Kate Hawkesby: Govt needs to acknowledge risks in drug reform

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 24 January 2019, 7:08a.m.
Cannabis is a profoundly dangerous drug for a subset of people who use it, but we don't know who that subset is. Photo / Getty Images

I'm fascinated, as many people are, with the drug reform debate we have going on in this country at the moment.

As a mother of teenagers, you get to hear a lot of versions of what kids think this debate is about, and many are ill-informed.

They think decriminalisation means the government is giving the seal of approval to cannabis, that it's saying it's fine for you and basically giving a green light. That it must be ok and risk-free because the government wants to make it legal.

It's a simplistic view, but you'd be surprised how many teenagers believe it. Nothing is more important at times like this, with a referendum looming, than to be as informed as we possibly can and to do that, we need to view it from all angles, look at all sides, and hear from as many people as possible.

Which is why I was disappointed to hear Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, whose baby this is, say she didn't want the National Party 'degrading the debate'.

Surely the fact they've shown enough interest to appoint their own drug reform spokesperson is a good thing? Surely, we can't hear from enough people on this?

Like the parents of kids who, believing it's a safe drug, became so addicted they've ended up with horrendous consequences. Parents who've lost children to suicide or depression brought on by years of cannabis abuse.

Or the former New York Times crime reporter and book author, who, in investigating the drug industry discovered there is limited medicinal value to cannabis, and that most research actually showed it was a neurotoxin that could cause temporary or permanent psychosis.

That it is a profoundly dangerous drug for a subset of people who use it, but that we don't know who that subset is.

The statistics, in other countries who've legalised it, on homelessness, mental health, poverty increased crime and road fatalities.

The numbers who've used cannabis only to find it's a gateway to other, even more, harmful drugs.

The economic and social cost to countries who've legalised it.

All that is before we even get to the environmental damage cannabis cultivation causes, which you would've thought would be a priority for the Greens.

Turns out the weed industry is a glutton for fossil fuels, producing a few pounds of weed can have the same environmental toll as driving across America seven times. Marijuana packaging yields millions of pieces of plastic.

How is this not of great concern to the Greens?

The Greens are all for championing an evidence-based approach, but if we don't get a full and honest debate from both sides, how will we ever really know the real risks here? How will we ever really get all the evidence? From all quarters?

Which is why the Greens should be spending less time casting aspersions around whether national might 'degrade the debate', and more time being flush with the facts.

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