Legal pot winners and losers

December 5, 2019

The government has opted for legalisation of cannabis use rather than decriminalisation in draft legislation for next year’s referendum.

Key points of the proposals are:

    • a minimum purchase age of 20
    • a ban on marketing and advertising cannabis products
    • a requirement to include harm minimisation messaging on cannabis products
    • not allowing recreational cannabis to be consumed in public and only in licenced places
    • limiting the sale of recreational cannabis to physical stores
    • controls on the potency of recreational cannabis being sold
    • a state licencing regime for recreational cannabis controlled by the Government

If the legislation passed, anyone aged 20 years or older could grow up to two cannabis plants. If two people aged 20 years or older are part of the same household, the property can have up to four plants. If you grow more than you’re allowed, you could be fined up to $1000. Cannabis must also be grown out of public sight.

People could hold 14 grams of dried cannabis in a public place – the same amount that could be purchased from a licensed store. . . 

Justice Minister Andrew Little couldn’t tell Mike Hosking how many joints could be made from 14 grams.

. . . “They start at 42, go down to 21 and I have seen one at 15. I am not a user, so I’m just going off advice from officials.” . . .

This is basic information the Minister ought to know.

I’m not a user either but I found an unopened packet of dried thyme weighing 15 grams and was able to measure 14 reasonably heaped teaspoons from it.

That seems to be more than would be safe for anyone to smoke or eat in a day, given there are questions whether any amount is safe, although the purchaser won’t necessarily smoke or eat it all in one day.

The proposal is up for consultation, but whether or not changes are made as a result of that, who would win and who would lose if the referendum gets a majority in favour of legalisation, and, given it’s non-binding, the next government passes it?

Winners:

  • People who use cannabis now, including those who smoke an occasional joint the way others might have an occasional alcoholic drink.
  • People who want to use it recreationally now but don’t want to break the law.
  • Individuals and businesses who grow, process and sell cannabis.
  • The black market – the price and THC level in legal cannabis will be regulated providing a market for those wanting something less expensive and more potent.

Losers:

  • Young people who use it and suffer health and development problems as a result. Whatever the legal age for possession and use, younger people will get it.
  • Those who develop mental illnesses including psychosis as a result of using cannabis. Psychiatric nurse Peter Hurst writes on the damage cannabis does here.
  • The mental health system which will come under more pressure from those suffering from addiction and other ill effects of cannabis use.
  • Employers who have to deal with drug users in the workplace.
  • Workers who have to put up with fellow workers who are under the influence of drugs.
  • Teachers who have to deal with drug users at school (see young people using cannabis above).
  • Police who still have to deal with the black market.
  • Emergency services who have to deal with the consequences of drug-driving.

Would the wins out weight the losses?

I don’t think so.


33 avoidable deaths

November 28, 2019

The death toll from measles in Samoa is now 33.

All but four of the deaths are children – under the age of four – including one who died in the past day.

About 200 people with the disease remain in hospital.

A mass vaccination campaign is underway and dozens of New Zealand nurses are in Samoa to assist. . . 

It’s likely the epidemic came from New Zealand :

. . . Ease of travel, particularly international, and immunity gaps within New Zealand meant the epidemic was not surprising, Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner said.

In a report published in The New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday, Turner said more action was needed to ensure better protection for the community and the elimination of measles.

Some of those steps included resourcing a national campaign targeting adolescents and young adults; the adequacy of vaccine supply and accessibility including more use of pharmacies and pop-up clinics; and support for front-line workers. 

There was a risk to both New Zealand and Pacific populations and the epidemic indicated the country’s immunisation programme fell short. The health sector’s response needed to be strengthened, the report said. 

“With multiple imports and more than 12 recognised outbreaks in the first five months of this year affecting most regions, this should appropriately be called an epidemic,” Turner said. . . 

Otago University, Wellington Department of Public Health professor Michael Baker said the only way to contain an epidemic was to rapidly fill the immunity gap.

 It would be a “very responsible step” for the country to consider extreme measures that prevented the transmission of measles, particularly to the Pacific. . . 

The epidemics in New Zealand and Samoa and the deaths that have resulted were preventable.

It started when someone who was infected travelled to New Zealand and spread the disease here and a traveller probably took it to Samoa.

New Zealand’s immunisation rate wasn’t high enough for herd immunity and Samoa’s was far lower.

Europeans brought diseases to the Pacific Islands more than 200 years ago. They had the excuse that they didn’t know the dangers and they didn’t have vaccinations.

That excuse cannot be used in the 21st century, especially when a preventable disease has already cost 33 lives.


Caring more for cows than women

November 27, 2019

The government’s winter grazing taskforce has made 11 recommendations.

The report says some things should never happen, including animals giving birth on mud and avoidable deaths in adverse weather events.

Highlighted in the report is the fact that there is no agreed set of standards among farmers for good animal welfare practice, and what some consider good practice is still exposing animals to poor welfare.

