We navigate the rankings of worldwide weed and make a few predictions on 95bFM’s Marijuana Media with Chris Fowlie from NORML and Milly from bFM Drive – back for 2024, thanks to The Hempstore!
Since our last show and the New Years break, the marijuana in our media has mostly been the depressingly familiar stream of prohibition violence, thuggery and general unpleasantness. But at Marijuana Media we like to keep it positive and discuss the more interesting nuggets – and we make a few predictions for 2024. Check the pot-castfor more!
Ukraine legalises medicinal cannabis, amidst Russian war stress
Over the New Year break 1News reported support for the law increased after the war with Russia left thousands of people with post-traumatic stress disorder that many believe could be eased by medicinal cannabis.
The law, proposed by Prime Minister Denys Smyhal, was passed by their parliament in late December but a small conservative opposition had blocked it on a technicality. That was removed in early January.
In mid-January CNN reported their new government is moving ahead with legislation banning cannabis for recreational use in a major reversal 18 months after the country became the first in Asia to decriminalise cannabis.
Removing prohibition laws but not putting in place regulations for sales saw thousands of dispensaries opening as well as weed cafes, hemp spas and resorts.
Under the new law cannabis and cannabis-related products will be limited to medical and health purposes only, but advocates say it’s too late to go back. Worst case: Thai recreational dispensaries become wellness resorts.
Pacific cannabis law reform
The Cook Islands legalised imports of medicinal cannabis in late December, reported RNZ Pacific News. This was expected to be harmonised with New Zealand and Australia so that products could be obtained from here, and so that patients could travel between the countries with their canna-meds.
Meanwhile the North Marianas Islands has announced 16 commercial cannabis licenses have been issued in the US territory, which is near Guam. RNZ Pacific News quoted the Saipan Tribune saying the 16 licenses were issued to eight marijuana producers, six marijuana retailers, one marijuana processor, and one marijuana lounge licensee.
New Zealand ranks highly for cannabis
The latest data shows Aotearoa is the 6th-highest cannabis consuming country, with 15.3% of adults regularly consuming it.
We’re just behind Canada at 5, then Chile, the USA, good ol Jamaica and the highest in the world is Israel with 27% of adults there consuming it regularly, presumably for stress, anxiety and PTSD.
Who gets busted for cannabis?
Over the holidays, Derek Cheng at the Herald crunched the numbers. He revealed a “major shift” with Police charging half the drug users they used to, though numbers creeping up again.
Arrests are way down since the 2018 law change affirming police discretion, but there are still 62 people each month facing a drug use/possession charge as their most serious offence. Plus add those facing more serious charges; last year almost 500 people per month had a cannabis charge added.
Cheng says since the law change police drug prosecutions have declined markedly, but the pendulum has begun to swing back to more punitive:
the chances of being charged were much higher if the person was facing other charges that were more serious than drug use/possession: about 50-50 in the 2022-23 year, and slightly higher for Māori.
It was also hoped the law change would have police sending drug users who needed help to a new health referral pathway, but that is being used in only 3 per cent of all drug use/possession proceedings.
… However, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has said he has no plans to change the settings around drug legislation.
Marijuana Media’s predictions for 2024:
- The current settings won’t change. See: Luxon (above), election campaign, coalition agreements, 100 day plan. This is good news! The Medical Cannabis Scheme will remain, with access to flower; police discretion will stay in place; substance checking is safe. Labour also won’t do anything this year, but expect some testing of the waters next year.
- There will be more, cheaper, flower available on prescription including NZ Grown, and we might see safe spaces for medical consumption (a.k.a cannabis social clubs, for people with prescriptions).
- Cannabis law reform will happen around us. Australia will debate legalising cannabis. The Cook Islands joins our South Pacific Cannabis-Friendly Zone.
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High rankings for New Zealand weed: believe it, or not?
On the Marijuana Media show on 95bFM we also discussed another high ranking for Kiwi cannabis – but it’s not all it seems.
Cannabis website Herb.co named “10 Countries With The Best Weed In The World 2024”, ranking Canada at the top with God Bud, followed by the US with OG Kush. Also in the top 10 were the Netherlands, Morocco and Jamaica, with Aotearoa at number 7.
