Editorial - Nasty fumes from that bus

Nasty fumes from that bus
The Southland Times
Thursday, 01 May 2008

When Maryjane the Cannabus arrived in Invercargill for a protest rally on
Tuesday, police made at least one interesting call. They didn't collar any
puffing protesters — instead taking the "run along, sonny" approach — and
they chose not to seize a cannabis plant conspicuously placed inside the
bus, writes The Southland Times in an editorial.

By contrast, police in Palmerston North had made two arrests for cannabis
use, and in Picton a plant was seized. Generally, the public takes the view
that what's illegal at one end of the country should be equally illegal at
the other; or that what's of insufficient consequence here should be equally
so there.

Invercargill police say they decided "for operational reasons" not to
undertake a search of the bus. Search? In this case it would have amounted
to reaching in and grabbing it. And the rather pompous term "operational
reasons" invites a three-worded translation, the first two words being
"couldn't" and "be" ...

The inconsistency of the police approach is, in a small way, testament to an
uneven but widening sense of exasperated tolerance for the widely used drug.

It is misplaced. The Maryjane tour spokesman Dakta Green (actually Ken
Morgan) disregards research saying cannabis has harmful effects. Those
reports, he says, were written by opponents of cannabis use. Well so much,
then, for the study published less than a year ago in The Lancet medical
journal, analysing the world's best and most recent studies linking cannabis
use and psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and manic depressive
illness. It concluded that cannabis smokers were 40 percent more likely to
develop psychosis later in life, with the most frequent smokers between 50
percent and 200 percent more vulnerable to these conditions.

All written by opponents, see? If anything, all that's really in doubt is
the point at which Mr Green's description becomes true, because if they
weren't opponents when they started the research, it seems great numbers of them were by the end.

In truth, we shouldn't lightly dismiss the view in documents released in
March showing health authorities support the use of cannabis on
compassionate grounds under tightly controlled conditions.

Or that statistics suggest almost 20 percent of New Zealanders aged 15 to 45
have used cannabis during the past year — a figure that can legitimately be
seized by those who argue that a controlled system of harm minimisation, as
with the also-damaging alcohol and tobacco, is the way to go.

But Dakta Green and his jolly band of stoners are rather too celebratory
about a hideously damaging substance that peer-reviewed science strongly
connects to memory damage and decline in other intellectual skills,
increased risk of cancers of the aerodigestive tract, increased risk of
leukaemia and birth defects in offspring exposed while in the womb, and an
impaired immune system, ovulation, sperm production and libido. Socially,
evidence shows a marked decline in occupational performance in adults, and
more educational under-achievement in children.

Nostalgists should note, too, that the careful attentions of the growing
industry present us with dope that is much, much more potent than it was in
the supposedly hazy 1960s.

By all means, debate on harm minimisation should be undertaken.

But the celebratory, wa-hey approach of the Norml (National Organisation for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws) protesters isn't helping.

A NORML member sent this to the Stuff website 'Have your say' . . . but its a moot
point whether they will post it.
letters@stl.co.nz name, address and contact phone number. word limit is

It is obvious to any well-informed 'stoner' that the editor has listened to
too many rabid prohibitionists and is parrotting their worst hyperbole.

"But Dakta Green and his jolly band of stoners are rather too celebratory
about a hideously damaging substance that peer-reviewed science strongly
connects to..."

A possible reason for this may lie in the sources of funding for cannabis
research. Most money comes from government coffers and most governments are
in opposition to cannabis use. Therefore, one may conclude that researchers
will attempt to minimize findings which do not satisfy the views of their
funders in order to insure future support. This may seem harsh, if one
accepts the myth of scientific objectivity, but scientists are as
competitive as any other group in their attempts to stay in the "game" and
to win.

Prominent US prohibitionist researcher Dr Donald Tashkin, only a few years
ago in a gold-standard study, in fact found the risk of oral and lung cancer
was lower in marijuana smokers than in non-smokers.