Cannabis Culture Banned

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

Customs have succeeded in getting a second issue of Cannabis Culture magazine banned,  throwing the local future of the publication into doubt.

Cannabis Culture magazine plays an important role in informing the debate on cannabis laws, as mainstream local media seldom report anything positive about marijuana, or the significant changes
occurring overseas. Despite this, Chief Censor Bill Hastings recently banned Cannabis Culture #69 January-February 2008. He admitted the ban “interferes with the freedom of expression” protected by the Bill of Rights Act, but said the decision was “reasonable, demonstrably justified, and consistent with preventing likely injury to the public good.”

This, he said, was because it contained an article about hash making. It is the second issue to be banned for this reason, but not the first to attract the attention of the Customs Service. However, because the magazine was not yet banned at the time it was seized, Customs had no lawful authority to take it. Under New Zealand law all publications are legal until they are made illegal. Although one previous issue had been banned, the ban applied only to that issue. That didn’t seem to deter Customs, who detained issue #69 back in February, but then waited until May to inform me they had seized a “prohibited import”.

At the time, the Customs and Excise Act allowed only two ways to appeal a decision made by customs officers – no matter how irrational or draconian. They are to either sue the department in court, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, or ask the Minister of Customs to overrule them. In an election year the chances of that happening were pretty remote, but I thought it was important to state it for the record. Rather predictably, Minister Nanaia Mahuta simply referred it back to Customs – the very people I was appealing against! It did spur Customs into action, who then sent it to the censors, apparently to belatedly approve the seizure.

In my submission to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFL C) opposing a ban, I argued that it is an essential characteristic of a free society that people are allowed to hold or read about views differing from the ruling elite. Although many people and organisations do not share the same views as Customs, the Police or certain politicians, does not mean that they are wrong, or that their views are inherently objectionable.

While encouraging crime could be grounds for a ban, previous rulings by the censors had confirmed that the advocation of a lifestyle and of cannabis law reform did not equate with advocation of a crime itself. A 1998 decision by the Film and Literature Review Board regarding a similar magazine, High Times, concluded:

“The dominant effect of High Times is the promotion of a point of view with respect to the law and culture surrounding marijuana use. High Times advocates the reform of marijuana laws and presents a favourable impression of the culture and lifestyle of those who use marijuana. Advocation of a lifestyle and the reform of laws does not promote criminal activity.”

The OFLC, in a ruling dated 23 March 2004, confirmed that “The same point can be made about Cannabis Culture.” This was repeated in later rulings on other issues of Cannabis Culture, including one that contained an article titled “How to make honey oil”. In his rulings for both the issues he banned, Hastings says they contained “how to make hash” articles and notes that hash is classified as class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which carries penalties that are more severe than for unprocessed cannabis.

Hastings ruled that because of the hash making article, the dominant effect of the more recent 120-page magazine was somehow “not advocacy of law reform but encouragement to break the law.” He did not explain why the issue with the honey oil article was allowed, While admitting the magazine has “social and political merit” Hastings said “readers are unlikely to interpret the magazine’s support for currently criminal behaviour as advocacy for law reform and may be attracted to experiment with criminal actions.” It is this, he said, that makes the issue “injurious to the public good.”

Shortly after the ruling, Customs Minister Nanaia Mahuta confirmed she would not overrule the censors as they are “experts in these matters”. She also advised that the laws have changed since this importation. Decisions by customs staff can now be appealed to an “independent” Customs Appeals Authority, and then if needed, to the High Court. Because of the costs involved, and the two year waiting list to get to court, an appeal is not likely. Instead, we are investigating the feasibility of reprinting part or all of Cannabis Culture here, possibly in conjunction with Norml News. Watch this space. Or just read it online.

Chris Fowlie is managing director of The Hempstore, local distributor of Cannabis Culture, online at www.cannabisculture.com

(NORML News Summer 2009)

Rasta the future: a conversation with Tigilau Ness of Unity Pacific

The patriarch of New Zealand reggae is a thoughtful man whose songs reflect a thirty-year struggle for equality, human rights, and his Rastafarian faith.

Tigilau Ness has long supported NORML ’s campaign for marijuana legalisation. His band Unity Pacific has performed at J Day and played all of the Auckland One Love celebrations for Bob Marley’s birthday. Tigi appeared with his son, hip hop star Che Fu, in Norml News way back in Winter 1995.

A founder of the Polynesian Panthers civil rights action group in the 1970’s, Tigi’s strategy has always been one of peaceful non-violent resistance. He was arrested at Bastion Point and was one
of the few to do time for his Springbok protests, serving nine months of a 12 month sentence. The incarceration was a temporary set back on his musical journey, but says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “If you believe in it, then gee, be prepared to die for it.”

It helped make him the Rasta man he is today. Central to Tigi’s faith is the sacramental use of ganja. “Herb is the healing of the nations. It’s written in the bible, right there in Genesis 1. God made the earth and everything in it, and herb – it expressly says that – herb for man’s use. Not abuse, but use.

“If we were to delve back historically, people have always used marijuana, the herb, the tree of knowledge, that’s always been there. Just that in our society, in our time, it’s been made out as evil. If it was evil the Bible would say so – and I go by what the Bible says!”

A key event in forming Tigi’s views and faith was the visit of Bob Marley to these shores in 1979. Tigi’s dreads were still freshly plaited as he raced out to the airport to meet the entourage. Later that day they watched the powhiri at Parnell’s White Heron Hotel. As the reggae superstar bent down to pick up the leaf, the overcast sky cleared and the warm sun beamed down upon them. Everyone looked at each other, says Tigi.

“Something special just happened. I got goose bumps and thought this is it. All in, or not at all.” Tigi’s life changed that day. He became a Rasta, formed a reggae band and embarked on a remarkable journey. His son Che was taken on stage by Bob Marley during his Western Springs concert. Almost thirty years later, Tigi will perform on the same stage as Bob’s son Ziggy at  Raggamuffin in Rotorua.

Tigi says being a Rastaman is not just about getting high. “It’s a spiritual thing. It’s that powerful that you acknowledge it and give thanks. If you don’t, it can do something to your spirit.” To avoid this cannabis users should “recognise and acknowledge where it came from.”

Tigi believes we need to make profound changes in society – and that change will only come when true leaders step up to make it happen. Ask Tigi why after 30 years the law still hasn’t changed and his reply is “When you look at who is benefiting from it, there’s your answer there.”

He says the key to ending cannabis prohibition is getting more New Zealand celebrities to publicly make a stand. “It has to be somebody high profile before the rest will make a move. Someone you really like or you believe in. Otherwise it will take too long. People of high profile should do things more. They should stand up for issues more.”

So what’s stopping them?

“The fear started with people like Larry Morris. One joint, and he was done for good. For life. Same thing happened with Peter Tosh, so nobody wants to go through that experience. It’s that fear. It’s not justified. Sure, lawyers, doctors, we know they all do it, but they’re afraid. We won’t get them standing up because of that fear factor.”

It doesn’t make sense. “Why are we so hard on something that is just like lettuce?”

Ask this rasta musician what the law should be, and you’ll get a simple answer: “For a start just  decriminalise it and don’t make criminals out of people who use it recreationally or medicinally. We’re not crims. Teachers, lawyers, you name it. Hard working people. Decriminalise it for a start, then more education. Research into it. All the good aspects, and the bad aspects. Alcohol is a good comparison – if you overdo it it’s no good for you.

Criminal law enforcement only makes it worse. “Looking over your shoulder, that has to have an effect on the whole country’s psycho. What’s good for you is illegal. That’s what we call confusion –
that’s Babylon!

Unity Pacific performs at Raggamuffin Festival in Rotorua on 7 February 2009, the day after Bob Marley’s birthday on Waitangi Day.

(NORML News Summer 2009)

The 5th Annual Auckland Cannabis Cup

AUCKLAND’s CANNA cup moved to a new location this year – a surprisingly lush and completely hidden inner city oasis with a dancefloor, waterfalls, mirror balls, and ganja galore – located downwind from the cop shop.

