Drug debate: Greens hope Nats won't 'degrade the quality'

by RNZ / 24 January, 2019
Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King

RelatedArticlesModule - cannabis

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick says the National Party has done a 180 on its drugs' policy but hopes its involvement in public debate is positive.

National has announced its deputy leader Paula Bennett as the party's first drug reform spokesperson.

"I'm not a prude, I'm a Westie," she said at the announcement.

"But before we leap to legalising marijuana I want to know, 'What does it mean for the illicit drug trade? What does it mean for drug driving? How do we meet our goals of being smoke free if we're saying it's okay to have a joint?' "

Ms Swarbrick, the Green's own spokesperson on drug reform, said National was portraying themselves as "rational sceptics".

"[But] there is a difference between constructive criticism and obfuscation which stifles change.

"The public is following this debate with a huge amount of interest, so politicians won't be able to get away with sleight of hand here, nor with appealing to moral panic.

"So I'm hoping she doesn't seek to degrade the quality of debate."

Ms Swarbrick said a year earlier National "didn't want to touch cannabis with a barge pole" but now had a medicinal cannabis policy.

"For the first time they're not saying they're opposed to cannabis legalisation, they're just wondering how it's going to happen."

She had invited Ms Bennett to join a cross-party panel on drug harm reduction.

"We are in favour of an evidence-based approach and I think that is one of the core kaupapa that won't be moving."

The Green Party wanted to look at medicinal cannabis, a response to synthetic substances, and a referendum on cannabis.

She wanted to ensure people "trapped in the web of addiction" had access to services and support.

New Zealand's binding referendum on cannabis legalisation will be held in conjunction with the 2020 election.

Cannabis and psychosis: 'Really? That seems implausible to me.'

Alex Berenson is a former New York Times crime reporter and author of the book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.

While investigating the drug industry he used three criteria to hunt for stories: Would they have a lot of public interest? Was there death? And was it something people did not otherwise know?

"It's pretty hard to find something where all three things are in the same story," Mr Berenson said, speaking with Jesse Mulligan on RNZ.

"Because if there is a lot of public interest in something, they're likely to know about it. But the more I looked into cannabis and psychosis, the more I realised how important this story was and how misunderstood it was."

His interest in the story came through his wife, a forensic psychologist.

"She was telling me about cases where people had committed just terrible crimes and she said, 'Well, this one was smoking pot and this one was smoking pot.' And I said, 'Really? That seems implausible to me.'

Mr Berenson said cannabis had "limited medicinal value" and most research suggested it was actually a neurotoxin that could cause temporary - and less commonly, permanent - psychosis.

"Cannabis is a profoundly dangerous drug for a subset of the people who use it and the worst part is we don't exactly know who that subset is."

He said he, like others who were opposed to legalisation, had been shouted down, and suggested decriminalisation was a more moderate alternative.

He said people would smoke cannabis regardless of its legal status but public debate should be fully informed.

"Whatever happens with legalisation in the US, in New Zealand, anywhere else in the world, the most important thing is that we start to be completely honest this risk."

This article was first published on Radio NZ.

Latest

Death of the gods: The woeful response to kauri dieback disease
102578 2019-02-21 00:00:00Z Planet

Death of the gods: The woeful response to kauri di…

by Bob Harvey

The closer you get to a kauri, the more you realise you are looking at one of the wonders of the planet.

Read more
Win a double pass to Everybody Knows
102573 2019-02-20 13:19:44Z Win

Win a double pass to Everybody Knows

by The Listener

Starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Everybody Knows is a gripping new thriller about the fissures and fault lines that can tear a family apart.

Read more
Fall into a beautiful abyss at this must-see dance show in Auckland
102571 2019-02-20 12:12:54Z Where to go in Auckland

Fall into a beautiful abyss at this must-see dance…

by Metro

A contemporary dance show that marries dystopian anxiety with raw energy is a must-see at the Auckland Arts Festival.

Read more
Climate change declaration 'politically charged' – Thames-Coromandel mayor
102563 2019-02-20 09:39:08Z Planet

Climate change declaration 'politically charged' –…

by Kate Gudsell

A push to get local authorities to sign up to a declaration on climate change is "politically charged and driven", the Thames-Coromandel mayor says.

Read more
What's inside Metro's March/April 2019 issue?
102558 2019-02-20 09:24:47Z Auckland Issues

What's inside Metro's March/April 2019 issue?

by Metro

Top 50 wines, rappers Church & AP, fast-talking poet Selina Tusitala Marsh and what to see at Auckland Arts Festival.

Read more
China could be using Taiwan as a testing ground for disinformation campaigns
102550 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z World

China could be using Taiwan as a testing ground fo…

by Gavin Ellis

A Taiwanese diplomat’s death in Japan has become a symbol of the consequences and dangers of disinformation.

Read more
The best way to beat food cravings? Fill up on the objects of your desire
102087 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z Nutrition

The best way to beat food cravings? Fill up on the…

by Jennifer Bowden

Research has shown that dieters’ attempts to resist eating certain foods appear to lead to cravings for those foods.

Read more
Deepfake: How disinformation fools our brains and damages democracy
102545 2019-02-20 00:00:00Z Tech

Deepfake: How disinformation fools our brains and…

by Gavin Ellis

Message manipulation using bots, algorithms and, now, AI software is making it harder to know what’s real – and threatening democracy itself.

Read more