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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  • Simon Armstrong,

    Got suggestions as to how this might be accomplished?

    No, but I think the concept may make a useful metric to measure worthiness of proposals on the table. For me, modifying factors that impact illicit drug trade seems a lot more pragmatic than any return to a "legal high" environment.

    Danyl Mclauchlan raises some interesting points this morning:


    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • Tom Semmens,

    The chances of getting any serious buy in from the National party for decent drug law reform seems to diminish by the day. For the right, the power of the culture wars seems just to much. Simon Bridges was at it again today, when asked attacking the Greens (in relation to the creation of an astroturf Green party) for supporting drug reform.

    All in all, the focus groups and polling must be telling National their are votes in provincial and suburban NZ in scare mongering up a culture war on drugs. As long as National remain committed to political expediency on this issue, the chances of meaningful and sensible reform our drugs laws are not good.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report

  • Dennis Frank, 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 • 292 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    Could have done with out the stories from his youth, thats the kind of thing best left for drunken conversation at dinner parties....maybe thats addictive behaviour.
    This is a good point tho
    " and the harm is compounded by prohibition. "
    Govts can get out of the way of individuals seeking help for their mental health. And he does point out addictive behaviour is applicable to many, many things we do as people including sport.

    "the Organisation of North American Nations: ONAN"
    That cracks me up.

    The issue is, as he says, people and living in a system which is becoming more and more hostile to the way we are. A square hole/ round peg scenario with catastrophic consequences for us.
    Govts and those elected to represent are becoming more and more inept at dealing with the growing issues affecting us and our environment.
    Asking the electorate via referendum is a bad way to go, I agree, most of the electorate will go to whatever bias or prejudice suits them, a bad way to make policy. Tho with mistrust everywhere and on all sides. maybe they should stick to righting the economic apple cart which has fallen over badly because of human greed left to run riot, addictive behaviour again. If you think money cant be an addiction your wrong. And trying to fix the climate crisis heading our way by reining in the worst of the excesses perpetrated by business.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to ,

    not enough funding.

    another failing that can be laid at the feet of neolib policies enacted by various govts over the past 40 yrs.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Simon Armstrong,

    brexit + trump = end of neo liberal globalization, maybe it is time for everyone to just get stoned...

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • Joe Boden, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    That was a really interesting essay, thanks for posting that, Simon.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 97 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to Joe Boden,

    Its interesting up till the last paragraph when after saying "I’ll still vote for it." he drops this shallow assessment

    My sense is that the cause of cannabis decriminalisation is mostly driven by middle-class liberals who like smoking pot and want more convenient access to it,

    It may be the case "middle-class liberals" are behind driving it, they're the ons who have access to the systems to do that. Tho' change wont come if it is only MCL's behind it. Well my sense tells me its not just so they can get easy access.
    My sense also tells me he is either having a dig at someone. in a singular or plural sense. Or middle-class self loathing got the better of him, momentarily.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    The money paragraph for me in Danyl's article (sans asides) :

    It’s the consequence of being a species with a nervous system designed by natural selection, which incentivises behaviour that once maximised our evolutionary fitness by rewarding it with brief bursts of pleasure; but a species that now exercises enough control over our environment that we can endlessly, repeatedly stimulate the dopaminergic pathways in our brains by eating foods loaded with sugar and fat, buying consumer products, watching TV, masturbating to porn, and taking drugs. And, as every addict knows, the highs are always followed by the lows. Repeated over-stimulation of the mesolimbic reward system leads to anhedonia: an inability to feel pleasure, the classic symptom of clinical depression. The logical end points of rationalism, liberalism and consumer capitalism, are incompatible with human nature and human happiness.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    Not sure why rationalism and liberalism make it onto his list, they were co opted by capitalism during its rise. Guess he would have to give a deeper explanation as to his reasoning. Just maybe its time to unhitch these ideas from capitalism.
    His say so isnt a good enough reason for me.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    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.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Simon Armstrong,

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

    repressed lols only

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • Craig Young,

    Family First's latest tirade for cannabis prohibition is from an organisation called "Drug Free Australia." Well, according to the Canberra Times (30. 2015), Drug Free Australia is a front group for the Australian Christian Right

    "Drug Free Australia is affiliated with conservative organisations including the Australian Family Association and [the defunct] Melbourne-based Christian Right group Salt Shakers. Political campaign group the Australian Christian Lobby has linked to its materials online." [The Australian Christian Lobby is the Australian version of Family First]: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/controversial-antidrugs-group-opposes-medical-marijuana-plan-20150330-1mayhy.html

    Here's another critical piece on Drug Free Australia, in more detail: https://luckylosing.com/tag/drug-free-australia/

    And as for their leadership, few of them actually seem to have the requisite qualifications in toxicology and pharmacology:

    Here's a profile of Australian drug prohibitionist groups in general: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/36963098.pdf

    So why is Family First cravenly dependent on this flawed organisation (as you can see):


    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report

  • Craig Young,

    Here’s Gary Christian, DFA’s ‘research officer’ on pill testing at music festivals, c/o Family First:


    Amusingly, the article that Family First cites here includes a harm minimisation perspective from Dr Alex Wodak from the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation:

    And this is who he is, and what he believes:

    Gary Christian
    Honorary Secretary
    Gary Christian is high up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church
    A well known Creationist
    Speaker for Drug Free Ambassadors, an initiative started by the Church of Scientology