One hundred carefully selected judges had their work cut out evaluating the 14 entries. Points were awarded for looks, smell, taste and effect. Many agreed the outdoor entries were particularly good this year. Not only was the defending 3x indoor champ Te Kakariki back as an outdoor (grown in a grey lynn backyard), there were eight other kick-ass strains, including the defending champ Coronaki Afi.

In a close battle Te Kakariki eventually came out the winner – taking home a cup 4 years in a row! And in a nice twist, the indoor cup was taken out by the boys from Te Rohe Potae, who had previously tried to win the outdoor cup. This year they submitted an indoor AK47 and went home the winner. Nice!

Official Results
2008 INDOOR CUP
1st: AK47 from Te Rohe Potae
2nd: Mother’s Finest by F.A.B.
3rd: Bang! by Liberty
2008 OUTDOOR CUP
1st: Te Kakariki by Maori Wowie
2nd: Turtle by Hempy boy
3rd: Mountain Rhino by Ganja Guru

(NORML News Spring 2008)

Rasta Reason – Interview with Nandor Tanczos

The Dread has left the House. New Zealand’s highest profile cannabis campaigner is no longer a Green MP, but in this discussion with CHRIS FOWLIE, Ras Nandor Tanczos says you can expect to hear more from him soon.

Chris: Gidday mate, and welcome back to the land of regular people! What were your expectations at the beginning? The impression perhaps was that you felt disappointed with your time there or with what happened.

Nandor: I went in really expecting nothing from the place. I joined the green party because I felt there was a kaupapa that was vital for the 21st century the Greens were the only party that had anything to say of relevance to the world we were going into as far as I could see. So I wanted to support that kaupapa. When the Green party became independent of the Alliance I got involved in various activities as you will remember. When people in the party asked me if I was going to stand or asked me to stand as an MP I thought about it a lot, because I come from an anarchist background, I’m a Rastafarian, both of those things we don’t really engage in parliamentary politics. And I never expected anything from parliament. I’ve never seen parliament as a place where real change is going to happen, progressive change, the kind of change that we need is going to happen. I stood because we had a chance to and I felt it was important that there was someone in parliament who was outside of the box. To say, you can be yourself, and you can be in there, and you can cut it and you can be as good as any of them, but you can be yourself. You don’t have to conform to all that bullshit about who you’ve got to be to be a power broker. I wanted to break down
prejudice. I wanted to confront them with the reality of who we are, which I think I have done after nine years. Interesting the things that people are saying about me when I left compared to what they were saying about me when I entered are quite different.

So I went in really as a symbolic thing as much as anything else. And I never expected to be able to do anything useful in parliament because I already recognised it as a place coopted by corporate agendas and coopted by power itself, you know people become inflated with their own self importance because of those positions of power so when I came out telling them off it wasn’t that I was disappointed or disillusioned, it wasn’t as though I had any illusions in the first place, but nevertheless those things still need to be said.

You said you were there for almost symbolic reasons and yet it was the things that you stood for, the symbols as such, that got held against you. Your hair, your alleged cannabis use. Because of these reasons, doors were closed.

And that got in the way of some of the things I was trying to do. Let me say as well that having gone in kind of symbolically, what I discovered, the first thing I discovered was that there were more opportunities to make changes than I had at first thought. What I hadn’t realized was the power of being there, having a seat at the table, having a vote at the table. The ability to articulate dissent is an important one even if it doesn’t change the result. To articulate it and have it on the record. We need a historical record of those that stood against them. You can change things, I changed legislation, I made amendments, I introduced legislation. I’ve made a practical difference in terms of legislation and policy which I’m really proud of, but also after going through that I then also came back to the realisation that the changes that you can make in there are limited, because the place is so co-opted and governments and almost all political parties in there are so compromised by corporate agendas and their own self importance, that the really fundamental changes that we need to make in the world today – I just don’t see them coming from them.

The cannabis inquiry got stalled for political reasons, purely to get back at the Greens for Corngate or whatever. Yet cannabis arrests have dropped about 20 percent every year since then. Society has changed and the Police have changed.

I think that the cannabis inquiry did have a really big impact even though we didn’t get the law changed. I mean if you go back to the report, its still actually an excellent report that lays out what the issues are, lays out still a pretty good guide to the health impacts and all those things, it does weigh up all the policy options, it doesn’t come up with a recommendation saying we should change [but] if you read those pros and cons its pretty clear that prohibition is the worst one. So those Select Committee reports they actually do have impact. I’m sure the select committees report is part of the things that’s changed the attitude. There was really good coverage of the issues through that inquiry and also people came and made representations for the first time to a select committee, really courageously. I was really impressed and inspired by all the people that came forward. I think it did make a difference. I certainly wouldn’t want those people to think that it was a waste of their time, because I don’t think it was.

Coming back to your earlier question, the fact I was a dreadlocked Rastafarian, that I openly used cannabis and unashamedly and are honest about it you know and all the kinds of stuff that goes with being part of the marginalized, outside the main stream, I think it was really important being there but there is no doubt that that also created an obstacle, which is why after two terms of holding the cannabis drug policy portfolio, even though I was an expert at drug policy, I gave the portfolio up because it became increasingly apparent that I had become an obstacle to change. Having kinda opened the door by being open about it also became a blockage. My hope was that by standing aside, some of that blockage would go away. Now I am actually optimistic that the tide for cannabis law reform is still coming in. And I hope that now someone will pick up the championing of the cause in parliament but who doesn’t have the same political liability that I have.

Where is that going to come from – who is our next hope?

I’m not sure, I haven’t seen it coming forward yet. I don’t know where it is going to come from, but you know its early days yet. No one was going to pick it up while I was in Parliament maybe now that I’m out, that will create a space. In some ways the real thing is again a conscience vote because there are a lot of people in National who want to support law reform, and if you generally follow the kaupapa of the National Party, you should support drug law reform. This is the curious thing about the left and right thing, and why I for a long time have tried to position myself outside that continuum. In a lot of issues I’m left wing, there is no doubt about it, but cannabis law reform seems  to me more intrinsically more a right wing issue than a left wing issue because it is about individual freedom.

In hindsight we came really close to changing the law about five years ago. If get to a similar position, what can we learn from that so we actually get something through?

I do blame myself a lot for the missed opportunity. I think if I’d been more experienced I personally could have done more, in that just being less reasonable I think. More pig headed and arm twisting, Its difficult because the party, my party … it was a contentious issue within the Green Party, and that made it more difficult, but what we should have done is just said “you will change the fucken law”, actually what we should of done is said “No inquiry, we don’t want a fucken inquiry, you will change the law this year otherwise we are pulling the plug.” That is what we should have done.

I hear some criticism from activists who blame the Greens for not doing enough. What is your response to that. Is it fair?

It’s a difficult question, and it depends from what position you are looking at it from. There is no doubt that the Greens have done more for drug law reform than any other party in parliament, sensible drug policy in general they are the only party in parliament, so I think it would be unfair to not acknowledge that. At the same time, because it was controversial within the party and key people were very hesitant about it, I think the Greens made a strategic error. Because some people were hesitant about it, I was kind of hobbled from pursing the issue as aggressively as it needed
to be done. The Green Party made a collective decision, the caucus made a collective decision against my view and the view of some others like Rod Donald and Keith Locke. There was a collective decision not to aggressively go out and promote cannabis law reform but to kind of defend ourselves when attacked. Now that was inadequate. What we needed to do was go aggressively and take the issue out there, ‘cos we had all the arguments, we had all the evidence, we would have won any argument that we entered in to and if we had been wholeheartedly about it as a party I think we could have gone a lot further.

So I guess what I am saying is yes and no. We did more that any other party, and I think the Green Party should get credit for that, but we made a strategic error collectively. But moving forward, the reality is what are your choices: the legalise cannabis campaign [ALCP] for all their commitment and passion are not going to be in parliament, so people can vote, I just think their chances of that happening are so remote as to be more or less irrelevant.

I think in terms of voting it’s still more useful to vote for the Green Party because you know that you are voting for people who support law reform. I think that the Green Party is not going to make  cannabis law reform an election issue, they are just not going to do that anymore, but I think that they will – if the opportunity arises – they will pick it up.

