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No Scientific Support For "Reefer Madness" Myths

Wed, 1 Sep 2004

Press release: National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, New Zealand Inc. 1 September 2004

Science does not support politician's "Reefer Madness" myths

As prohibitionist politicians scramble to peddle "reefer madness" myths and stereotypes, the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) today presented reports of recent studies that show, once again, that there is no causal link between cannabis use and developing mental illness, and that in fact cannabis may have a powerful neuroprotective effect.

"The vast majority of people who use cannabis do so safely with no harm to themselves or those around them, yet they are put at risk by current policies that place more importance on catching and punishing people than on helping them," said NORML's spokesperson Chris Fowlie.

"It is all well and good to call for more drug education, but 'me too' prohibitionists like Matt Robson, Craig McNair and Judy Turner, need to realise that tying up scarce resources arresting adult cannabis users means there is hardly any money left for youth education."

The Government spends $56 million per year busting cannabis users compared to only $3 million on school drug education.

"Drug education has been found to be seven times more cost effective than law enforcement, yet not only is it underfunded but it is further hindered by an unjust law which defines all users as criminals and makes them less likely to believe health promotion messages or to seek treatment if they need it," said Mr Fowlie.

Scientists have consistently found that heavy cannabis use can exacerbate symptoms only in those who are already predisposed to schizophrenia. Recent research which appears to escaped the attention of prohibitionists includes: a.. Reuters reported that Dutch scientists say there is no scientific proof that cannabis use induces schizophrenia. b.. New Scientist reported that the brain makes it's own cannabis-like chemical which is used as an antipsychotic drug, preventing the onset of psychotic symptoms. c.. Cannabinoids (the active ingredients in cannabis) counteract oxidative damage to dopaminergic neurons and may be potent neuroprotective agents (Croxford, 2003). d.. The Israeli Defence Force is to treat post-traumatic stress with THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, and with the US military is investigating treating brain damage from nerve warfare using a synthetic cannabinoid which also holds great hope for treating strokes. e.. Professor Manuel Guzman, from Complutense University in Madrid also announced in early August that cannabis chemicals may provide a new way of treating deadly brain cancer by deterring the growth of blood vessels which feed the tumour. United Future MP Judy Turner, whose leader Peter Dunne has already admitted that "the current law is not working" (The Dominion, 8 June 2001), sat on the health committee during it's recent cannabis inquiry but does not seem to have read or listened to much of the evidence.

The report states that "the current high levels of use, and the level of black economy activity indicate that the current prohibition regime is not effective in limiting cannabis use... Prohibition makes targeting education, prevention, harm minimisation and treatment measures difficult because users fear prosecution. It also facilitates the black market, and potentially exposes cannabis users to harder drugs."

"Matt Robson appears to have deliberately misrepresented the views of Hawkes Bay Clinical Director of Mental Health Anne Walsh, while New Zealand First MP Craig McNair has leapt in to the debate simply because the only way he ever gets any coverage is to oppose anything Nandor Tanczos talks about.

"New Zealand still has the world's highest arrest rate for cannabis, so it's no wonder that many users feel paranoid and alienated. Rather than contribute further to this problem, politicians could be discussing how to make our society more compassionate, inclusive and tolerant."


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