Posts by Dennis Frank

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, 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 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, 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 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    I thought it an excellent essay! The focus on addiction psychology points to a dimension of the public debate hitherto made conspicuous by abscence, but here's the reason: "only about 10-20% of habitual users can be classified as addicts."

    That depends how you define addiction, of course! Scientists agreed marijuana isn't addictive long ago. However, habit-forming tendencies easily produce dependency, and that can simulate addiction rather well.

    Danyl asks "what if addiction is a constant product of technological progress, meaning it is a problem that will continually escalate and get worse, rather than go away?" We've seen oil-addiction produce runaway climate change. Violence-addiction still produces war, and arms-manufacturing. Money-addiction produces gambling and capitalism, reminding us of the traditional aphorism: money is the root of all evil.

    If psychologists weren't collectively inept, they would have already persuaded us that addiction psychology is the root of many harmful behaviours, and ought to be designed-for in our public policy.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Craig Young,

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…, in reply to Craig Young,

    At a glance, you can get the overview here: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/countries/drug-reports/2018/portugal_en

    Cannabis 8% "in young adults (15-34 years) in the last year" Also, from a year ago: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it

    "Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government – including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs – could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself. In many ways, the law was merely a reflection of transformations that were already happening in clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables across the country. The official policy of decriminalisation made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing etc) that had been struggling to pool their resources and expertise, to work together more effectively to serve their communities."

    "In 1997, after 10 years of running the CAT in Faro, Goulão was invited to help design and lead a national drug strategy. He assembled a team of experts to study potential solutions to Portugal’s drug problem. The resulting recommendations, including the full decriminalisation of drug use, were presented in 1999, approved by the council of ministers in 2000, and a new national plan of action came into effect in 2001."

    "Today, Goulão is Portugal’s drug czar. He has been the lodestar throughout eight alternating conservative and progressive administrations; through heated standoffs with lawmakers and lobbyists; through shifts in scientific understanding of addiction and in cultural tolerance for drug use; through austerity cuts, and through a global policy climate that only very recently became slightly less hostile. Goulão is also decriminalisation’s busiest global ambassador. He travels almost non-stop, invited again and again to present the successes of Portugal’s harm-reduction experiment to authorities around the world, from Norway to Brazil, which are dealing with desperate situations in their own countries."

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…,

    "Otago University health researchers warn cannabis risks are being downplayed in talk about changing the law but, in a New Zealand Medical Journal editorial, do support decriminalising recreational use by adults."

    "Friday's editorial in the NZMJ urging caution in how the law is changed was written by Research Associate Professor Joseph Boden, from the university's Department of Psychological Medicine, and by Emeritus Professor David Fergusson, who died in October." https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/109979248/nzmj-editorial-urges-caution-in-changing-cannabis-laws-warns-risks-being-downplayed

    I note that Joe has briefly commented above. I also note that he looks suspiciously similar to Frank Zappa in the early seventies! Anyway, good to see that he's willing to participate in the commentariat discussion of the issues.

    The public have moved on beyond decriminalisation. The recent poll had 60% for legalisation. So why be so cautious? Here's the rationale:

    "The Christchurch study involved 1265 people born in 1977 and studied to the age of 35. More than 75 per cent reported using cannabis, with about 15 per cent developing a pattern of heavy use and dependence at some point."

    "Data showed cannabis use was associated with educational delay, welfare dependence, increased risks of psychotic symptoms, major depression, increased risks of motor vehicle accidents, increased risks of tobacco use, increased risks of other illicit drug use, and respiratory impairment."

    The risks listed here are valid concerns, and do correspond with my lifetime experience (a half-century of mediating between users & non-users, with personal usage for some periods within that). But those vulnerable to such consequences are only a small portion of the whole - 60% of the users studied didn't become victims of the habit. Eliminating the civil rights of all to protect a small bunch of users is ethically untenable. It's analogous to removing the right to drive cars because speeding drivers keep killing people.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Cannabis reform is a serious…,

    Re "under placebo-controlled conditions, #cannabidiol (#CBD) improves outcomes in patients with schizophrenia when given as an adjunct med, showing that cannabinoids (not necessarily cannabis) improve symptoms."

