Who knows best?

Former PM Helen Clark is telling us to vote yes to legalising marijuana:

. . . The recommendation comes off the back of a report released by her foundation, The Case for Yes.

“If you go back to 1994, in a speech that I gave at the time on cannabis, I took a position then that was based on what the Department of Health had been telling me, which was this shouldn’t be criminalised,” she told The Spinoff. “And so I took a stand on partial decriminalisation or partial prohibition. But my thinking has changed.”

Today, more than 80% of New Zealanders will try cannabis before the age of 25, said Clark, and irregular policing and systemic racism means it’s Māori who disproportionately suffer the most at the hands of the law. Therefore, legalisation is preferable to decriminalisation as it avoids the racial pitfalls of a system based on discretion.

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act that was passed in August goes some way in doing this, but Clark said it still has two issues.

“One, it leaves supply criminalised, and there’s often quite a fine line between possession and supply – there are plenty of people who end up in jail for supply who were actually just in possession. 

“And secondly, there’s discretion, and as our paper points out, we have a huge social justice inequity issue on discretion because we see with cannabis – as with everywhere else in the criminal justice supply chain – Māori disproportionately are arrested, prosecuted, convicted and receive custodial sentences.”  . . 

There’s a third issue – it’s decriminalisation by stealth.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. A. where several states have legalised the drug the Surgeon General Jerome Adams warns of the dangers of using it:

. . . “While the perceived harm of marijuana is decreasing, the scary truth is that the actual potential for harm is increasing,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday during a press conference to announce the new advisory.

Surveys show that an increasing number of adolescents and pregnant women use the drug, which can be eaten, smoked or vaped.

But the surgeon general told NPR in an interview that many people are not aware of just how potent the drug can be.

“This ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” he said. The THC concentration in marijuana plants has increased threefold between 1995 and 2014, according to the report, and concentrated products can contain up to 75% THC.

“The higher the THC delivery, the higher the risk,” Adams said.

Young people who regularly use marijuana are “more likely to show a decline in IQ and school performance [and] are more apt to miss classes,” Adams said. And frequent use of the drug can also impair a child’s attention, memory and decision-making.

In addition, it can be habit-forming.

“Nearly 1 in 5 people who begin marijuana use during adolescence become addicted,” Adams said. “That’s scary to me as the dad of a 15-, a 13- and a 9-year-old.”

Symptoms of marijuana dependency include “irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And marijuana becomes addictive “when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life,” according to NIDA. . . 

Who knows best?

A former PM who’s arguing about the theory or a Surgeon General who has evidence about the use in practice?

 

 

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