But Dairy NZ strategy and investment leader Dr Jenny Jago said her organisation, Beef+Lamb NZ and Federated Farmers had talked with the taskforce about the objectives being more practical for outdoor pasture-based systems.

Some of the recommendations made under the premise of ‘always’ and ‘never’ to take place is unrealistic in our pasture-based system,” said Jago.

“The report states farmers should always provide animals with a soft dry surface to lie on, which in an outdoor system subject to weather conditions, is simply not achievable even with the very best management.  A ‘never’ standard would apply if there was a little bit of rain or a lot of rain, which makes it impractical.

“Many farmers follow good management practice which is particularly important in very wet weather or snow events where a ‘plan B’ ensures farmers keep stock off the crop for periods of inclement weather.”…

Good management should not be up for debate, the problem is marrying that with what’s practical.

Sorting that out will take time:

Southland dairy farmer Jon Pemberton co-founded the farmer advocacy group Ag-Proud this winter. The recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress it created among farmers sparked the group’s formation.

Mr Pemberton said there were some sensible expectations around farming practices outlined in the report, including making sure stock were slowly transitioned from grass onto crops, to ensure there were no health complications.

But he said he did have some concerns around the practicality of providing dry-bedding for livestock at night and worried about what any new regulations could mean when farmers faced adverse weather events.

“There will be a lot of guys scratching their heads thinking how are we going to work around this … so I just do hope we are allowed the time to work through this,” he said

While not questioning the need for some farmers to improve management, we can question government policy that requires higher standards for cows than women:

This refers to the closure of the Lumsden Maternity Centre which forces women to travel to Invercargill to deliver their babies.


The science of kindness

November 10, 2019


Two years and what have we got?

October 28, 2019

The Labour, NZ First, Green government has just passed its second anniversary in power and what have we got?

  • Fee-free tertiary education which hasn’t had a positive impact on participation, and a third of those who got the help failed or withdrew.
  • KiwiBuild turned into KiwiFlop.
  • Higher fuel taxes for all to pay for public transport in Auckland which includes the stalled project of rail to airport about which officials can’t get direction from the Minister.
  • Two Ministers resigned/sacked.
  • Thousands of hectares of productive land converted to forestry.
  • Subsidies that incentivise forestry over farming.
  • Foreign ownership of productive land encouraged by much less rigorous requirements than for purchase for farming, horticulture or viticulture.
  • Business confidence in the doldrums.
  • Interest rates heading towards zero and below.
  • DHB deficits growing.
  • Polytechs that are working well to be sacrificed for those that aren’t.
  • Virtue-signaling environmental policies that come at a high economic and social cost here and add to environmental cost elsewhere.
  • Policy at the mercy of the minor coalition partner’s leader’s whim.
  • The waka-jumping legislation.
  • The Provincial Growth Shane Jones Promotion/NZ First re-election Fund.
  • Policy announcement after policy announcement that is high on feel-good but low on planning.

It was easy to come up with those negatives, and it wouldn’t be hard to add more.

But what of the positives?

The only one that comes to mind is a Prime Minister who  gets a lot of focus and high praise internationally.

But how much is that worth when there are so many problems that aren’t being solved at home?

A new government needs some time to get up to speed, but more than two-thirds through its term is too long on training wheels.


Fact check on tax

October 24, 2019

Some people think the tax rate and the tax take are linked so if the rate increases or decreases the take follows.

That isn’t always the case.

A cut in tax rates can lead to less effort put into avoidance so productivity improves, a cut can also lead to more spending and both feed into a higher tax take.

Some people think more is better when it comes to taking tax and spending it.

That isn’t always the case either.

The quality of the spend is often, maybe always, more important than the quantity.

Some people are confused about the relationship between tax and services. For example, Associate Health Minister Julie Ann Genter says tax cuts would come at the expense of the fight against measles.

Is she right?


DHBs past use-by date

September 26, 2019

If you were wanting the best performance from a very large and complex organisation who would you want running it?

Would you want people with the skills and experience best suited to the task or a random group chosen by people who know little, if anything, about the requirements and those they are backing?

Health boards need the former but the system gives us the latter.

Otago University pro vice chancellor and Dean of Business, Professor Robin Gauld says it is clear the elected boards are not fit for purpose. . .

Boards have oversight for budgets worth billions of dollars and make key executive appointments, but all too often do not have the right skills, he said.

People voted in tend to be those with a high profile, often ex-mayors, MPs or sportspeople, who have name recognition.

The skills necessary are complex – everything from understanding medical IT, to how to deliver primary care, and financial skills – and the reality is that most candidates are unqualified, he said.

He wants more doctors on boards, but added it was just as important that they have the right skills.

Gauld believes the best solution is to scrap boards altogether. . .

He is right.

Churchill said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

That may be right for Government but it’s not for the governance of health boards which are well and truly past their use-by date.

 

 


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