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Guest Blog: How we’re gonna win!

Guest Blog: How we’re gonna win!

By Rebecca Reider
Trustee, Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand

The cannabis referendum on October 17th is just around the corner! The polls are showing we have a decent shot at winning, but it is by no means guaranteed. All we can be sure of is that it’s likely to be a very close race. Every single vote matters.

So if we’re going to win this thing, we all need to activate the people around us to vote yes.

Does that mean you have to get into an hours-long argument with some random person who has bizarre stereotypes about ‘dopeheads’? No! There are way more effective ways to use your energy. So here are some ideas.

Enroll

Make sure all the young people in your life are enrolled to vote. Young people are by far the most supportive of legalising cannabis. But history shows that young people also have the lowest voting rates! This is a problem. We need to mobilise young voters. Send them a message, remind them when election day is. Show them how easy it is to enrol to vote on vote.nz. (Seriously, it is SO easy. I just updated my details online there because I just moved house; it took me a total of three minutes, and all I needed was my name, address and driver’s licence.)

Have a Vote Party

Once everyone’s enrolled they still need to be reminded to vote! Election Day (Sept 19) is on a Saturday. This is a historic opportunity to have our say… so why not celebrate it with a voting party? Get everyone together for an afternoon hangout or BBQ, then go vote together at 4.20pm. (But save the cannabis for AFTER you all vote!)

Talk to your elders

Polls show that the older generation are more likely to vote no. But often this is based on misinformation because they simply haven’t had anyone explain why the referendum makes sense. Talk to elder people you have a relationship with, particularly family members, in a respectful way.

Choose your moments. Don’t waste your energy on someone who is ranting, incoherent, and never in a million years going to vote yes. Talk to people who have sincere concerns and see if you can help them reconsider.

Understand your audience. Listen to people’s genuine concerns if they’re not sure which way to vote, and take them seriously.

If you’re talking to someone who’s on the fence, and they’re saying “I’m concerned about young people accessing cannabis,” it’s not going to help if you say “Hey, we all have a right to choose what we put in our bodies!”…. because if you say that, you’re not addressing the values or concerns of your audience. In this example, it would be much more helpful to explain that legalisation with a regulated market will actually keep young people safer – people under 20 won’t be able to buy cannabis, and when they do turn 20, they’ll have access to cannabis that is controlled for safety and potency rather than getting unknown stuff from a tinny house. (You could also mention that multiple overseas studies have shown that legalising cannabis for adults does not increase youth use of cannabis!)

Know your stuff.

You don’t have to become an expert on legalisation, but if you learn even a little bit, you’re going to know more than most people you talk to. Being knowledgeable can help you stay calm, and that will help reassure anyone you’re talking with. Here are some resources to check out, depending how far you want to go:

Our brief explainer of what’s in the bill

The case for yes – The Helen Clark Foundation’s explanation of why a yes vote makes sense for New Zealand

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s balanced analysis of the likely results if we pass the referendum

The government’s detailed explanation of what’s in the bill

Get out on the streets

One of the most fun ways to raise awareness for the cause is to get out in public with some Make It Legal signs. It’s not that hard – all you need is a few mates and a spare hour of time (or less – or more!). Stand on a busy street corner, look happy, wave your signs, enjoy people tooting their horns at you in support! Seeing public displays like this, from people like you, helps the public feel like voting yes is a mainstream and relatable thing to do. Contact us if you’d like a sign.

Explain the process

Understand the process, and explain it to others. Many people seem anxious about the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill (that’s the legislation that the referendum would send to Parliament) because they don’t understand the process. The referendum will NOT immediately legalise cannabis.

It is only the first step, which will get the government to introduce legislation to Parliament. There will be a Select Committee process where the public can make submissions and influence the legislation. So for cannabis users who think the bill isn’t perfect and therefore don’t want to support it – relax, we need to pass the referendum first and then we can work to improve the bill. And for conservative folks who are scared this is all moving too fast – you can tell them to relax, this is only step one in the conversation. If we don’t pass the referendum, though, we don’t get to have that conversation in Parliament at all.

What the cannabis referendum has to do with Smokefree 2025

What the cannabis referendum has to do with Smokefree 2025

A comment rises continually on our social media and it needs to be put to rest.

It lurches around the comments section a bit like this:
“What about smokefree 2025?”
“But what about smoke free 2025?”
“But aren’t we aiming for NZ to be smoke-free by 2025.”

It rarely has much more substance to it than that. In fact, that lack of substance is a common feature of the ‘Vote No’ comments on our pages.

The spelling and punctuation is always wrong, too. It’s Smokefree 2025. It’s a proper noun. Sure, nobody likes a grammar freak, but they do have their role in helping clarify misinformation.

