Kia ora! Auckland’s torrential rain washes out J Day; no surprise that police discretion is applied unfairly but still a shock that more than 1000 convictions last year for possession and 182 imprisoned for possession; calls to overhaul our drug laws and testing shows 1/3 of drugs are not what they seem; this week on Marijuana Media on 95bFM, with hosts Jonny from bFM Drive and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore.
Auckland J Day postponed due to never-ending rain
The annual celebration of all things cannabis has become another victim of the extreme weather events we’ve all been experiencing this year – Auckland in particular. We had to make the difficult decision to postpone the event, right before going on air for Marijuana Media on 95bFM.
Albert Park, our home since 1992 and Auckland’s spiritual centre of free speech and freedom of expression, is waterlogged and saturated. A physical inspection showed we couldn’t proceed without destroying the park. And it’s not so much fun toking on damp squibs in the rain.
We didn’t take this decision lightly, having missed only one year in the past 32 (due to Covid). I know a lot of people were looking forward to it, with usual attendance of around 5000, a bunch of great speakers and many stalls and markets lined up to participate.
So, J Day will be back in Spring or early Summer (date to be confirmed). After the election, to show whoever forms the next government that this issue is not going away and needs to be on their agenda. We’re also mulling over some events leading up to the election. Meanwhile, I would encourage any canthiests and cannasseurs to mark the occasion in a DIY style.
Cannabis discretion applied unfairly; more than 1000 convicted, 182 imprisoned for possession
Leading the news this week – the Herald reports Cannabis drug possession discretion laws appear to benefit Pākehā most, surpassing Māori for first time as Greens again call for decriminalisation:
A law change that encourages greater police discretion over cannabis possession charges appears to have benefitted Pākehā the most with convictions dropping at a higher rate than any other ethnicity.
Drug decriminalisation advocates say the fact overall convictions for cannabis possession have more than halved since the 2019 law change is positive, but the ethnicity breakdown highlights how systemic racism still permeates the justice system.
Meanwhile, the Green Party claims that while more than 1000 people are still being convicted for possession each year it shows the law is out of sync with public opinion and repeated calls for decriminalisation.
Chlöe Swarbrick, the Green Party drug law reform spokeswoman, told the Herald while the drop in convictions was positive, marginalised people including Māori were still disproportionately impacted. She said it was “outrageous” more than 1000 people a year were being convicted.
The figures for 2022 showed 182 people were imprisoned for cannabis possession as their highest charge, which was down from 302 in 2019, but two people were imprisoned where it was their only charge.
“These charges are not only ludicrous when you consider that 635,000 New Zealanders used cannabis last year, but the life-time barrier to accessing jobs, travel and opportunities – for something most of our politicians have readily admitted to doing ‘back in the mists of time’” – Chlöe Swarbrick
Swarbrick said the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 needed to be repealed and replaced and drug possession decriminalised, as has occurred in many places overseas, the latest being the ACT in Australia.
It’s time to overhaul New Zealand’s outdated and harmful drug laws
In an opinion piece run on Newsroom, Newshub and the NZ Herald, Dr Rose Crossin and Professor Joe Boden argue it’s time to overhaul New Zealand’s outdated and harmful drug laws in favour of a health-based, Te Tiriti-aligned approach that not only reduces harm but saves tax money and police time. They point out;
The year that New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act came into force, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon was New Zealand’s top-selling album, the first Footrot Flats cartoon was published, and Robert Muldoon became prime minister.
The year was 1975 – it had been four years since US President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” and launched a policy failure with global ramifications.
Since 1975 they point out we’ve had only two small steps towards sensible drug law reform; the 2019 amendment affirming police discretion (which has come with problems; see above), and the 2021 amendment allowing substance checking. To that we could also add the half-arsed reforms allowing limited hemp production and the prescription of pharmaceutical grade medicinal cannabis. The two academics say it is “time to stop tinkering around the edges and overhaul our drug laws” – and the referendum result is not a forever handbrake on doing anything.
New Zealanders were asked a specific question about legalising cannabis and 50.7 per cent of voters said “no”. We were not asked about whether we supported decriminalisation, or increased funding for harm reduction, or expanding programmes like Te Ara Oranga that are proven to reduce drug harm without criminalisation. All of these actions must be taken and we do not need another referendum to do so.
This is such a great piece – and kudos to the three competing media organisations for all running it. It’s like a Greatest Hits of all the best reasons to reform our drug laws. If I was marking this assignment, it would get an A+! Everyone should read the article and share it with someone they know. Why? This:
We need the New Zealand public to support and advocate for drug law reform. This requires challenging our own assumptions and accepting that if you enjoy a coffee in the morning to wake up, or a glass of wine in the evening to relax, then you use drugs too. This is an issue for all of us.
One third of tested drugs are not what they seem
The Spinoff reports a third of all drugs tested by the NZ Drug Foundation did not contain the drugs people thought. That makes it even more important to test before you ingest. “Drug checking is a free and legal process that helps people find out what’s really in their drugs, so they can make informed decisions about if, when and how they take those drugs,” explains the annual report for the testing services provided by New Zealand Drug Foundation.
This week it was First Thursday on K Road, and at The Hemp Store we had the Drug Foundation doing substance testing instore. The service is free, legal, and confidential. The next substance testing clinic at The Hemp Store is Saturday 13 May, 11am-3pm. Be safe!
In other news
Just in time for J Day, this public health message courtesy the New Zealand Herald: put your roaches in the bin so dogs don’t eat them. Apparently, it’s a new problem in New York, according to a report AP circulated worldwide.
US Women’s Basketball star Britney Griner, wrongfully detained in Russia for possessing cannabis vape cartridges she says she was prescribed in the US, has said she will never play overseas again (RNZ report). The two-times Olympic gold medallist spent 10 months in one of Russia’s most notorious penal colonies as a political pawn, and was released under a prisoner swap. Griner is now dedicating herself to campaigning to bring home other prisoners.
Also this week, U.S. long jumper Tara Davis-Woodhall was stripped of her indoor national title after a positive test for THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, reports Yahoo News. The urine sample was collected after Davis-Woodhall won the long jump title with a 6.99-meter jump at the indoor national championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and although her cannabis use was not competition related, she was disqualified “including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes”.
Coming up – not J Day!
Auckland J Day has been postponed, due to weather and the state of the park. It was set to be this Saturday 6 May in Albert Park – presented by The Hemp Store and NORML. We’re now looking at post-election. And some other events leading up to the election. The weather will be better and it’s a good time to amp up the pressure for law reform and remind whoever forms the next government that we are not going away. Other centres such as Kaitaia, Hastings, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin are still going ahead. See NORML’s website or J Day on facebook for more info.
Two upcoming events from the New Zealand Drug Foundation:
June 2: Lived and Living Experience Forum: Pae Ora – Our Health. Te Wharewaka o Poneke, Wellington. Tickets on Eventbrite.
Marijuana Media airs every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM, with your hosts bFM Drive’s Jonny and Chris Fowlie from The Hempstore. Stream or download the pot-cast for this show here or hundreds of previous Marijuana Media shows at 95bFM.com (or via iTunes / RSS feed).