Soooooo, isn’t it about time we found out who is funding Family First? Don’t let the God squad steal your joint!


Family First brings US author to NZ to talk about dangers of cannabis ahead of legalisation referendum

Central to that debate is whether you think cannabis is safe or unsafe.

One person who says it’s unsafe and dangerous is US author and former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson.

He’s written a book linking cannabis use to psychosis and violence. Some scientists actively dispute his conclusions, though.

He’s been brought to New Zealand by Family First and told Seven Sharp why he thinks cannabis is linked to bouts of psychosis and violence.

Family First are the far right Christian pressure group who are currently running campaigns against the Cannabis referendum. Previously they were all about the legal right to beat the fear of God into children, now they are the moral custodians trying to kill off the cannabis debate.

Rumour has it that Family First representatives have been in America begging rich right wing Christians to help fund their campaigns using the upcoming Abortion legislation as the rallying cry for their far right Christian brethren.

The claim is they’ve told their far right American Christian God Squad that NZ is legalising abortion on demand and please donate to stop this evil, oh and cannabis as well.

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Shouldn’t NZ know if Family First are being funded by the American Christian Right to stop us from smoking a joint without arrest?

Shouldn’t NZ know if Family First are using the abortion debate to fund these moral crusades?

Surely we don’t want those fascist far right American Christians having a say in our political system do we?

Rather than accepting whatever spokesperson Family First are importing to sway the debate, shouldn’t the media be asking who is funding all of this?

PS – Jesus would have been a stoner.


  1. First off, why is Family First still allowed to spread misinformation? The govt has already stated that spreading misinformation would see you in front of the justice department or do these rules just apply to the election period?
    The courts have tried to deregister this charity but FF has it hanging at the appeals court just sitting their stagnant while all this is going on, it seems the system is stalling getting rid of this religious lobby group on purpose.
    The Charities Commission shows a steady increase in donations since Bob started this crusade, hes now just above $700k.
    So earlier last year some billboards went up pro cannabis that saw a bunch of complaints, one of which came from Bob, those billboards were removed, nek minit Bob is erecting his own full of misinformation in all the main centres of NZ. Complaints though are being treated differently, people are being told there is nothing wrong with them and they can stay.
    This guy Berenson that Bob is using has been discredited even by the very people whose information he’s using to quote, why did the journalists not do some basic homework like a google on the guy, they would have realised it just wasnt worth interviewing, are they really journalists or just presenters of information?

    On the other side of the coin our favourite Dakta Green, the most outspoken critic of this law is currently under house arrest……

    The system is being geared to make sure the referendum fails!

    • Hi Mark,

      Please make a complaint to the NZ Electoral commission and your local MP (be sure to include the opposition MP to ensure you get a response)
      Ive already written to them and my MP, remember the squeaky wheel gets oiled!

  2. Family First are not fascists Martyn, and not even “Far Right”. They are reasonable people with some valid arguments, as you would find if you were to visit their website.
    You want freedom for all to consume and supply psychoactive drugs (specifically cannabis) in New Zealand while they fear the social consequences, as I do.
    Let’s focus on the facts of the matter, including the findings from scientific investigation.
    Your intemperate comments do nothing to support the claim that the use of cannabis has entirely benign effects.

    • Hey Geoff, love the way the right goes off about how we are trying to legalise psychotropic and blah blah blah. What about alcohol, the most dangerous drug available readily in supermarkets and dairies. At least cannabis is to be marketed through licensed outlets and those licences will be hard to obtain. As for the science, for every oppositional scientific rant you come up with, whether accurate or misrepresentational I can find at least 3 proponents with accurate lower reviewed studies.

    • Hi Geoffrey,

      So why is it that when I tried to propose a counter argument in a polite and respectful manner on the Family First facebook page my comment was removed and I was banned? From speaking with many other people any comment that goes against the establishment narrative on the family first Facebook page gets removed and the user banned.
      Seems to me as family first is only interested in hearing what it wants to hear and isnt interested what so ever in actually having a genuine discussion.

    • I’m with you Geoff. Darren wants his joint legalised but his argument is a deflection. We are talking about cannabis not alcohol. I find it disturbing that the up coming referendum won’t have decriminalisation as a voting option but just legalise or not. Have I got that right.