Looking for a little more substance though?

Well, first, there is the fact that cannabis is not tobacco. Don’t get us wrong – inhaling hot smoke into your lungs isn’t great; but cannabis is not associated with disease in anything like the way tobacco is.

According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, “Overall, the risks of respiratory complications of cannabis smoking appear to be relatively small and to be far lower than those of tobacco smoking.” Conflating cannabis and tobacco is a zombie argument move.

Secondly, Smokefree 2025’s goal is not actually a tobacco-free population. The aim is to get to under 5% of the people using tobacco by 2025. The government knows 0% is impossible.

There is no plan to ban tobacco either. The Health Promotion Agency’s Smokefree 2025 website even has emblazoned on its front page, “It’s not about banning smoking. It’s about taking action against tobacco so that by 2025, hardly anyone will smoke.”

And how has the government taken action? Through regulation. They have increased excise tax, provided huge support for quitting, fully banned advertising, and beaten the tobacco companies by forcing through plain packaging with health warnings on it.

The smoking rate has halved over the past 25 years in New Zealand.

The only thing that the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has in common with Smokefree NZ is that they are both forms of legal regulation.

The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill states on its first page, “The overarching objective of the regulatory regime is to reduce the harms associated with cannabis use experience by individuals, families, whānau, and communities in New Zealand.”

How will it reduce harm?
● By restricting young people’s (20+) access (drug dealers don’t ask for I.D.)
● Raising public awareness of risks associated with cannabis use
● Reducing the illicit market,
● Ending criminal records for cannabis possession (and their racist implementation),
● Putting controls on potency and quality
● Taxation and a levy raising funds for health and education.
● Health information at the point of sale
● No advertising.

The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill is a chance to replace a failed system with something that makes cannabis safer. It doesn’t try to pretend cannabis doesn’t exist. It doesn’t create a cannabis market; it puts controls and regulations on the one that already exists. It’s a pragmatic bill.
Find out more about it and cast YES as your vote on September 19th.

Sources:

Health Promotion Agency (2020). Smokefree Aotearoa 2025

Health Promotion Agency (2020). Facts and Figures

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine (2017). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.

Platform Trust Cannabis Referendum Q &A webinar (2020). h

A Bill to vote YES on…

A Bill to vote YES on…

The Cannabis Leglaisation and Control Bill has been released. This is the Bill that you will be voting on.

At the general election, on your ballot paper, will be a question:

Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?

You can choose 1 of these 2 answers:

  • Yes, I support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill
  • No, I do not support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill

The Bill is summarised in this infographic:

More information can be found here: https://www.referendums.govt.nz/cannabis/summary.html

Turuki Turuki

Turuki Turuki

The second report of the Safe and Effective Justice Committee states “That the Government strengthen regulation of alcohol, legalise and regulate personal use of cannabis, and consider that for all drugs, treating personal drug use as a health issue, with more funding towards prevention, education and treatment.”
See the full report here:

The Case for Yes

The Case for Yes

Report by the Helen Clark Foundation setting out the case for a Yes vote in the 2020 cannabis referendum.

From the introduction:
In 2020, New Zealanders will have the chance to make a historic decision about whether or not to change the way we regulate personal cannabis use. If we miss this opportunity, the chance may pass for a generation. Cannabis use is a reality in New Zealand, and the results of our current policy approach damage our health, worsen social equity, and drive crime.

This paper argues that the status quo is unacceptable, and seeks to ask how we can do better? Our answer is that we should move to a health-based approach with robust regulation, effective public health education, and adequate service provision.Our key criteria for any policy are: what will best improve health and equity while reducing harm? Evidence suggests that up to eighty per cent of New Zealanders will use cannabis at least once before turning 25, making cannabis the most commonly used illicit drug in New Zealand. Yet cannabis remains an illegal drug, and prosecutions for possession and use alone continue for those unlucky enough to get caught.

The current approach to cannabis inflicts excessive punishment on those users who face prosecution who, in turn, are disproportionately Māori. In this paper, we argue that New Zealanders of all political persuasions should follow the evidence of what works and what doesn’t. The evidence points to a vote in support of cannabis legalisation and regulation in 2020.

Our view is that the New Zealand Government should adopt an approach to cannabis use which sees it as a health and social issue and not a criminal one. Regulation should seek to prevent the emergence of major corporate interests in the market which would have a profit motive to undermine public health objectives.In this respect New Zealand can learn from its experience with regulating tobacco and alcohol. Overall our analysis argues that the disproportionately adverse effects of current policies on cannabis use justify putting in place legalisation and effective regulation.

Drug Driving Discussion Document

Drug Driving Discussion Document

The Government initiated a discussion document on drugged driving. The deadline for submissions was Friday 28 June 2019. You can find the discussion document detail here.

