Thankfully in New Zealand, we live in a society in which everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, opinion pieces including this one must be considered and questioned to verify the truthfulness of any claims made.

Unfortunately earlier this week, Mike Yardley, a travel editor and columnist wrote a Stuff opinion piece so factually incorrect that a research-based response is justified. His piece exemplifies how individuals can misconstrue facts and present conclusions in lieu of peer reviewed science to push personal agendas, while an obliging media allows any opinion piece to be shared regardless of factual correctness.

In his opinion piece, Yardley infers that the high rates of family violence in New Zealand can be related to cannabis consumption. This assertion is incredibly misleading when considering the link between excessive alcohol consumption and family violence has well and truly been established not only here in New Zealand, but worldwide.

Yardley ignorantly suggests a link between cannabis use and methamphetamine use, with cannabis as the ‘gateway drug’. In contrast to his theory, science researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Florida earlier this year published a peer reviewed study in the Journal of School Health which concluded “alcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use.”

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Yardley also infers that because 55 percent of New Zealand’s prison inmates are cannabis dependent, the plant must be the dominant fuel for crime. It should be highlighted that one third of all police apprehensions involve alcohol rather than cannabis, as do half of all violent crimes committed around the country.

In addition, the risk that bears the heaviest consequences from drug consumption is that of lethal overdose. It is sadly becoming more common in New Zealand to see headlines likeTeen drank herself to death,while with cannabis an adult is required to smoke an impossible 1,500 pounds of cannabis within 15 minutes to induce a lethal response.

This begs the question of which drug is actually causing the most harm in our society?

Unsurprisingly, there is still some belief in the misinformation of the seventies that cannabis use in New Zealand is causing schizophrenia. A particular study from Harvard Medical School discovered that ‘having an increased familial morbid risk for schizophrenia may be the underlying basis for schizophrenia in cannabis users and not cannabis use by itself’, a conclusion in line with the majority of scientific studies in this field. So while smoking may induce early onset for those predisposed, there is no proven causation link simply from consumption.

Cannabis legalisation in New Zealand is currently a hot topic. One argument against legalisation is that following policy reform, the teen [cannabis] smoking rate would be expected to increase. However, evidence from states in which the drug is already recreationally legal suggest otherwise.

In Colorado, the latest teen poll debunked this argument finding that teen use, rather than increase, has actually dropped following legalisation: “The survey shows marijuana use has not increased since legalisation, with four of five high school students continuing to say they don’t use marijuana, even occasionally.”

In terms of the economics, it was recently revealed that $400 million of New Zealand’s taxpayer resources are spent annually enforcing prohibition of the plant, which for perspective results in just over 200 hospital admissions per year. If cannabis were to be legalized here, New Zealand would stand to gain over $150 million in tax revenue which could then be applied to education programs and specialised healthcare clinics to assist the already underfunded public healthcare system.

In contrast, the most commonly used and abused legal drug, alcohol, costs our country billions every year in overall harm. Part of this cost is attributable to the added demand to stretched hospital resources. One New Zealand study shows that between 18% and 35% of all emergency department injuries are related to alcohol consumption, with the percentage rising to between 60% and 70% over the weekend.

Further, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) has recently come out in favour of cannabis legalisation, with principal economist Peter Wilson stating “it costs about $180 million to enforce the law against marijuana and we’re losing tax revenue of about 110 million, so if it wasn’t illegal we wouldn’t have to enforce that law so we’d save that money and we’d probably raise more money in taxes to be spent on something else.”

With the mounting research on its medicinal properties, it is no longer a question of if, but when New Zealand will eventually legalise cannabis. Legislative change will allow thousands of people such as terminal cancer sufferer Helen Kelly to legally grow, purchase and consume the right strain of cannabis for unfortunate illnesses without fear of punishment from the state.

Hundreds of millions of resources that were once spent enforcing outdated drug laws will be reallocated to serious crime such as solving burglaries and closing down methamphetamine production.

It’s time for us to open up to the cannabis debate using research and reason, not misinformation and seventies misconceptions. Science is now clearly on the side of those wishing to change the current legislation.

The time to legalise is now.

2 Responses

  1. Charlotte

    Have you considered that in some cases, the toxic employee, is not the one that is toxic; rather he may be an excellent employee that was made to look that way by an unucurpslous manager and an unscrulous H.R. manager who abuse there authority and dodge the companys ethics policy?

    Reply
  2. James Mahoney

    A good argument weakened by the consistent misuse of “infer”, a passive act, when the active “imply” was the correct word. I imply in my writing, you may infer what you wish by reading it.

    Reply

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