Like Metiria Turei, who’s our drug policy portfolio, she’s got a members bill on medical marijuana. She’s being strategic about it, she hasn’t introduced it into parliament, ‘cos she knows right now we’d lose the votes. She wants to get it through and she’s working to do that, not necessarily in major headlines. She is quietly working away on it. I think that, like with most political issues, I think that the movement has to take leadership again. That is the only way you are going to get it on the
agenda, and the only way it got on the agenda in the first place was that the movement put it on the agenda. It wasn’t the Green Party that made cannabis law reform a political issue, it was NORML. It was NORML who made it a political issue. The Green Party were just the ally, the Green Party didn’t make it a political issue. So, its going to be the same thing again. Political parties rarely make things political issues. Mostly it is the movement that makes the issue and the political party will champion it in parliament.

To be effective what we need to do as a movement is sit down and really look at what have we been doing, what have we got, who have we got, what are our resources and how can we use that  strategically? There are people in the movement who are really good at some stuff but are really unhelpful in other areas. You know we need to collectively go, let’s be strategic, who have we got, lets make sure that everyone has their place, stuff they like to do, lets get them doing that, so that we move forward together. There is still a lot of division in the movement which I think is going to hinder forward progress.

As an MP what was it about the movement you were impressed with, and from a parliamentarians point of view, what have we got going for us?

It’s hard for me to give a clear picture right now because I’ve been so in that world, its really focused. There is a lot of good things going on. There’s some really amazing people, committed people, there is a wealth of information, really good information. There is a magazine that goes out nationally which communicates to the network. There is still a massive latent support for law reform.

In a way the thing that really struck me during the cannabis enquiry, and that debate in Dunedin, is  ordinary people getting up and I think really honestly, and it just cuts through all that bullshit. That  is really powerful, just the honesty and integrity of that thing is really, really powerful, I think. There is still a lot there to work with, it’s just kind of bringing it all together and building a bit of momentum. I think the challenges are once again finding things for people to do that’s going to take us forward.

The thing that worries me is there is a backlash for drugs reform based around P, and it’s being used once again to target drug users. So you see the clown up north who wants to drug test all  school kids, all sorts. This stuff is building momentum because there is money to be made and  people are fearful of P – and probably fairly so – but there are a whole lot of people who are there to exploit those fears.

So there is that going on, but there is things like what is going on internationally, there is a review of international conventions, you’ve got these really evidencebased impartial organizations like the Drug Foundation, who I think are really helpful because they are not seen as a lobby group, they  are being this kind of authoritative voice, but when you look at the kind of stuff, the evidence they have got, the evidence is the evidence. Something that we have always been strong on is we look to the evidence as opposed to our opponents.

One of things I think is we have to find a way of breaking out of our locked in camps. It came up during the Dunedin debate again and I thought it was an interesting point. I looked at Jim Anderton who was just locked into his mindframe, and to our side – there were some people there on our side of the debate who were also just totally locked into their mindset. Now we have to find some way of crossing that bridge. I think that all these people are locked into the prohibition mindset ‘cos they are scared.

I think we can meet all their needs. I’m sure there is a way of communicating so that we breakdown some of this locked in opposition and free things up a bit. I’m sure there is a way of doing that, y’know, and I think that is one thing we have to focus on, because otherwise what happens is the opposition just builds so we end up with a balance on both sides, and if the opposing forces were balanced we would lose. We are trying to change things, not maintain the status quo, so we have to find some way of reducing that opposition by acknowledging those real fears that people feel. We’ve got to hear our opponents.

So what’s next for you? You’re chilling out in a house truck in the middle of the Waikato somewhere.

Yeah, finishing a house truck in the middle of the Waikato. We are living in it and it’s good, but there are still things that need to be finished. Growing veges, planting trees, raising chickens and family, so that’s all good. I’m looking at going back to do some tertiary study. I think in parliament you soak up information through your skin, it’s like you just get filled up with information, but there  is no time to reflect, so there’s no wisdom – its just ‘stuff’. That’s why there is so little wisdom in that place. Wisdom comes from reflection and there is no time for reflection, so going back to university would be a way for me to reflect a bit and do some deep thinking, and I’m looking forward to doing that.

But also needing to make a living so I’m trying to establish a business, ‘cos looking at the last nine years in parliament I’ve picked up an enormous amount of information about stuff and also about political processes and I want to make that information and expertise available to the community and to NGOs, not to corporates – fuck them – but to community organisations, people doing positive stuff. I want to help to deconstruct the system and help people become more politically effective.

Also a bit of media work, there is a real space for a deep green analysis and public debate, so I want to be part of pushing that. You get left and right commentators, you don’t get green commentators. Like the Herald has the ‘green pages’ but its all like take a shorter shower and change your light bulbs, which is cool but it’s also very shallow.

I’ve always loved to do education so doing workshopping around Treaty issues, sustainability issues, political stuff into adult education, and also maybe see if I can get into schools and do like civic education in schools and breakdown political stuff for kids. So I’m trying to kind of put a package of these things together to see if I can do work that accords with my heart and also earns me enough money to make a living. I don’t need to earn a lot, we live pretty simply in a bus, ha ha.

www.nandor.net.nz

(NORML News Spring 2008)

Interview with Rob Van Dam – The Heavyweight Champion of cannabis!

Former world wrestling champion Rob Van Dam, known for his high-flying acrobatics and catch cry “RVD 420”, is also an outspoken advocate of cannabis legalisation. CHRIS FOWLIE caught up with the world’s weediest wrestler.

Chris: Rob, welcome to New Zealand! Can you tell us how “RVD 420” started?

Rob: RVD 420 as a moniker started itself. It was actually something I saw in a crowd one time. Some fans had it on a sign, and I loved it because we were in ECW, and WWE, the big company  with Stone Cold Steve Austin, had a very popular selling t shirt with Austin 316, or something, which means “I’ve just kicked your ass”, so RVD 420 became “I just smoked your ass”. As a parody it was  hilarious. And it was a tribute to being a cannabis consumer. ECW was totally against the grain, it was revolutionary, and [RVD 420] stood for everything the ECW stood for. It was aimed at adults, I mean they had a guy that would drink 5 beers before coming into the ring, we had foul language, we had adult film stars cast as celebrities. It was a really hard core crowd and I needed some sort of edge, and I really appreciated marijuana. So during the promos I would do, I would always drop little hints about it and then the crowd caught onto it.

You’re known as a mellow guy outside the ring, is pot a part of that?

Actually one thing about me is I’m also known as a martial artist. Throughout the 17, 18 years of my professional wrestling career I’ve always been the one to do the kicks, the one to do the flips, the  one that stretches for an hour before my matches, so as far as who I am as a person, I practise zenful life principles and I always try to avoid stress. It’s something I’ve worked towards, and I use the yin-yan symbol to achieve balance. I have it all over my wrestling outfit, my wedding ring is a  yinyan symbol. It helps me to remember that there is a balance. Bad is necessary to have good. You need to know exactly where to put it and accept it rather than becoming emotionally wrapped around it. All that does is ripple the steady flow I’m trying to achieve. I’ve spent years working at it and getting good at it and it’s a challenge but it’s part of my nature. Mom and dad always said even as a kid I was really hard to upset, that I was really even tempered.

Does pot help keep you on an even keel? Is it medical for you, like pain relief?

I consider all adult use medicinal, because what’s the use of getting high if it’s not relieving stress, not relieving anxiety or the social pressures we feel. A lot of normal people who think pot is evil are going to the doctor to get xanax, zoloft or prozac or whatever medicines I don’t even know about. But yeah it helps everything equal out. It inspires adequacy. It definitely does help with the pain, no doubt about that, and it helps take you to a place that’s a good place to be. It’s also referred to as a spiritual place. It allows you to ascend to a higher position to where you don’t have to be weighted down by the troubles and negative aspects of life. It’s definitely not a bad thing, there’s certainly no reason for it to be illegal. And I prefer cannabis to other dangerous drugs that’s gonna make me hyper or whatever.

With what you’ve seen of the medicinal marijuana law in California, with registered patients going to dispensaries, and the Green’s bill that’s happening here in New Zealand, that is modelled on the Californian approach, do you have any lessons or observations from that?