    "High overdose rates at the centre were due to drug users experimenting with higher doses, knowing nurses would be on hand to help them"
    -September 2003. Spreading lies to gather support for the closure of Sydney's Safe Injecting Room

    "Mrs McKay can be naive on the facts of drugs,"
    -February 2002

    "I still support her in her fight against drugs but I have been told that she upset people at the Drug Summit with her attacks on the harm-minimisation policy."
    -February 2002

    Science was a "belief system", Biblical fables were "Scientific evidence", and "Civil Rights are a metaphysical illusion",

    The Kings Cross Injecting Room - Case for Closure written by Gary Christian
    (Over the past 4 years, the MSIC and a range of respected health professionals working in the addiction medicine field have pointed out the errors in Gary Christian’s various calculations and extrapolations).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Simon Armstrong,

    Sorry for the glibness but having gone through the Danyl reading now, finally, it proved to be exactly what I first thought it would be (having long experience of his writing style), a segue to some literary fiction analysis, ending in a rumination that simply states his feels on the matter without any real argument, and chucks some digs at middle class liberals, the drug users which with he has spent the most time.

    While I agree with him that a referendum is probably not perfect, the idea it's the exact wrong way to go about deciding on something that is as much a matter of personal moral opinion as it is about all the harm evidence and harm reduction theory that is dominating the debate, is exactly wrong, IMHO.

    I feel like a referendum cuts right through all this harm slice and dice shit and just asks bluntly "look, if you think it shouldn't be against the law for whatever reason, how about you just say so?". Because sometimes moral choices are that simple. You don't have to sit at the tail end of a giant scientific research programme to know right from wrong. We don't need wise technocratic institutions to decide for us. We live in a damned democracy, and I know the hypocrisy surrounding cannabis prohibition is Wrong As.

    Everyone knows lots of cannabis users. Literally everyone. Most people would not be happy with all the criminal convictions that those people should probably have if prohibition were something that wasn't really mostly for brown people. A very large number, at least in the hundreds of thousands, would like to be able to consume without any fear of the law. A very much larger number again, possibly even a majority, know that they did smoke in the past and are thus hypocrites if they oppose it. A very much larger number again, certainly a majority, know they drink alcohol occasionally, and would miss the right to do so, and it is a much more harmful drug than cannabis from a harm perspective. They drink it anyway, because they like it.

    Sure, there are harms. Sometimes weighing up those balances is a matter of personal conscience, and sometimes the way to weigh up those balances across society is to take the total weight of all those balances of personal conscience. Sure, I wish our elected representatives could have the courage to do so, but that's a failing of representative democracy. Fortunately, we also have a direct democracy option and this is exactly the kind of issue it is meant for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • andin,

    A comedian talking eloquently and seriously from his experience

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Simon Armstrong,

    Legalize it - don't criticize it
    Legalize it and i will advertise it

    - Peter Tosh

    Reduce methane - horticulture not agriculture - change the flag.

    1 billion plants 2028 means blends of manuka and female cush on 20% of our paddocks could see a combined honey cannibinoid industry established to hit debt free nationhood target of 2040.

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • Ben Austin,

    Has anyone started any formal campaign groups for either side yet?

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report

  • Craig Young,

    Okay, here's a new one from FamF. How can one expect that New Zealand's existing regulatory agencies will deal properly with legalised pot, when the United States has an opioid crisis from legal prescription drugs? Possibly because working class Americans are addicted to opioid prescription medicines due to the weak US trade union movement and absence of welfare state protections, do you think?:


    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report

  • Simon Armstrong, in reply to Ben Austin,

    Has anyone started any formal campaign groups for either side yet?

    These guys ran billboard advertising campaign in Auckland end of last year and state publicly they have a commercial growing operation in East Tamaki:


    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • Simon Armstrong,

    Maybe a bit off topic but medicinal not recreational is fascinating and linkedin of all places led me down a rabbit hole featuring terms feminized and nutraceuticals among others.


    At the bottom is Ross Smith, googling a block of text from his linkedin background data brought up a bunch of interesting links regarding recent history of cannabis in this country.

    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • andin, in reply to Craig Young,

    Okay, here’s a new one from FamF.

    If they're making that connection, they are the only ones doing it


    These guys need to watch the doco's about Fyre festival. I just wonder who the gullible fools are hes tapping for finance. And Ross Smith sounds no better.
    40 yrs cannabis experience? What does that even mean?
    Im not signing up just to find out. They just seem more interested in future financial gain for themselves

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1891 posts Report

  • Ben Austin, in reply to Simon Armstrong,


    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1027 posts Report

  • Simon Armstrong, in reply to andin,

    And Ross Smith sounds no better.

    Ross Smith is evidence that marijuana does not cure psycopathic xenophobia disorders.

    From Colin Hogg (September 2018)


    I can relate to The Mother Factor but beginning to loathe the white entitlement anti gang argument also being used by Greens.


    New Zealand • Since Jan 2015 • 81 posts Report

  • tussock,

    Can we have another referendum on making booze illegal at the same time?

    Citizen's initiated whatsit, if there's time?

    Seems the juxtaposition would be quite amusing.

    What with Family First and National talking up that one guy in Canada once who might've died from smoking pot non stop for 45 years, maybe, while talking down the hundreds a year in NZ who die from alcohol. Because of course they would.

    Since Nov 2006 • 611 posts Report

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