    A pointer that intelligent tech design is the way forward for accurate medication, for those who need that. Self medicating with herb can be seen as a blunt instrument comparatively, but folks must retain freedom of choice. So it will get down to the interplay between GP advice & user habit, I guess.

    THC is "one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_(drug)

    I went looking for any advance on what the other psychoactive components do that's different from THC. Found nothing except this: "CBD is a 5-HT1A receptor agonist, which may also contribute to an anxiolytic effect. This likely means the high concentrations of CBD found in Cannabis indica mitigate the anxiogenic effect of THC significantly. The cannabis industry claims that sativa strains provide a more stimulating psychoactive high while indica strains are more sedating with a body high."

    "In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis (2.7% to 4.9% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65)." "The countries with the highest use among adults as of 2018 are Zambia, the United States, Canada, and Nigeria. In 2016, 51% of people in the United States had ever used cannabis. About 12% had used it in the past year, and 7.3% had used it in the past month." "In September 2018, cannabis was legalized in South Africa while Canada legalized recreational use of cannabis in October 2018."

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: About that Rhythm and Vines…,

    Excellent, Wendy. https://knowyourstuff.nz/about/
    So good to know that you folks have organised to do this. My relevant experience is with psychedelic drugs long ago, but even in the early seventies products laced with dangerous additives were on the market. That's due to prohibition preventing quality control in manufacturing from being imposed by the govt.

    I presume you are advising Chloe in respect of any govt lack of initiative apparent. Lobbying the right people is part of how democracy is meant to work, and the coalition parties seem distinct from the Greens in not having drug reform advocates as far as I can tell.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: About that Rhythm and Vines…,

    "It was also unclear who had actually issued the warning in the first place. The DHB? Festival organisers? The police? The One News report offers a bit more context there. It appears that Gisborne police had borrowed a spectrometer from Customs to analyse contraband drugs seized by festival security. Some pills were just sugar."

    Caveat emptor. Fraudulent products abound when there's no regulation of manufacturing. But the lack of info around the warning is indeed a serious concern. Just the media folk involved being lazy or incompetent instead of informing the public? Perhaps.

    Do police have a code of conduct clause that applies to the delivery of public health and safety warnings? If so, correct professional procedure would supply the source of the warning to the media. If not, Nash ought to point out to the commissioner that he needs to incorporate a suitable clause in the code.

    Someone ought to pursue this one until a satisfactory outcome is achieved. Mickey Mouse public health and safety warnings are not just a bad look for the govt and police. They make Aotearoa look third-world.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Another year on earth,

    "It also made me think a lot about tribe and identity, about who we all were and what was important to us. In particular, about my role in our tribe. Outside of the bonds of family, it seemed the most enduring duty I had."

    As someone still reluctant to admit to being elderly, I've found myself meditating on this stuff often in recent years (I'm 69). Likewise being motivated by a sense of duty to the my increasingly-ephemeral peer-group in particular, and to maintaining a role in the zeitgeist, I welcome your venture into these reflections on mortality Russell.

    Did you know Neil Young also has that nexus in which music, writing, cannabis and cultural ethos are anchored in family and tribe? A few years ago I read his autobiography and learned of his childhood polio and impaired children, which I was unaware of till then:

    "I stood stage right with his son Ben, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy who is unable to speak. When he was born, Young and his wife, Pegi, a singer and musician, put everything else aside to help him develop his motor skills. Now 34, Ben goes on every tour. “He’s our spiritual leader in that way,” Young says. “We take him everywhere, and he’s like a measuring stick for what’s going on.” (Zeke, Young’s son by Snodgress, has a very mild case of cerebral palsy".

    That's from an excellent 2012 NYT feature: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/magazine/neil-young-comes-clean.html - I recommend reading both, to suss out his warrior-like caring way of managing things in adversity.

    "Young, who has never been a graceful stage presence, lurched to the front. He is old — he began playing in this town more than 40 years ago — and bent over his guitar, but he is not old and bent. Young has never been physically whole, but that brokenness has annealed rather than slowed him. He is anything but a frail man when he has a guitar in his hand."

    "Foo Fighters followed, with Dave Grohl mentioning that the sooner he got done, the sooner they’d all get to hear Young play. (He stood at the side of the stage afterward for Young’s entire set.)"

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2016 • 267 posts Report Reply

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