Well, a lot of opposers to medicinal marijuana think it’s a gateway to get it legalised recreationally, and I really can’t argue with that. Personally, it makes absolutely no common sense that it should be outlawed. I put the argument into three different categories of cannabis’ uses. There’s recreational, medicinal and material. It’s a fact if you do the research you’ll find out that cannabis is more effective and safer in all three areas. Using medicinal it’s easy to open people’s minds up because we do have dying people that are suffering who can absolutely for sure benefit from it’s use, and some people have enough compassion to drop the negative charges that were put on it, that we’re brainwashed into, that they can listen to reason and they’ll say ok, they should at least have it, if that’s what it takes. And if it only goes so far as to them being able to have it, then that’s good. I would however, from a personal perspective, like to see it opened up further and see it used in all three areas. Hemp doesn’t even have any THC in it and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to use it. There’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t utilise it. And recreational, I compare it to cigarettes which kill approximately one in five Americans every year. Pot’s killed zero. If anybody looks that up they’ll find it to be a fact and I think it will change their opinion on it. Most people don’t know that. They think pot’s a dangerous drug that will kill you because we’re taught that. I was lied to at school. Now that I know the truth, I just want other people to know the truth so they can base their own opinions and feelings on that. Fact is, if a lot of people voted on knowing the truth, we’ll see some changes made, and I expect to see that in the future.

So do we. Thanks for your time Rob.

(NORML News Autumn 2008)

Answering objections to natural medicinal cannabis

OPPONENTS of patients being able to medicate with natural herbal cannabis, including our own Ministry of Health, can no longer ignore its medical effectiveness. Instead, they deny relief to seriously ill people by hiding behind smokescreens and circular arguments. CHRIS FOWLIE explains.

The Ministry of Health supports allowing the cannabis-extract Sativex. This in itself is not a bad thing. Sativex is, after all, a natural extract made from whole cannabis. Its genetics are based on quality Sensi Seed Bank stock. But it’s not yet available in New Zealand – and it’s not for everyone. Sativex has a fixed ratio of just two cannabinoids, whereas the variety of cannabis strains allow patients to pick and choose to match strains to symptoms. And Sativex is expensive – an estimated cost of $150-$300 per week, with no sign Pharmac will offer any funding.

Smoking

Objectors to herbal cannabis say smoking anything must be bad. That assumes all smoke is smoke, but cannabis smoke is different: for a start, it contains THC, a powerful antioxidant with tumour-fighting abilities. THC kick-starts the lung’s immune response, and clears the lungs. Several large-scale studies have thus found cannabis-only smokers to be more healthy than even non-smokers!

Next they talk about cannabis smokers taking deep breaths and holding it in longer. But it is the vastly-inflated value caused by its illegal status that forces tokers to maximise the bang for their buck. If cannabis cost the same as tobacco ($20 per ounce including taxes), we’d see a more relaxed smoking style.

Even if we accept anti-smoking arguments, herbal cannabis does not have to be smoked. Patients can avoid smoke entirely by growing cannabis and turning it into foods, drinks or tinctures, or even skin creams or massage oils. They can use a vaporiser to get the instant effect and dose control of inhalation without any smoke at all.

Standard dosages

The next objection that is usually raised is that there can be no standardisation or dosage control with herbal cannabis. But smoking actually provides patients with very precise dosage control, due to the instant onset of effects. Furthermore, baked foods, drinks, candies, chocolates, elixirs and tinctures can all be easily made to a standard recipe that delivers a product of known strength. Anyone who can follow a recipe can do it. For larger-scale production, places overseas have
met patient need by licensing community groups, pharmacies or local companies to produce natural extracts or tinctures of known strength. The Dutch licensed several companies to provide standardised natural cannabis to pharmacies there. The varieties all have fixed and known quantities of active ingredients and are sterilised to be free of mould or fungus. It is that not hard to do, and could easily be done here.

Home invasions

Finally, those who object to herbal medicinal cannabis eventually say that allowing patients to grow their own would expose them to risk of robbery or home invasion, acknowledging that the current drug law creates crime and violence. Regardless, many patients are already growing their own, but are denied any protection. If their medicine is stolen they can’t go to the police. Patients are forced to engage with the illicit market and the risks that go with that. Places overseas that allow patients to grow their own or nominate someone else to do it for them have not noted increased violence of thefts from patients. To the contrary, allowing patients to grow their own is the best way to safely meet their needs.

(NORML News Autumn 2008)

Police spray Island community

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

Auckland drug squad members sprayed toxic poison over the township of Trypheena on Great Barrier Island, as part of the so-called cannabis eradication programme.

What’s more, they did it from a dangerously-low height of around 100 feet, at least 900 feet below the Civil Aviation Authority rules.

It happened on Sunday 3 February, the last day of the summer holidays. Around 1000 locals and holiday makers were in the township, enjoying the sunshine or waiting for the last ferry back to Auckland.

A spotter plane and helicopter hired by the police arrived on the scene and began dumping sprays  of blue poison over people’s back yards, roadsides, near streams, over a caravan and over weeds of the legal variety (see photos). It seems no cannabis was sprayed.

Outraged residents convened a town meeting and unanimously condemned the operation.

The Great Barrier Community Board is laying a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, while a complaint is also being laid with the Civil Aviation Authority.

Growers forced indoors

A report by the US Justice Department says the cannabis eradication program has driven producers indoors.

The US Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) is similar to the New Zealand police’s expensive, dangerous and largely ineffective annual eradication programme. Both use planes and helicopters to uproot or spray poison on crops, and co-opt gung-ho Army and Air Force personnel and expensive hardware to help them do it.

The report notes that one side effect of shifting indoors is that “groups will produce higher-potency marijuana year-round, allowing for exponential increase in profits derived.”

The report also notes that the eradication program had not reduced availability of cannabis, and said the US cannabis market is “saturated”.

(NORML News Autumn 2008)

Property Seizure 2.0 – The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill is a significant erosion of civil liberties and will almost certainly see the innocent punished

The bill has not yet come back from the Law and Order Committee and so could still be significantly amended. It proposes to seize people’s assets even though they have not been convicted of any crime. It violates fundamental norms of justice, such as the presumption of innocence and the prohibition on double jeopardy, and could also breach the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

If passed, the bill would allow both conviction-based forfeiture and confiscation which requires no conviction for property that is said to be the proceeds of crime or unlawfully derived income. The same person may be the subject of criminal prosecution and confiscation action under the civil process. Those who are acquitted can still have their assets seized for unproved and unspecified
crimes. They would not even have to be prosecuted to have their assets seized. Furthermore, if they are prosecuted they could not use their disputed assets to fund their defence.

In a departure from the accepted norms of natural justice, people who are targeted must prove themselves innocent. The bill allows the government to use an absurdly low standard of proof – “reasonable cause to believe” – to seize assets. With insufficient evidence for a conviction, police may approach a High Court judge with a lower standard of proof to seize assets. Suspects may not even know they face action and may have no opportunity to defend themselves.

The bill specifies that “the court may not allow legal expenses to be paid out of the restrained property”, denying suspects the fundamental right to legal representation. The retrospective provisions in the Bill made it even more contemptible.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 1991

Under the existing Proceeds of Crime Act 1991, which the new bill would replace, almost the entire total amount confiscated has been from cannabis growers.

To seize property the police need only show that the property has been “tainted” – they don’t need to prove it was paid for using drug incomes. Furthermore, they only need show a civil burden of proof, i.e. a “balance of probabilities” rather than the usual proof of “beyond all reasonable
doubt”. Not only is the new bill repugnant, the Proceeds of Crime Act 1991 should also be repealed.

Maori

Maori are at particular risk of having their ancestral lands taken by the Crown – for a second time. Many Iwi and Hapu have only marginal lands left. Faced with little prospect of farming this land, little hope of legitimate employment and ongoing land rates to pay, some have chosen to use the opportunity cannabis prohibition has presented them with. Money may not grow on trees, but it does grow on cannabis plants that are almost worth their weight in gold. If they are caught Maori face not only a harsher average sentence but may have their ancestral lands confiscated under the Proceeds of Crimes Act, despite the obvious fact that the land could not have been paid
for using illicit drug money.