The #makeitlegal submission is below:

REPRESENTATION TO THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT ON DRUGGED DRIVING

28 June 2019

 WHO ARE WE?

The Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust is committed to supporting drug law reform research, campaigns and education for the benefit of individuals, whanau and communities. In particular we:

  • undertake and disseminate educational material and research on drug law reform policy and legislation and its impact on individuals, whanau and communities; and
  • support individuals, whanau, communities and organisations in activities that promote drug law reform, particularly the legalisaton of cannabis and
  • support just and rational drug laws that reduce harm and illicit activity; and maximises benefits to individuals, whanau and communities; and
  • provide other support and assistance consistent with our purpose.

The Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust is currently campaigning under #makeitlegal, to raise support for cannabis law reform in the 2020 referendum on the legalisation of cannabis.

 OUR POSITION IN SUMMARY

We commend the Government on its enhanced commitment to road safety, including attempting to grapple with the difficult question of how to regulate drugged driving.

We urge the Government to consider this question within a broader context of driver impairment, regardless of the cause of that impairment.

We consider that impairment testing as it is currently practised is outdated, subjective and inadequate. We recommend that resources go into collaboration with other jurisdictions to develop simple device-based reaction testing as a low-cost screening device for impairment.

Following an impairment screening device, further testing (including substance testing where appropriate) and interventions can be conducted based on the nature and source of the impairment.

OUR CONTACT DETAILS

Sandra Murray

Secretary – Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust

Email: sandra@makeitlegal.nz

Phone: 021 890 629

Webpage: www.makeitlegal.nz

 

ORAL SUBMISSION

We wish to make an oral submission on this matter if we can do so by phone or video conference.

 

OUR ANSWERS TO THE DISCUSSION DOCUMENT QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Do you think that roadside drug screening is a good option for deterring drug driving and detecting drug drivers? Are there other options not mentioned in this Discussion Document?

We agree that some kind of low cost and quick screening device for impairment is desirable, to act as a deterrent to impaired driving.

We do not support roadside drug screening. If the objective is to improve road safety, impairment needs to be the focus, regardless of the source of that impairment. The discussion document points out a number of substances that can cause impairment but which are unlikely to be tested for – synthetics, prescription drugs etc. There is also impairment that is not caused by a substance – lack of sleep, emotional stress etc.

We consider it entirely feasible to develop a simple app, loaded on a mobile device of some kind, that can test, for example, reaction time on a simple task. Failure to achieve a predetermined level can give rise to further testing to determine the cause of the impairment. This allows a quantifiable, objective test of impairment. It would mean a simple, low cost and rapid screening test that could be conducted in a similar way to roadside breath testing for alcohol.

Further interventions, following a failure on the initial screening test, could include:

  1. A more comprehensive (device-based) impairment test to determine the level of impairment. This could be linked to an individual’s base score over time, as the technology and levels of data capture improves.
  2. Blood testing for specified substances considered to present the highest levels of risk to other drivers.
  3. A discussion to see if other causes of impairment can be ascertained (eg.tiredness) and an appropriate response identified (eg prohibited to drive for a period)

 QUESTION 2: Do you support oral fluid screening for roadside drug testing of drivers? Are there other options not mentioned in this Discussion Document that could be considered?

As above

QUESTION 3: Is it reasonable to delay drivers by 3 to 5 minutes to administer a roadside drug screening test, in order to detect drug drivers and remove them from the road?

No. Such a delay would quickly lead to intolerable backlogs. A screening test needs to be able to be completed in around a minute. Our proposal in response to Question 1 would allow that.

QUESTION 4: Is a presence-based, zero-tolerance approach to drug driving, where presence of a drug is sufficient for an offence, appropriate for New Zealand?

No. Such an approach would punish people for behaviour that does not put others at risk. The issue is impairment and driver safety.  The “presence” of a drug i not the same as being impaired. Many
prescription drugs in low doses do not impair, but do in high doses. We already have a tolerated level of alcohol

QUESTION 5: Should there be legal limits for some drugs?

Yes. Any limits should be based on robust science that gives a reliable level for impairment, and reliable testing.

QUESTION 6: If roadside drug screening was introduced, which of the three approaches discussed above do you prefer?

  • Testing under the current ‘good cause to suspect’ criterion
  • Targeted testing following an incident or a driving offence
  • Random roadside drug screening, along the lines of the current breath alcohol testing model.

Are there other approaches that should be considered?

If a roadside screening test for impairment was developed, along the lines outlined in our answer to Question 1, we would support random testing. Otherwise, given the low correlation in substance testing between detection and impairment, we do not support drug screening.

