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“Reality Based” Sex And Drug Education Supported

Drug policy reformers are welcoming the Minister of Education’s announcement that sex education is to be integrated into the New Zealand school curriculum - but say there is a more pressing need for a reality-based approach to drugs.

While “harm reduction” is the principle driving Government’s sexual health initiatives, Blair Anderson and Kevin O’Connell say it is hypocritical that harm reduction has yet to be developed in dealing with New Zealand’s high marijuana uptake and prevalence - and that the omission is profoundly evident in NZ’s adverse youth statistics.

Despite prohibitions, the evidence shows that a significant proportion of teenagers are already smoking (tobacco and/or marijuana)- the same teens who are at greater risk from STDs, pregnancies, alcohol abuse, suicide, criminality and other consequences.

Society has moved towards a reality-based approach to sex, alcohol, tobacco, and road safety, but the overall message is let down by the contextual absurdity of the widely popular cannabis being a “criminal plant”.

“Decriminalisation / legalisation” was the most highly recommended harm minimisation intervention identified in public submissions on cannabis in 1995 (Issues Paper, Towards a National Drug and Alcohol Policy - Ministry of Health.)

In 1998, a Parliamentary mental health inquiry found that the double standards surrounding marijuana are an “impediment to effective anti-drug education” (p39). Following on from the 1998 Inquiry recommendations, Parliament’s health select committee is now inquiring into health strategies for cannabis - with the legal status increasingly highlighted as requiring adjustment.

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Meanwhile, it is extremely difficult to deliver effective drug education in the context of prohibition, and virtually impossible to market effective health promotion (including sexual health) in the context of hypocrisy.

“Leaving the cannabis double standards unresolved exponentially undermines health promotion and youth safety in all other areas of concern.”

Mssrs O’Connell and Anderson have been working on reality-based “smoke-safer” education for teenagers, and have published a draft “Youth-Cannabis HARM REDUCTION” model for comment and critique.

The reformers intend to develop and circulate their harm reduction model as part of their contribution to the 2001 Health Cannabis Inquiry. The document is intended to stimulate participation, and may be viewed at http://www.alcp.org.nz/reports/hr2000.htm


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