Police corruption

Asset forfeiture laws encourage corruption. There have been several reports of police impropriety in attempting to seize property including planting evidence and lying under oath. In one of the biggest sums awarded against police, in August 1999 Judge Michael Lance awarded Great Barrier Island man Colin Moore $54,000 towards the $100,000 he spent defending charges of cultivating cannabis and fighting to keep the family farm. Police did not photograph the evidence or give Moore the chance to look at the plants. They also left out evidence during the trial. The Police helicopter was allegedly spotted delivering a load of cannabis to Mr Moore’s farm. The farm had
been in the family for generations and could not have been paid for with drug money.

The Judge was scathing of the Proceeds of Crime Act. “It’s an invasion of personal privacy,” said Lance. “The legislation needs some careful attention.” Even the rather conservative New Zealand
Herald opposed the new bill (27/11/04):

“It’s classically opinion-poll driven legislation that seeks to wipe out the rights of people who legitimately own property by seizing that property on what’s often no more than a suspicion. The onus is then on the owner of that property to prove otherwise. It can be very hard to prove income was legally derived without documented evidence.”

The government believes other countries have been more successful in seizing assets. However, in seeking to ‘get tough’ on drugs, they are trampling on all our rights and the principles of natural justice.

(NORML News Summer 2008. Next issue: in Pt.3 of this series Auckland lawyer Rob Weir reports on the progress of the bill and any changes made by the Law and Order Select Committee.)

Dosage and plant numbers

Medicinal cannabis patients have widely varying needs: some need only a few specks of pot as their symptoms require, while others may need to medicate almost all the time, although individual dosages may change with time or severity of symptoms.

It is not unusual for patients using cannabis to consume far more than the average recreational user – particularly those with chronic pain or other severe ongoing symptoms.

It’s interesting to consider what the authorities have to say about how much medi-weed is appropriate. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a dosing guideline for synthetic THC (Marinol) of 30-90mg per day. Researchers applied these guidelines to herbal cannabis and calculated how much would need to be smoked in order to achieve the FDA’s recommended daily dosage. For average cannabis that is 10% THC, 1.8 grams per day would be required for a dose of 30mg THC, or 5.5 grams for a dose of 90mg THC. For cannabis that is very potent, such as 20%
THC, 0.9 grams would be required to achieve a dose of 30mg THC, or 2.8 grams for a dose of 90mg THC. That adds up an estimated range of 339 to 2000 grams per year, which the researchers say is consistent with amounts reported in surveys of patients in California and Washington (Carter, et al, 2004).

The US Federal government’s Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug Program has supplied a handful of patients with federallygrown medical marijuana for almost 3 decades. Patients have received 300 pre-rolled joints per month, every month, since entering the program. Those suffering from chronic pain receive 50% more than the others, or 450 joints per month. The joints each contain about 0.9 grams of marijuana. The US government has therefore established a medical marijuana dose range of between one half and three quarters of a pound per patient per month. (Russo et al, 2002)

Plant numbers

Setting plant limits based on arbitrary amounts risks denying effective treatment to those most in need, and/or criminalising those patients who happen to require more medication than others. If a limit must be set, it would be better to limit the growing area rather than the number of plants. This is because plant yield is more closely related to the available area than to plant numbers. Plants require light to grow and the available light (sunlight or indoor growing lamps) is a fixed quantity. Putting more plants into the same area will result in smaller plants, while the total yield will be about the same.

US State medical marijuana programs include various plant limits, several of which regulate growing areas rather than plant numbers:

Alaska: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to an ounce of usable marijuana, and may grow up to six plants, of which no more than three may be mature.

California: Proposition 215 did not set any limits regarding the amount of marijuana patients may possess and/or cultivate. Senate Bill 420, which took effect on January 1, 2004, imposes statewide guidelines outlining how much medicinal marijuana patients may grow and possess. Under the guidelines, qualified patients and/or their caregivers may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and/or six mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants. However, SB420 allows patients to possess larger amounts of marijuana when it is recommended by a physician. The law also allows counties and municipalities to authorise patients to possess larger quantities of cannabis than allowed under the new state guidelines. For example, Humboldt County guidelines allow patients a 100 square feet garden and 3 lbs with no plant number limit. San Diego City Council guidelines allow up to 1lb of marijuana, and 24 plants in 64 square feet indoors.

Colorado: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess no more than two ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants.

Hawaii: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana, and may cultivate up to seven plants, of which no more than three may be mature.

Maine: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to one and one-quarter ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate up to six plants, of which three may be mature.

Montana: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may possess no more than six marijuana plants.

Nevada: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana, and may cultivate seven marijuana plants, of which three may be mature.

New Mexico: The law mandates the state to issue rules governing the use and distribution of medical cannabis to state-authorised patients, including defining the amount of cannabis that is necessary to constitute an “adequate supply” for qualified patients, and the creation of  state-licensed “cannabis production facilities”.

Oregon: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess no more than six mature
cannabis plants, 18 immature seedlings, and 24 ounces of usable cannabis.

Rhode Island: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 plants, and their cannabis must be stored in an indoor facility.

Vermont: Patients (or their primary caregiver) may legally possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate three plants, of which one may be mature.

Washington: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may possess or cultivate a 60-day supply of marijuana.

(NORML News Summer 2008)

For more information see:

 

Cannabis Culture Banned

Customs have finally succeeded in having an issue of Cannabis Culture magazine banned. The May/June 2007 issue, imported from Canada and distributed by The Hempstore, was sent to the  Office of Film and Literature Classification. In a decision released in late October, the Office ruled the magazine “objectionable”, meaning it cannot be sold or read in New Zealand.

Rulings on three previous issues had said the magazine could be sold as long as it was wrapped and restricted to those aged over 18. These rulings were based in part on a 1998 ruling on High Times magazine, which had said that the grow section was a small part of the magazine as a whole,
and even though it encouraged “criminal activity” it was not the “dominant effect” of the publication as a whole.

The Hempstore noted no complaints had been received by any members of the public
and said it is “the test of a free society that controversial topics can be openly debated without
the suppression of information from one side.” A ban would represent a “gross intrusion into
the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights Act”.

The censors did not agree, largely because they said this issue – which included interviews with Stephen Marley and Tommy Chong, art glass photography, pot puzzles, and international cannabis law reform news – also featured an article about making bubble hash.

They said the magazine “promotes criminal actions to a greater extent and degree than issues previously classified … The magazine’s focus on “profiling and promoting the marijuana industry” includes an extensive and prominent feature on converting cannabis trim to bubblehash … It is this feature, in particular, that influences the dominant effect of the issue under review. When encouragement to break the law is the dominant effect, readers are less likely to interpret the magazine’s support for currently criminal behaviour as advocacy of law reform and may be attracted to experimentation with criminal activities. In this context the availability of the publication
is likely to be injurious to the public good.”

While other issues of Cannabis Culture and Norml News are not directly affected by the ruling, it
sets a bad precedent and Customs may decide to send all future issues to the censors as they arrive. The latest issue of CC mag that is about to hit our shores features an article on “New
Zealand’s Irie Activists”. That’s sure to go down a treat with the fun police.

More info:

  • www.cannabisculture.com;
  • www.pot-tv.net;
  • www.censorship.govt.nz

(NORML News Summer 2008)

Smoke on the Water: the 4th Annual Auckland Cannabis Cup

BY HARRY CORDING

Now in its fourth year, Smoke on the Water has become one of the highlights of the cannabis  calendar. A select group of cannabis connoisseurs set sail for a secret location somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, where they sampled the finest cannabis New Zealand’s growers could provide.

This year’s cannabis cup competition drew a record 17 entries – comprising 6 outdoor and 11 indoor strains. I arrived at the wharf half an hour before boarding time, keen to set sail and start the difficult, demanding task of judging the Cannabis Cup. Old hands from previous Cups were joined by a large and enthusiastic contingent of first timers.