QUESTION 7: If random drug screening was introduced, do you think it is a reasonable and proportionate response to the harm of drug driving? Are there circumstances in which it would be more or less reasonable?

Random testing using a method which is reasonably quick and which reliably tests that people are impaired, such as is the case with alcohol testing or with direct impairment testing as we have outlined in response to Question1, is proportionate to the harm of impaired driving. Otherwise we are not convinced it is.

 QUESTION 8: What criteria should be used to determine if a drug is included, or excluded, from drug screening?

If a secondary screening for substances is used, following an impairment screening as we have outlined in our answer to Question 1, we think that it should be based on robust evidence about which drugs are most likely to lead to accidents and which ones can be reliably tested for levels of impairment. We make the point that this may need to be based on some kind of matrix. A drug which causes moderate impairment but also leads to more risk taking may be a higher risk than a drug which causes higher impairment but leads to more cautious driving.

QUESTION 9: What regulatory process should be used to specify the drugs that are identified for screening?

An Order in Council is the appropriate regulatory process.

QUESTION 10: Should illicit and prescription drugs be treated differently?

No. If prescription drugs state that people should not drive under their influence, and there is robust evidence that they impair driving, then they should be treated the same as illegal drugs.

QUESTION 11: Should there be a medical defence for drivers who have taken prescription drugs in accordance with a prescription from a medical professional?

No. If a prescription drug causes driver impairment, we would expect that using it “in accordance with a prescription” means not driving.

QUESTION 12: If oral fluid testing was introduced in New Zealand, do you think there should be a requirement for a second drug screening test following a failed first test? Do you prefer another option for screening drivers?

Please see our response to Question1.

QUESTION 13: Do you think that drug driving offences should be confirmed with an evidentiary blood test? If not, what evidence should be required to establish an offence of drug driving?

Yes. Drug driving offences should be confirmed with an evidentiary blood test

QUESTION 14: Do you think an infringement offence (an instant fine and demerit points) or a criminal penalty (mandatory licence qualification, fines and possible imprisonment) is appropriate for the offence of drug driving?

We consider that an infringement notice for a first offence is appropriate, although higher levels of impairment as demonstrated on an impairment test, and also subsequent offences, might warrant criminal penalties.

QUESTION 15: Is there any other penalty or action in response to the offence of drug driving that you think should be considered?

Understanding the causes of offending and addressing those is usually preferable to simple punishment. We would encourage the Government to look creatively at this.

QUESTION 16: Do you think it is reasonable to penalise drivers who have used drugs, but may not be impaired?

No. The issue we need to address is road incidents caused by impaired driving. Punishing non-impaired drivers does nothing to address that.

QUESTION 17: Do you have anything else you would like to say about drug driving?

Cannabis law reform will have an impact on workplace drug testing and on the enforcement of traffic regulations. Concerns around this have been voiced by employers, unions and the NZ Police. It should be noted, however, that substance testing for impairment is an ineffective health and safety procedure. It rarely tests the number one drug of abuse in the workplace (alcohol) and does not test impairment from cannabis use but rather the presence of long-lived cannabis metabolites.

Cannabis law reform will require that we address these difficult issues, as the simple presence of cannabis metabolites will no longer be grounds for punitive action.

The issue of impairment is not just about cannabis use. Impairment can arise from sleep deprivation, relationship problems, pharmaceutical products and a range of other conditions that are difficult to individually test for.

For this reason:

  • We recommend that driving under the influence of cannabis is prohibited as per existing regulations on impairment.
  • We also recommend that the Government investigate impairment testing (as opposed to substance testing) as a more accurate measure of actual impairment in the workplace.

We also wish to highlight this comment, made publicly by researcher Dr Geoff Noller, PhD, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago; in relation to cannabis impairment while driving.

“This is a complicated question, with interpretations of data often ‘muddied’ by unclear data or analyses that conflate historic use of cannabis with actual impairment. Having noted this, a recent detailed US analysis by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), following the legalisation of cannabis in a number of US states suggests that when data are correctly analysed, there appears to be either no elevated crash risk associated with cannabis only, or even a reduced risk of crashes.”

 

 

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

The new position paper by the Global Commission on Drug Policy shows how the deprivation of liberty for non-violent drug crimes is a wrong and ineffective response, notably because it does not take into account the social and psychological root causes of drug consumption, nor does it consider the economic and social marginalization of low-level actors in the trade. Furthermore, people who are incarcerated are vulnerable, exposed to risks, particularly health risks, for which they are not well-equipped and do not receive adequate care.

In this report, members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy analyze the last thirty years of over incarceration in closed settings, from prisons to migrant administrative detention and from mandatory treatment to private rehabilitation centers. The paper highlights the responsibility of the State towards people who are incarcerated, and demonstrates how their health and well-being are at risk.

Download the paper here