Don’t spark another bong in celebration yet: the article, with a byline of ‘Cesar Salan’, had all the hallmarks of AI garbage, also known as ChatGPT.
It says New Zealand’s best pot is apparently “Kiwi Green”:
Kiwi Green is characterized by its vibrant green buds and a distinctive blend of fruity and earthy flavors. The strain’s effects are known for being uplifting and energizing, reflecting the diverse growing conditions found across New Zealand’s landscapes.
As the country continues to advance its cannabis industry, especially in the medical and recreational sectors, strains like Kiwi Green are becoming increasingly recognized for their purity and unique profiles.
Entries for the other countries were also generic blah. Amsterdam is apparently best known for “Amsterdam Haze”, Switzerland for “Swiss Gold” and Jamaica for “Kingston Kush”.
Herb.co was originally started by two Kiwis, spun off their best-selling Stoner’s Cookbook (with design modelled on the Edmonds Cookbook). It was a great site, but the founders are long gone and the takeover by AI bots is sad and misleading to anyone reading it.
We have plenty of great strains and excellent growers and a conducive climate, and we could be in the top ten – but AI chat bots aren’t a source of credible information (yet).
For example, ChatGPT says I am a well-known DJ who has played reggae and electronica at many festivals throughout NZ, and the author of two books that do not exist; it provided truthy-sounding but made-up references and citations.
I’ve had people call me up, convinced I would sell them cannabis seeds or CBD because ChatGPT told them to try me (or, bizarrely, an apple orchard in Keri Keri!).
Regardless of the made-up bollocks generated by ChatGPT and other AI, it will be interesting to see if any legendary old strains come out of the woodwork and make it through to commercial production as our medicinal cannabis sector develops.
These unique strains that could have better medicinal effects and desirable terpene and flavonoid profiles. It’s how licensed producers will differentiate themselves from generic growers overseas who can undercut us on price.
Puppy-killing Dodgy Dealer
A recent story showed who should not be in the role of providing cannabis, with the headline Whangārei drug dealer filmed himself throwing puppy off cliff in the Northern Advocate and NZ Herald.
23-year-old weed dealer Karena Panui had filmed himself throwing the puppy off a 20m cliff. Police discovered the ‘disturbing’ video on Panui’s phone after finding him “sitting in a car with a cannabis-loaded bong.” A search of the car found eighteen $20 bags of cannabis, ten $50 bags and two separate ziplock bags of buds.
The puppy was found by police dead on rocks below the cliff. Panui was sentenced to two years nine months imprisonment and prohibited from owning an animal for seven years.
For many people their cannabis providers are nice, ordinary people and upstanding members of society. Think of the Green Faires who help your mum, and your mate who gets weed for you.
But a sizeable chunk of the illicit market, thanks to the narrow No vote, is handed to reprehensible dickheads like this. The guy who sells tinnies to your teenagers also kills puppies.
Good news for Kiwi growers – and patients
After that heaviness, the show ended on some good news. Cannabis trade sites overseas are predicting export-driven growth for the NZ cannabis sector – and that will lead to lower prices and more variety of products available here.
Cannabiz quoted the Prohibition Partners Oceania Regulatory Report which noted both NZ and Australia are “levelling the playing field between their domestic and the international cannabis industries”.
New Zealand is lowering regulatory barriers for exports and for new product approvals. It will be easier for local growers to export their crops and it will be easier to have new products approved for distribution here.
BusinessOfCannabis.com said the changes could “enhance the competitiveness of Australian and New Zealand producers globally, making them key players in the evolving cannabis landscape.”
These benefits should flow through to patients with cheaper and better products – eventually.
For more info check out the Marijuana Media pot-cast and see The Hempstore’s guide for how to access medicinal cannabis.
First Thursdays on K Road: Thursday 1st February with Substance Testing and Terpene Tastings at The Hempstore, 3-7pm thanks to NZ Drug Foundation and Terps & Co. See this year’s testing timetable here or check thelevel.org for your nearest testing clinic.
Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, with bFM Drive’s Milly and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore. Stream or download hundreds of Marijuana Media pot-casts at 95bFM.com (or via iTunes / RSS feed). Thanks to The Hemp Store!