    • Cannibis has been linked to psychotic effects, but let’s get this into perspective. As a psychiatirc nurse, I worked with many people who experienced psychosis related to cannibis. These are the conditions for this to happen. The person is predisposed to schizophrenia and will likely experience psychosis with or without cannibis. Often, when they have developed the illness they can exacerbate their symptoms by using cannibis. However, cannibis causing a psychotic disorder happens over a long process. It starts with initial use at an early age (usually anything from 12yrs [or lower]to14yrs). It is then also usually associated with continuous use from there on, often until a person is in their late twenties or early thirties. Their brain has been altered at this point and the use of a more powerful drug such as a hallucinogen or, perhaps an amphetimine can trigger, not just a psychotic event but a psychotic disorder. This may also occur if the individual has an extremely distressing or taumatic emotional event at that age. But it does take a long period of use, and this use must start at a young age. If a person stops using at a young age, their brains can recover. So it is the early start combined with continuous use for a long time that causes cannibis related psychosis. Otherwise, the use of cannibis is relatively safe to use for most people, save the effect of smoking on the lungs. There is some anecdotal evidence that it reduces motivation in some people, but perhaps unmotivated people may just prefer to use cannibis as opposed to other drugs.

  3. 100% Martyn,

    God squad propaganda all bought and paid for.

    Sickening stuff. What a complete shock to see TVNZ involved again.


  4. Last I looked, some years ago, Family First isn’t an organisation or lobby group in the sense in which most of us would understand it. It’s Bob McCoskrie by himself, with something he refers to as a “Board of Reference”, comprising (when I looked) married couples who are Christians. It isn’t possible to join, only to make a donation. At least, that’s how Family First was structured at that stage. Things may be different today.

    With regard to the cannabis issue: some years ago, on a plane, I sat next to a medical researcher. We got to talking about such issues. He said to me, “There’s emerging evidence that cannabis damages developing brains. There’s also emerging evidence that the human brain isn’t fully mature until we’re in our mid-20s at least. If you can, persuade your offspring not to use cannabis before their mid-20s at the earliest.” That man’s opinion has influenced my view.

    And recently, I’ve discussed the issue with a young adult relative: just the age group one might expect to be enthusiastic about legalisation. Not a bit of it, in this individual’s case. They have pointed out that cannabis is much, much more potent now than it was when I was a student, and it first appeared in NZ universities in the late 60s. Moreover, it’s become normalised in much of NZ society, including Maori society. There is evidence from court reports and the like, that some Maori children are using it, to the great detriment of their brain development and mental health as they grow up. These are the people disproportionately committing crime and appearing in court as a consequence. And they’re also the people who disproportionately have their babies uplifted by OT; we also know this from court reports.

    I raised with said relative the numbers of people before the courts on cannabis possession, and the problems with gangs selling it, along with associated crime. Surely, I said, legalising it will reduce the burden of crime and relieve the load on the courts? Relative’s view: if you think it’s bad now, wait until it’s legalised! By which time, it’ll be too late. We won’t be able to recriminalise it. As with alcohol: once these substances are out of Pandora’s Box, there’s no way to put them back in.

    I am now old and plagued by arthritis. I’d dearly love to have access to cannabis-based pain relief – if it is efficaceous, that is. But not if it comes at the expense of other citizens’ health and protection from crime and its deleterious effects.

    • @ D’Esterre.
      I was told my an old and now dead friend;
      “Be sneaky”, he said, and “grow a nice little Sativa plant. Then? At around March, harvest it, simmer in a large pot with a 500gm block of $8.00 butter. ($8 ! I mean? FFS! ) Not too hot, mind. Around 50c. After about an hour, strain through a pair of panty hose, NOT WHILE YOU’RE WEARING THEM! pop the residue in the compost bin, put the green butter in the freezer in used-daily sized bites.
      Spread evenly on toast with jam and eat with a nice cup of tea of a morning. Start with a 1/4 of a slice. Too much? Pop on some funky music and go off for a wee lie down. You’ll be fine.”
      And don’t tell a soul except your Dr. That’s super important. No one. Not your whanau, not your neighbours. Don’t even tell your cat. ( Give it a little toast? No! Wait. Not funny…. bahahahaa ha ! )
      Personally? I don’t do illegal, recreational drugs. Filthy things. Never have. Never will. Would get in the way of my adoration of an invisible flying wizard who seems only populr for it’s unfettered, weird and often maniacal cruelties and with a narcissistic addiction to the complete and undying loyalty of arguably a most miserably boring strain of human being with the weird hair and the polyester suits, just like me!
      Another thing my dead friend told me ( Before he died, obviously. ) was ask your Dr for 800 mg of slow release ibuprofen and take a half just before you go to sleep. Seems to work wonders for while one’s asleep rather than, say, during the day. Why that is, was beyond my dear dead friend.
      And this might be of interest to you.
      Don’t take codeine. It works to a point but then when it wears off, your pain will come back stronger therefore dependency becomes an issue. Seriously. Not sure about opium? I might have to find an excuse to go to Afghanistan?

      • Country boy: “….“Be sneaky”, he said, and “grow a nice little Sativa plant.”

        I should have thought it obvious from the tone and content of my previous comment that this is absolutely the last thing I’d want to do.

