cannabis to contain no more than 15 percent THC - the main psychoactive ingredient.

    The foundation's director Ross Bell said that seems too much.

    "The work that I've seen done by ESR shows that generally New Zealand cannabis on the black market is about 6 to 8 percent which I think is a more reasonable number."

    That may have been the case back when it was all 'NZ Green', but plant genetics have moved on apace and the tastier varieties all test way higher than 8%. Is most of the street level supply in NZ analytically this close to being low-impact bush weed? Is that what the gangs have been churning out all this time?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1435 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    I was surprised to read this from Ross Bell.

    Me too. I know that the national bragging about growing world-beating weed hasn't been true for quite a while, if it ever was, but that does seem very low.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Here’s the 2010 ESR research, which involved growing plants hydroponically and got a remarkably wide variety of results.

    And the Herald report on same:

    Police and ESR used sophisticated hydroponic equipment to complete three cannabis growing cycles, nursing six plants at a time, 18 in total, to maturity. The study revealed the drug was more than four times stronger than it was last tested in 1996.

    THC levels varied between 4.35 per cent and 25.3 per cent during the study completed under Ministry of Health licence between 2004 and 2006. When ESR last tested the Class C drug, it found an average THC level of 6 per cent.

    The Drug Foundation published a response to the scare-story headings at that time about cannabis being “four times as strong” as in previous research in 1996, pointing out the inconsistency in potency and suggesting a more typical potency was 10-11%.

    But that’s still more than Ross is saying now. I think 6% potency cannabis would not be popular at retail. Anyway, I've messaged him to asked if he can swing by with any more detail.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Hi all. For clarification (and I've just copied this from a Facebook post in response to someone who challenged the reported comments):

    "Yes, it's true. The data on levels of potency of cannabis typically available on the black market is old. This report is 10 years old: http://i.stuff.co.nz/.../Cannabis-now-four-times-stronger

    That shows the some cannabis was averaging about 11%. An earlier report from ESR showed averages of 6-8%.

    The main point I was trying to make to the journalist was less about an absolute figure, but more about the need to understand what is currently available to cannabis consumers and making sure therefore that we try to stick to those levels.

    I actually said 15% upper limit might be OK, but that it would be good to test cannabis before we make a final decision. As I read it, the 15% limit is a proposal, but the cannabis advisory committee will be asked whether this is too high or low.
    We have been asking the govt to fund this testing for over a year now; we know that ESR is really keen to do this work.

    Another point I made (and not everything you say to media makes it into the final story) is that we know there are increased risks with higher potency cannabis, and the NZ should try to avoid creating a market for high potency cannabis if that market doesn't yet exist. If testing shows that average black market products are 12-15 or more, then let's adjust the level.

    And what is brilliant about the proposed law is that consumers will know exactly what it is they are buying, because that will be on the packet. And that the people selling cannabis can be trained up to give good advice to experienced consumers and novice consumers.

    But yes, there are some cannabis consumers who prefer higher potency strains. My view is those consumers are probably well skilled cultivators, and under the Bill, will still be able to grow their own higher strength plants under the home cultivation provisions.

    I'd genuinely love to know how you have determined the strength of the cannabis you consume. How do you know it's 20 or 30%? And do you know the CBD ratios too? I'm concerned that there are too many strains that are full on THC with little to no CBD to moderate it.

    Cheers
    Ross"

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Attachment

    p.s. These are the criteria the Authority must consider when setting the final limit:

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ross Bell,

    I’m concerned that there are too many strains that are full on THC with little to no CBD to moderate it.

    Thanks Ross. I think the above is one of the stronger arguments for legalisation. Per my Pearl Schomburg story, it seems that the better green fairy growers are achieving good CBD ratios, but it would be great if that was cannabis that everyone could obtain.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It feels a bit churlish to criticise, but the 15% THC limit feels low as many popular strains currently come in around the 20% mark. That creates an obvious and sizeable niche for the black market.

    I don't think this is much of a problem really. There is a black market for over proof booze now but really, so what? You'll get the same effect from two doses of half strength as one dose of full strength. The important thing is that the dose is known. I don't think strength will long continue to dictate price, as civilized use progresses. Subtler things like taste, smell, quality of experience and brand recognition will demand premiums. The crude idea of stronger is better will just be a tiny niche, like drinking moonshine is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Ross Bell,

    I’d genuinely love to know how you have determined the strength of the cannabis you consume. How do you know it’s 20 or 30%? And do you know the CBD ratios too? I’m concerned that there are too many strains that are full on THC with little to no CBD to moderate it.

