Kia ora, and welcome to a cornucopia of cannabis columns. Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, and after recovering from the shock announcement of Jacinda Ardern’s resignation, your hosts Chris Fowlie from NORML and Jonny from bFM Drive present this week’s news nugs.
[or listen on 95bfm here – opens new window so you can keep reading The Daily Blog]
First up this week, police and customs claim they prevented $900 million of drug harm through arrests and seizures in 2021 (NZ Herald. 12/01/23). The claim is derived from the Drug Harm Index which shows – at 58,000kg consumed annually – cannabis is NZ’s favourite illicit substance (the amount was estimated from NZ Health surveys as they can’t accurately detect cannabinoids in wastewater).
From this enormous consumption police say cannabis causes $911m of estimated harm annually (of a total of $1.7 billion harm from all illicit drugs). Their figures are based on some hard data like hospital bed-stays but also vague notions like a survey from Norway of what people might pay to send people they know to rehab; and it is highly misleading to claim prohibition-caused crime ($98m) and the loss of foregone tax earnings ($224m) as harms caused by cannabis. Those tax earnings are only foregone because it is illegal!
It also doesn’t cover harms resulting from the illicit status, such as losing your liberty, home or job after being caught, or even losing your life. This was shown in several news stories this week:
- Farm employee Forbes Minto was accused of being stoned at work, lost his job then won a $16k payout (Stuff.co.nz 14/01/23).
- Taranaki woman Sophia O’Sullivan faces 7 years jail at sentencing next month, after the property manager of her rental home dobbed her in to police (NZ Herald, 17/01/23).
- The mysterious disappearance of Glen Ufton. Glen went missing after going to check his plants, or possibly steal some, on the West Coast in 1996. Is this cold case an example of prohibition-caused harm that would be chalked up to cannabis? (NZ Herald, 15/01/23)
Also not in the Drug Harm Index is the benefits of drug use, including medicinal use, or any measure of the difficulty of access to medicine and loss of equity created by cannabis prohibition.
Two great articles discussing that were published this week: Nipped in the bud by Russell Brown in The Listener, and Joint Pain by George Driver in North and South. Both covered the difficulties producing medicinal cannabis under the current rules, which are among the world’s best for prescribing products that have been approved, but the world’s tightest for getting product approvals.
The high mark of 6415 prescribed products in August last year, published in the North & South article, suggests just over 2% of NZ’s estimated 294,000 medicinal cannabis users are accessing it legally on a monthly basis. The remaining 98% without regular legal access should be chalked up as a cost of prohibition.
There is some good news! NZ’s first homegrown THC product has received approval from the Medicinal Cannabis Agency, and two big health insurers will now cover medicinal cannabis consultations (NZ Herald). Southern Cross and nib will pay for the consults, removing another barrier but this is likely to mostly benefit the middle and professional managerial classes (i.e. those who have health insurance).
Changes are also coming to NZ’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, having already received Ministerial sign off. These include allowing cannabis to be exported without meeting NZ’s quality standards, allowing ingredients to be non-GMP, and a bunch of technical fixes removing barriers to product testing and approvals. They’re all good, but a lot more could be done. Read about it on NORML’s website and here on The Daily Blog.
Test your stash, with the NZ Drug Foundation, at The Hempstore this Saturday 21st Jan. Clinic runs 11am-pm. It’s useful for cannabis consumers to know their strength or anything weird about. For users of other substances it comes as Know Your Stuff reports a 1-in-10 chance your drugs are something completely different, and NZ Drug Foundation reports they found tabs sold as LSD were actually 25B-NBOH. Stay safe out there, folks!
Tune in to bFM Drive’s Jonny and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore on Marijuana Media, every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM. Stream or download the pot-cast for this show here or hundreds of previous Marijuana Media shows at 95bFM.com (or via iTunes / RSS feed).