        I do not know if a cannabis preparation would be efficacious for my arthritis pain. I know enough about such things to be aware of the fact that many of us react differently to medications: what works for some, doesn’t necessarily work for others. I am not remotely interested in experimenting with an illegal substance. Even were it legal, I’m still not interested in experimenting upon myself.

        “….800 mg of slow release ibuprofen…. Don’t take codeine….”

        This is the equivalent of teaching one’s grandmother to suck eggs, qu’on dit. Please refrain from patronising your elders and betters.

        As to the link to the RNZ story: what has this to do with the subject of the post? I’m not seeing it, despite having read it.

        The tone of your entire comment – where I could figure out what you meant – is patronising. Please don’t assume that you’ve cornered the market in knowledge about cannabis. Or pharmaceuticals, come to that.

        And – a fortiori – don’t assume that scepticism about the legalisation of cannabis entails in said sceptic adherence to god-squaddery. Or right-wingery.

    • It has been proven that where legalised, the incidence of use remains the same or falls slightly. As for societal ills, the bulk of issues facing Maori children come from P use in their communities and fetal alcohol syndrome. Moral panic by politicians over drugs has already killed over fifty people in the form of synthetic highs. I wont use the term synthetic cannabis as those concoctions are in no way related to cannabis. So, no, we wont suddenly have 90% of the population using it and there are many other things we should be worried about.

      • Alan: “It has been proven that where legalised, the incidence of use remains the same or falls slightly.”

        Got evidence in support? A link, perhaps?

    • So here, in the comment by D’Esterre we have four of the same old prohibitionist talking points we’ve debunked over and over again for decades:

      1) cannabis harms young brains

      Any harm caused by heavy cannabis use in the user 25s is *significantly* less than the brain damage caused by every single cup of alcohol a young person consumes. Although I certainly recommend people wait until they are 18 (ideally older) before taking any recreational drug, the science suggests that net drug harm is significantly reduced if young people smoke cannabis instead of drinking alcohol.

      2) cannabis more potent now than in the 60s

      Absinthe is more potent than beer. So what? Stronger cannabis means you can smoke much less for the same high. Of course, it’s easier to do that if you know how strong the weed you’re buying is, which a licensed dealer would be legally obliged to tell you, whereas a black market dealer may not even know. A licensed dealer in a legal market can offer a wide range of products of different potency, and with different balances of the active ingredients, allowing people to choose the right high for their situation. A black market dealer generally has one product at a time, take it or leave it.

      3) won’t somebody think of the children

      We are. That’s why we want people retailing cannabis to have a strong incentive to only sell to adults, like the prospects of losing their license if they don’t. Black market dealers, on the other hand, have a strong incentive to clear their inventory as quickly as they can, to reduce the chances of getting busted, so unless they happen to be responsible dealers (ie the people who would rather be operating a licensed, legal business), they will sell to anyone, including children. Legalization is the best way to stop this.

      4) we got to get tough on them criminal gangs

      Right, so allowing them to be the de facto regulators of the cannabis market, and making the lions share of the profits, is probably not the way to do that. I’ve been told by people in the know that organized criminals use the profits of their cannabis businesses to build up the seed capital to import really dangerous drugs (or their ingredients); opiates, cocaine, P etc. If that’s true, legalizing cannabis and taking most of the revenue of that business away from them would also help reduce the supply of those that gets into the country.

      D’Esterre’s comment also adds a fourth claim, which seems to be a newer one.

      5) Once cannabis is legalized, it can’t be prohibited again.

      History suggests otherwise. Cannabis was only made illegal in NZ in the second half of the 1900s. It was legal, then it was made illegal. If legalization turned out to be a bad idea, the same could happen again quite easily. There is no way in NZ law for an Act of NZ Parliament to bind the hands of future Parliaments, and it’s scaremongering to suggest otherwise.

      • Danyl Strype: “Any harm caused by heavy cannabis use in the user 25s is *significantly* less than the brain damage caused by every single cup of alcohol a young person consumes. Although I certainly recommend people wait until they are 18 (ideally older) before taking any recreational drug…”

        We aren’t talking about alcohol – which, were it newly-invented, would doubtless be prohibited. Probably with as much success as we in NZ have had with cannabis.

        The risk of cannabis to developing brains is indisputable. And we ought to have realised it long since. If other substances are harmful, in virtue of what would we think that cannabis is the exception?

        I used to think that the young should wait until 21 or so. It was that researcher I talked with who changed my mind on that score.

        “Absinthe is more potent than beer.”

        Again: it’s cannabis we’re talking about here, not alcohol. It’s not necessary to be a rocket scientist to figure out that greater potency equals greater risk. To any brains, not just to those still maturing.

        “…won’t somebody think of the children”

        Do not patronise me.

        “Black market dealers, on the other hand, have a strong incentive to clear their inventory as quickly as they can, to reduce the chances of getting busted….Legalization is the best way to stop this.”