Once we were on the high seas, the judges gathered around the display table to inspect the buds. Entries are judged on appearance, smell, taste, and effect. As well as the general look of the buds, judges examined them with a lens to view the THC crystals, which are too small to appreciate with the naked eye. Now is the time for a good sniff to judge the aroma before the final and most important test – the smoking.

Plenty of joints were rolled and the judges diligently set to their appointed task. The afternoon was sunny with a brisk sea breeze and a gentle swell rocked the boat.

The lower deck was spotting headquarters, featuring the Spong – the spotting bong designed and made for the occasion by Big T (whose buds have been pictured in past issues). After a good session down below, climbing the steep narrow stairs took on the aspects of an adventure.

Judging the effects of top quality cannabis is inevitably a highly subjective effort – especially after the tenth sample . However, Te Kakariki won the indoor trophy for the third year in a row. It’s a fine achievement and shows Kakariki is a true champion. Some think Te Kakariki should now be retired to give others a chance – although we’d like to hear some feedback on that first!

R’s Dutch Treat came second in the indoor section and Southside Smiler’s White Rhino was third.  Also highly placed was Durban from the Naki and Afi x White Widow from somewhere in South Auckland.

The winner of the outdoor cup was Coronaki Afi by Flying High from Coromandel. In second place was Magic, also by Flying High, and third was Afi X by Shaun from Huntly. Coromandel was well represented among the growers – ganja bless you and keep up the good work!

Special thanks to Josh, who made the beautiful glass trophies awarded to the winners and pictured on the cover. His original creations, which he brought with him from California, were confiscated by Customs who decided the cups must be P pipes. Glass supplies and facilities were hastily organised and Josh pulled off a superb effort to create a pair of replacement trophies just in time  for the contest. And that just goes to show, prohibition does not work.

The entries – and winners – with some judge’s comments:

INDOOR
A – Afghani by Rourkus. “good looking”
B – White Rhino by Southside Smilers 3RD PLACE! “clears the sinus!”
C – Mandarin by NH. “nice smell”
D – Northern Lights by PP. “great trim, wonderful cola”
E – Te Kakariki by Ms. 1ST PLACE! “wow… what else is there to say?”
F – Skunk1 by Eg. “almost there”
G – Te Tuki by Ms. “sweet tasting, good smell”
H – Hash Plant by Cell. “not dense but great cure”
I – Dutch Treat by R. 2ND PLACE! “gorgeous!”
O – Durban by Ruby. “quite nice”
P – Afi x W. Widow by B4L. “yummy”

OUTDOOR
J – Black Herer by Daf. “dark taste”
K – Coronaki Afi by Flying High. 1ST PLACE! “great maturity”
L – Peka Peka Bay Bud. “bush weed”
M – Taramandel Tacky by Flying High. “great – could be perfect”
N – Magic by Flying High 2ND PLACE! “nice old style”
Q – Afi X by Shaun 3RD PLACE! “great strain, good cure”

(NORML News Winter 2007)

New vaporiser studies remove last objection to Med-Pot

Vaporisation is an effective method to deliver THC according to a clinical study, writes CHRIS FOWLIE.

The most common objection to medical marijuana is that smoking is bad for you. Never mind that marijuana is not tobacco, does not contain nicotine, and has anti-cancer and anti-tumour properties. Or that terminal or seriously ill patients are more concerned with quality of their remaining life than whether they could get lung problems in several decades – if they are still alive. Prohibitionists ignore these facts when they deny patients and doctors access to medical marijuana.

Now, two new studies have blown that last objection away, and should pave the way towards allowing medicinal use.

In a study conducted at the University of California by Dr. Donald Abrams and his colleagues, 18 healthy subjects received three different strains of cannabis (with a THC content of 1.7, 3.4 or 6.8 per cent) by vaporization (The Volcano, made by Storz & Bickel) as well as by smoking a cannabis cigarette.

Unlike smoking, a vaporiser does not burn the plant material, but heats it just to the point at which the THC and the other cannabinoids turn to steam.

Peak plasma concentrations and bioavailability of THC were similar under the two conditions, with the  vaporiser producing a slightly higher level. The levels of carbon monoxide were greatly reduced with vaporization, with “little if any” detected. Researchers concluded “vaporisation of cannabis is a safe and effective mode of delivery of THC.”

In a second study, researchers at the State University of New York interviewed nearly 7000 cannabis users and found vaporiser users were 60 percent less likely than smokers to report respiratory symptoms such as cough, chest tightness or phlegm. The effect of vaporizer use was more pronounced the larger the amount of marijuana used.

Sources:

  • Abrams et al. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Apr 11
  • Earleywine et al. Harm Reduct J 2007;4:11

 

(NORML News Winter 2007)

Safer Cannabis Use / NORML’s Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use

I drafted these guidelines for Sensible Cannabis Use, with input and peer review from leading researchers and consumer advocates. As Editor of NORML News I ensured they ran in every issue. NORML is a consumer advocacy organisation dedicated to reducing harm and encouraging more sensible drug laws. I had it adopt a set of Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use that define and limit acceptable use.

Safer Cannabis Use

Although the vast majority of people who use cannabis suffer no harm, some do experience problems. Ensure that your cannabis use does not impair your health, family, employment and education, and try to have periods of reducing use or not consuming cannabis.

Harm reduction:

  • Remember that “Less is More” – the less you use, the less you will need, and the more high you will get.
  • NORML recommends consuming organic cannabis.
  • Heavy long term cannabis use may lead to some respiratory damage. Deep tokes and long breath duration are more harmful to the lungs.
  • Water pipes and bongs help cool the smoke, filter solids, and absorb some of the most harmful tars in the water. Bongs can make the smoke very smooth, so avoid inhaling too deeply. Replace bong water each time and regularly sterilise your pipe or bong (eg using meths, alcohol or denture cleaning tablets)
  • Meningitis and other diseases can be transmitted through saliva, so don’t share spit on joints or pipes. Try using your hands like a chillum to hold the joint, especially if someone in the circle has the flu!
  • Try other ways of ingesting cannabis, such as eating or drinking it, or using a vaporiser to heat the herb and release THC without combustion.
  • When eating cannabis preparations, start with a small piece and wait an hour before increasing the amount, if desired. The effects of edible cannabis products may be stronger than smoked cannabis.

Health warnings:

  • Cannabis is best avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • People with a history of severe mental illness should reduce any cannabis use to a level agreed with their clinician, or avoid cannabis altogether.
  • Those receiving digitalis or other heart medications should consult their doctors before using cannabis.
  • Mixing cannabis with alcohol can make you more out of it than you intended. The anti-nausea effect of cannabis may also cause you to drink more.
  • Mixing cannabis with tobacco means more smoke damage to your lungs, and may make you become nicotine dependent.

NORML’s Principles of Responsible Marijuana Use

Adults Only. Cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to provide cannabis to people aged under 18.

Safe Driving. The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other heavy machinery while impaired by cannabis, nor (like other responsible citizens) impaired by any other substance or condition, including some prescription medicines or fatigue.

Set and Setting. The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider his/her mind-set and physical setting, and regulate use accordingly.

Resist Abuse. Use of cannabis, to the extent that it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis users.

Respect the Rights of Others. The responsible cannabis user does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis.

(NORML News Autumn 2007. Up-to-date versions can be found at https://norml.org.nz/about/cannabis-harm-reduction/ and https://norml.org.nz/about/responsible-use/)

Auckland Cannabis Cup ‘06

In late May the skies cleared long enough for one hundred cannabis connoisseurs and enthusiasts to board the Te Aroha for a boat cruise they would not forget – judging the third annual Auckland Cannabis Cup. 

With thirteen entries representing the finest indoor and outdoor cannabis in the land, it was always going to be a sought-after event. Those lucky enough to get on board were treated to delicious samples of fine marijuana anonymously named A or B or so on, dispersed in random order and marked with the all-important identifying letter on the filter end.

First came the close-up inspection with points awarded for appearance and smell. More points were awarded for flavour and overall burnability and most importantly, the effect. The Cups themselves were hand-blown by Josh in California before being smuggled into Aotearoa.

Judges who ventured downstairs to the spotting lounge usually needed help to get back out again and emerged dazed, confused … and ready for more. As the day turned to night it was hard keeping track of what had been smoked and what was still to come. It didn’t help that the boat kept turning in random circles to confuse us!