    If you don’t have a friend who works in a lab and without access to legal testing, there tends to be a reliance on analytical information provided by seed banks. I’m told they’re dependable and are probably preferable to scoring a dodgy seedling of unknown provenance that somebody’s mate down the pub can get hold of and which has a 50% chance of being riddled with soil gnats or other pests.

    A lot of seed bank strains run 15-25% these days, without much CBD for balance, so pegging official THC levels at 8-10% would probably inspire experimentation by regular users. To me an advantage of a higher THC strain is that you use less of it. Like a good malt whiskey. Sort of.

    Maybe I mix with the wrong people, but I get the impression that consumer sophistication has developed over the years as the availability of strains has improved. For me it’s bubblegum – an up-and-at-em (c.f. couch potato) strain which sends my arthritis pain to the background, is not too heavy, a bit giggly and can be wonderfully creative – that’s around 15.5% THC and >1% CBD. But some samples test up to 19% so that would fall outside even a 15% limit.

    I can’t find any evidence of sub-10% levels in other legal markets. I’d argue that rather than restricting levels, a tax based on THC content seems like a winner. Given the choice between a nice over-proof whiskey at $150 or a bottle of something serviceable for $75, the majority will be motivated by price.

    If the ultimate aim is to regulate and eventually integrate the black market, limiting THC to 10% suggests something nearer to bush weed which to be honest, just isn’t that appealing any longer.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1435 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to BenWilson,

    You’ll get the same effect from two doses of half strength as one dose of full strength.

    Possibly, in the way that four big macs equate to one decent restaurant meal, but I’m picturing The Freak Brothers without the humour.

    Numerous trips to Amsterdam with Lloyd Cole’s "Lost Weekend" as the enduring background track cured me of over-strength weed decades ago. (The B52s "Channel Z" also deserves an honourable mention). Plant genetics have moved on to the point where strength is less of a prime metric than effect and flavour… go you good terpenes. It just so happens that the varieties I prefer and which work best for me start at 15% and head north.

    I’m looking forward to legalisation as I hadn’t expected to see it in NZ in my lifetime. To speaking with a knowledgeable budtender and being able to purchase something different, trying some new strains. And maybe sharing coffee and a bud with friends in a congenial legal setting. It all sounds quite civilised. May it happen.

    Subtler things like taste, smell, quality of experience and brand recognition will demand premiums.

    Yep, they already do.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1435 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Here’s the 2010 ESR research...

    Thanks for that. A couple of things stand out for me.

    The inexperience of the growers was evidenced by different problems encountered in each of the three cycles, each of which would be expected to negatively impact the yield and THC data obtained.

    As you'd expect. However for inexperienced growers to produce "an average of 687g (24.2oz) of dry head per plant" seems unbelievable. They must have turned out three metre monsters, in hydro. And weighed the stalks. Has that stat affected Police perceptions around the potential value of a plant? Then there's this.

    THC values for individual plants ranged from 4.3 to 25.2%.

    With such a massive mix-and-match result ranging from hemp to heaven over just 18 plants, you'd have to question the seeds or stock used. That was ten years ago and I imagine the Hikirangi boys, Helius et al will have more up to date information. Somebody must have.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1435 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    I can not just vote for this - but would like to help campaign for it, too. Must get in touch with some of the locals.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Hi Rob. Reach out if you're keen to get a bit deeper involved. Both Make It Legal and ourselves (Drug Foundation/Health Not Handcuffs) need volunteers, with different levels of involvement (for example we're keen for people to organise online communities in their own area). Let me know how keen you are, and I can hook you up.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Just a quick question (this seems an appropriate place to post it):

    A lovely bloke and former work colleague emailed me yesterday, with rather terrible news about the diagnosis of an intensifying medical condition. He has been diagnosed with onset of motor neurone disease.
    In his message, he asked if he could ‘commission’ me to grow cannabis in our garden (it is a very fertile garden and I spend many hours working in it). I think he is seeking a legitimate source for medical cannabis but I also think his request was serious.
    What would be the legality of such a venture? Still illegal but could change under proposed legislation? All advice would be welcomed.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Bell,

    Illegal AF. Even under the medical cannabis law that passed last year, any protection from prosecution doesn't apply to cultivation nor to any 'green fairy.' You would have take your chances with the police using discretion (which we have seen even in some cases).

    But under the proposed Bill you could grow up to 4 plants per household, and you can gift/share with your friend (you could not sell to him).

    Your friend right now should talk to his doctor about getting a medical cannabis prescription (but note, anything he's prescribed will be pricey).

    Also, there are many green fairies lurking on Public Address. They may reach out to you, and/or myself and Russell can make introductions.

    Wellington, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand, in reply to Ross Bell,

    Many thanks, Ross. This is helpful.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

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