        Hahaha… Christ! What fairyland do you inhabit, that you’d think there wouldn’t be a black market in legalised cannabis? Do you pay no attention at all to what’s going on around you? As we speak, there’s a thriving black market here, in both booze and cigarettes – which are legal. You can bet your boots that the same would happen with cannabis.

        “we got to get tough on them criminal gangs”

        Again: do not patronise me. Did I say that? I did not. However: there’s no doubt that the gangs are up to their fetlocks in the black market for booze and cigarettes, along with selling cannabis and – notoriously – meth.

        “…organized criminals use the profits of their cannabis businesses to build up the seed capital to import really dangerous drugs…”

        So. Cannabis is indeed a gateway drug, as opponents have claimed.

        “If that’s true, legalizing cannabis and taking most of the revenue of that business away from them would also help reduce the supply of those that gets into the country.”

        Right: and good luck with that!

        “Once cannabis is legalized, it can’t be prohibited again.”

        You’ll be too young to remember alcohol prohibition. As am I, of course. But my parents were not. My late mother told us stories of what prohibition-era US was like. And there was considerable national opposition to alcohol here in the first half of the 20th century, though the prohibitionists fell just short of getting enough votes to completely ban it. In the US, there was of course a thriving black market in booze, largely run by the Mafia.

        So prohibition was a failure. And it hasn’t been tried again. There’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

        Cannabis has been illegal here since the mid-60s. But looky here: it’s normalised in much of NZ society! And its sale and distribution is largely run by the gangs! Well: who could have seen that one coming…

        “Cannabis is the fourth-most widely used recreational drug in New Zealand, after caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, and the most widely used illicit drug.”

        That’s another genie that will be impossible to get back in the bottle. It doesn’t matter a damn what any future government may wish to do: as with alcohol, attempts to recriminalise it would be futile.

        I’m an old lefty. For most of my long life, my views about cannabis have tended to be liberal. However: in recent times, more has been discovered, both about brain development and the potential effects on the brain – especially the developing brain – of drugs such as cannabis. I’m now a sceptic: in my view a pragmatic stance.

        I say to you, as I said to Countryboy: don’t assume that scepticism about the legalisation of cannabis entails in said sceptic adherence to god-squaddery. Or right-wingery.

  5. Ha !
    Jesus Christ ! Just when you think the nuts can’t get nuttier.
    Using past neoliberal political logical fallacy spectacles as a means to observe the deviant depths some would sink to, to make a dollar out of the terminally ignorant and woefully stupid, I see dumb people…

    You seen that photo of those hideous ‘merican god botherers gathered around trump mumbling about how he’s ‘the chosen one’. More like the cloven hoofed one.
    Abortion? A woman’s choice. End of.
    Pot? Is a plant.
    Magic Mushrooms? Is a plant.
    Cocaine? Is from a plant.
    Opium? Is from a plant.
    LSD ? Is from a substance derived from the ergot fungus found on wheat etc.
    MDMA? Is awesome.

    P? Is not awesome.
    See tweaker-piss drinking P addict.
    Family First? God only knows what, much less why. If any organisation is in more dire need of good drugs than Family First I’d hate to bump into it down a dark ally.

  6. Berenson is the guy family first is bringing out to claim that cannabis causes psychosis. Here Hart and Ksir debunk that lazy and vicious lie.
    “It is also worth noting that 10-fold increases in marijuana use in the UK from the 1970s to the 2000s were not associated with an increase in rates of psychosis over this same period, further evidence that changes in cannabis use in the general population are unlikely to contribute to changes in psychosis.”

    • Came across a female student smoking weed. The odd thing was it smelt primo as. Since I knew from a previous conversation with her that she was a Muslim, I asked her when she had changed her religion. When she looked puzzled and asked me what I meant, I told her that it appeared that she now worshipped Jah.

      Possibly even slightly psychotic.

    • Dave Brown: “Berenson is the guy family first is bringing out….”

      I’d never heard of him. But then, I don’t hang around with Family First types.

  7. Cannabis : summary of an author’s approach about it. – “He’s written a book linking cannabis use to psychosis and violence. Some scientists actively dispute his conclusions, though.”

    The whole story of events – after – cannabis was made illegal and authorities unleashed a war against drunks is littered with stories about the affect on the police and other forces that would illustrate their psychosis and violence just in the obsession to characterise cannabis and all who use it as bad, bad, bad. Sounds like the book is arguing in a silo; the author has picked a POV and will have found plenty of anecdotes and facts to feed this market for drug controversy. Best way to understand it would be from say, a plane at 5,000 feet – high enough from the ground to view the whole picture yet low enough to still see the individuals and groups involved in this fertile field of irrational thinking, authoritarian hypocrisy and misadventure.

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