Still, everyone was there on a quest of discovery and set about their task with inspired dedication. There would be no stopping until every last scrap was tasted, sampled, sniffed, rolled and smoked!

Needless to say, there could have been a mutiny if it were not for the delectable munchies that kept
everyone satisfied and civilised.

Before the night was over we were treated to a “choice as” round of canna-comedy and songs from Auckland funny-man Gish, and plenty of dope music from DJs Sensei, Leo and Markee.

Returning to the wharf was like emerging from a strange dream. Did we really just spend 6 hours cruising up and down Waitemata Harbour in a smokefilled schooner? Yes, it appears we did. I can’t wait for next year!

2006 Auckland Cannabis Cup Results
Indoor
1. Te Kakariki (F)
2. Shiva Shanti (B)
3. Te Tuki (E)
4. Bubbleberry (D)
5. Soggy 1 (H)
6. Irie (C)
7. Satin-A (A)
8. Special K (G)
9. Soggy 2 (I)
Outdoor
1. Purple Pineapple (K)
2. KC Hemp (L)
3. White Rhino (M)
4. Oromaeroa (J)

(NORML News Winter/Spring 2006, by Anon.)

Thousands of Kiwis need safe legal access to medical marijuana

More than 11,000 New Zealanders could already be using marijuana for medical reasons, or could benefit from doing so. They deserve compassion, not criminalisation.

Estimates of how many New Zealanders suffer from conditions potentially alleviated by cannabis and how many may be already using cannabis illegally can be gauged by extrapolating from Australian figures. Hall et al (2001) estimated NSW has 19,000 medical marijuana users, suggesting New Zealand could have on a population basis 11,400 medical users.

A 2005 British survey of more than 500 HIV/AIDS patients found that one-third of respondents use natural cannabis for symptomatic relief, with more than 90 percent of them reporting that it improves their appetite, muscle pain and other symptoms.

A previous US survey found one out of four patients with HIV had used natural cannabis medicinally in the past month.

Cannabis use is also prevalent among patients with neurologic disorders. Nearly four out of ten Dutch patients with prescriptions for “medical grade cannabis” ( provided by Dutch pharmacies with a standardized THC content of 10.2 percent) use it to treat MS or spinal cord injuries, according to survey data published in 2005 in the journal Neurology. Perceived efficacy is greater among respondents who inhale cannabis versus those who ingest it orally, the study found.

A 2002 British survey of MS patients found that 43 percent of respondents used
natural cannabis therapeutically, with about half admitting they used it regularly. Seventy-six percent said they would do so if cannabis were legal.

A Canadian survey of MS patients found that 96 percent of respondents were “aware cannabis was potentially therapeutically useful for MS and most (72 percent) supported [its] legalization for medicinal purposes.”

A more recent Canadian survey published in Neurology reported that 14 percent of MS patients and 21 percent of respondents with epilepsy had used medical cannabis in the past year. Among epileptics, twenty four percent of respondents said that they believed that cannabis was an effective therapy for the condition.

A 2002 survey of patients with Parkinson’s Disease found that 25 percent of respondents had tried cannabis, with nearly half of those saying that it provided them symptomatic relief.

For sources and more information, see the report “Marinol Versus Natural Cannabis: Pros, Cons and Options for Patients” by Paul Armentano (11 Aug 05) at www.norml.org

(NORML News Winter/Spring 2006)

Drug Warriors invade the classroom

As well as being ineffective, drug testing school children is a draconian invasion of privacy, writes CHRIS FOWLIE

A recent conference held by the School Trustees Association has raised the ugly spectre
of drug testing extending even into primary schools.

Trustees and principals claimed that children as young as 5 had been caught taking drugs including cannabis to school, and some – including Otamatea High School principal Haydn Hutching – said testing the entire school population was the answer.

Some principals even said they would not seek the permission of – or even inform – parents before testing their children, claiming it was purely an educational or disciplinary matter.

Several schools are even sending drug-sniffing dogs on patrol in the classrooms. Palmerston North Boys’ High School conducts up to seven sniffer-dog searches a year, at a cost of $1500 each time. They receive no additional funding for this, so the money is taken from somewhere else – perhaps education resources or teacher’s wages.

The Ministry of Education doesn’t endorse drug searches in schools, spokesman Vince Cholewa told the Manawatu Evening Standard. He advises schools to seek legal advice if they do decide on searches. Mr Cholewa said only police have a right to search a school if drugs are suspected.

“Teachers aren’t above the law,” he said.

Student drug testing is not without its opponents, who insist research does not show drug testing policies make any difference to whether young people use drugs. A 2003 study sponsored by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse that included 94,000 students in 900 American schools, half with a drug testing policy and half without, found there was no difference in illegal drug use among students.

Drug tests violate students’ privacy, and could wrongly turn students into suspects if they refuse. As the programs expand, children may find their ability to object to the tests eroded. Tests could open the door to lawsuits. Most tests are imprecise and can show “false positives” as well as “false negatives”.

Only the GCMS test is truly accurate, but at a cost of at least $100 per test this is unlikely to be used by many schools, who will likely use the cheaper and less accurate screening cards (similar to a home pregnancy test).

Advocates of testing do not appear to have considered the consequences of violating the privacy of a child as young as 5 by forcing them to pee into a cup. At the very least, it could raise awareness of drugs in a child who until then had never thought about them.

What happens after a positive result is another concern. Many schools simply expel the student, which creates additional problems with alienation, delinquency and crime. Then again, these outcomes must by now be familiar to all prohibitionists.

(NORML News Winter/Spring 2006)

Supreme Court to rule on supply presumption amounts for cannabis

The Supreme Court is reviewing the “presumption of supply” in the Misuse of Drugs Act, which presumes that anyone caught with more than 28 grams – or 10 plants or 100 cigarettes – is guilty of having it for supply unless they can prove otherwise.

Paul Rodney Hansen, 50, and another man were found at Hansen’s Glenorchy home in May 2003 manicuring a freshly harvested crop of outdoor cannabis. The cannabis weighed 1.8kg and Hansen admitted half was his, saying it was his annual supply. He was convicted in Invercargill District Court last March of possessing cannabis for supply and sentenced to three years’ jail, which was reduced to 2 1/2 years on appeal.

Hansen’s lawyer, Sonia Vidal, told the Supreme Court there was no evidence her client had been selling cannabis. She told the court laws prescribing personal use as one month’s supply were unrealistic, as a cultivator growing outdoor plants could harvest cannabis only once a year. Under the Bill of Rights Act, people accused of crimes were presumed innocent until proven guilty, she said.

The five-judge bench reserved its decision. When the decision is released, it will be made available online at the Ministry of Justice’s Judicial Decisions Online

(NORML News Autumn 2006)

UPDATE: the Supreme Court ruled in dismissing Hansen that “Even though s 6(6) of the Misuse of Drugs Act is inconsistent with the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law, and is not redeemed by s 5 of the Bill of Rights Act, s 4 of that Act requires that the appeal be dismissed.”

Drug policy review – have your say

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

The Government has announced a review of the National Drug Policy and this means it is your chance to have your say.

The current policy is harm minimisation, which means policies and government agencies should
seek to reduce overall harm even if it means people continue to use drugs. One example is the
needle exchange and methadone network. Another example is NORML’s tips for safer cannabis
use.

The NDP review is to:

  • assess the effectiveness of the current policy

  • review the impact of the NDP in terms of stakeholder support and its contribution to reduction of drug related harm

  • identify options for future drug policy directions

  • determine the best approach for a future National Drug Policy including the relative focus on strategic versus action oriented approaches

  • develop a draft Strategy for endorsement by Government, including a process for evaluating the effectiveness of that

New Zealand led the world in introducing this policy, and although evidence shows harm minimisation is the most effective policy, it is not without it’s critics including many politicians who campaign on “tough on crime” platforms. This includes United Future’s Peter Dunne, who has tried to get the wording of the policy changed so that it is more orientated around abstinence.

The document outlines areas of supply control, demand reduction and problem limitation. Proposals range from toughening law enforcement, better drug education, more work on pricing
and tax policy for alcohol and tobacco, and improving access to treatment. It also said more
needed to be done on collecting data.

Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton said the policy tried to take a more economic view of the harms caused by drugs, rather than just the health effects. He emphasised legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco caused far more harm than illegal drugs — between 70-90 per cent of criminal activity related to alcohol use and 4700 deaths a year were from tobacco use.

Five regional meetings will be held in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Separate hui, with a focus on issues for Maori, will be held in Auckland, Wellington,
Christchurch, Whangarei, Gisborne and Rotorua. Written or emailed submissions can also be made. The cannabis inquiry held from 1999-2003 was greatly promising until the evidence was overridden by the politics and grandstanding. Don’t let it happen again. Have your say and help make New Zealand’s drug policy evidence-based.

Other law changes in the pipeline include:

  • Sale of Liquor Act – review of the drinking age and advertising
  • Tobacco – Hone Harawira’s bill to extend cannabis prohibition to tobacco will be similarly disastrous.
  • Proceeds of Crime Act – oppose Phil Goff’s bill to increase police powers and reverse the burden of proof when seizing assets from suspects.

We encourage you to get involved in the political process for these bills. Write a submission and have your say. Make your views known. The draft document is available at www.ndp.govt.nz and you have until 26 May to make a submission.

(NORML News Autumn 2006)

Largest study on cannabis and driving finds only a low increased risk

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

  • Several other recent studies find no increased risk
  • burdon is on officials to justify roadside testing

The largest study of its kind has found drivers under the influence of cannabis are far less likely to be culpable in traffic accidents than drunk drivers, while several other recent studies have found no increased risk at all.

In an epidemiological study of approximately 8,000 accidents published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at the French National Institute for Research on Transportation and Safety found that alcohol intoxication and speeding were nearly ten times more likely to be an attributing factor in traffic fatalities than the use of cannabis.

Overall, researchers estimated that psychomotor impairment caused by cannabis was similar to that exhibited by drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) ranging from 0.02 to 0.05 per
cent. The legal limit in New Zealand for a driver over 20 is a BAC of 0.08

The relative risk for causing a fatal accident (where 1 = no increased risk) was 1.8-2.2 for cannabis. The risk factor was ten times that – about 20 – for alcohol above a BAC of 0.05, and also for speeding.

The study results have been provoking embarrassment among French government officials as they always claimed drugs are responsible for more deaths than speeding.

A recent study in Sweden found that the introduction of zero-concentration limits for THC and other drugs in the blood of drivers did not result in a reduction of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Researchers also noted that “the spectrum of drugs identified in blood samples from DUID suspects has not changed much since the zero-limit law was introduced” in 1999.

In another recent study, by researchers at the University of Maryland, the use of cannabis was not associated with the risk to cause a traffic accident. Researchers looked at the presence of
alcohol and illegal drugs in 6,581 drivers who were hospitalized at a shock trauma center from 1997 to 2001. Crash culpability was strongly associated with alcohol use. In contrast, this study did not find an association between crash culpability and cannabis use. Since only urine tests on cannabinoids were performed, it is not known whether drivers were actually under the influence of
cannabis – and since cannabis lingers long after use this makes the association even weaker.

In another recent study, researchers of the University of Victoria (Canada) investigated whether clients in treatment for problems related to the use of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, or various combinations of these substances, had a higher risk to drive while impaired compared to a control group. 445 drivers under treatment were included. In the 8 years before treatment, every drug group except the “cannabis only” group had significantly more convictions for driving while impaired than controls.

UK Police use computer games to test impairment

Last year UK Police introduced traditional coordination tests to check for drivers impairment by drugs. Now the Home Office has turned to computer games. The traditional test included such tasks as instructing drivers to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg or touch their nose with their index finger. The Home Office believes the tests are too subjective, so has loaded a laptop with  several “games” designed to assess the reactions of a motorist.

Drivers would be tested not only on their speed and dexterity but also the accuracy with which they performed the task. This is because while cannabis can slow reaction time, amphetamines quicken it – but also make individuals more prone to error.

Both these sorts of tests – traditional and computer – are more accurate than urine or saliva screens, as they measure actual impairment rather than past exposure to drugs.

A urine test may pick up cannabis residues that are several weeks old, while doing nothing to  detect drivers impaired by fatigue or prescription drugs. Coordination- or computer-based tests are also less invasive, cheaper and quicker to operate.

Sources:
Libération, 3 October 2005;
Jones AW. Traffic Inj Prev 2005;6(4):317-22;
Soderstrom CA, et al. Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med 2005;49:315-30;
Macdonald S, et al. Traffic Inj Prev
2005;6(3):207-11.

(NORML News Summer 2006)

Coroner’s support for War on Drugs wrong, say health professionals

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

A coroner’s call to escalate the “War on Drugs” received a lot of media coverage, but was condemned by health professionals including the Drug Foundation and the Public Health Association.

In calling for a return to “just say no” education, Wellington coroner Garry Evans had ignored best practice and a wealth of international evidence in his attack on the current policy of harm minimisation, said the Drug Foundation.

“It sounds really sensible to take a tough approach … but what that ignores is the reality of human nature,” said New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell. “Human beings have been finding ways of altering their state of mind for thousands of years. In spite all of that law enforcement people are still using drugs.”

“The drug-war approach has seen drug use rise significantly for 20 years in the US, while it locks away more citizens than any other developed nation. New Zealand per capita sits second in that statistic; we need policies that ensure we at least rise no higher.”

Mr Bell also questioned whether the coroner’s recommendations can be supported by his findings into the deaths of six young people.

“Mr Evans has drawn a very long bow by recommending a major overhaul of New Zealand’s drug policy and education based on the findings of six tragic deaths from gas inhaling. Indeed, his recommendation for a national drug education campaign ignores all the evidence about how to most effectively deal with inhalant abuse, which actually warns against publicising the issue because it can lead to increased inhalant abuse.”

Bugger the evidence though, coroner Evans says the current official policy of harm minimisation, which accepts that people will take drugs and tries to make it safer, just sends the wrong message. Evans cited unpublished research from Prof Richard Beasley of Wellington’s Medical Research Institute, who has been trying to see if smoking cannabis causes lung cancer. The study is incomplete and has not been peer reviewed, but Beasley speculated that because Maori have higher rates of lung cancer than non-Maori, and because Maori smoke cannabis at a higher rate, that cannabis could be the cause. This was widely reported in the media as evidence that cannabis may cause cancer. But official statistics show Maori smoke cannabis at only a slightly higher rate: 20% are current users, compared to 18% of the total sample.

In his paper, Beasley cited old research by Donald Tashkin of the USA, whose research into lung damage is often cited by drug prohibitionists. Beasley was, however, unaware of more recent research by Tashkin, which was reported in the Winter 2005 issue of Norml News. Marijuana smokers were found to have a lower rate of lung cancer than even nonsmokers. Tashkin found that marijuana is less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke and may even have some anticancer properties.

Robert Melamede, chair of biology at the University of Colorado in Boulder, recently published a review of studies in the Oct. 17 issue of Harm Reduction Journal. He found that although cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke are chemically very similar, the cancer-promoting effects of smoke are increased by nicotine, while they are reduced by THC.

Anti-drug zealots Pauline Gardiner and Trevor Grice rallied round in support of Evans. Gardiner – who once said that “we’d be better off if all dope-smokers died, because then the state wouldn’t have to support them” – was proposed by Grice to be NZ’s first “drug czar”, in charge of all drug policy and enforcement. Mr Evan’s recommendations had included using specialists – such as Gardiner and Grice – to deliver drug education in schools.

However, the PHA’s Dr Keating says that evidence suggests that school drug education programmes should be taught by teachers, and there is a “question mark over the effectiveness of programmes delivered by outside agencies”.

“At the moment we have the bizarre situation of organisations like the Life Education Trust going into schools and offering programmes that include smoking prevention, even through the Trust receives funding from British American Tobacco. We should be asking why it is that tobacco manufacturers are so keen to support youth smoking prevention programmes. Could it be because they know they certain types of programmes don’t work?.”

(Norml News Summer 2006)