Yet another decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to uphold a complaint against our SayNopetoDope campaign billboards. The latest billboard says ‘you can’t legalise marijuana and promote mental health’, and is currently displayed at Tip Top corner on the Southern Motorway in Auckland. A previous decision rejected complaints made against our ‘Marijuana has a kids menu’ billboard.
The Complaints Board reiterated their statements from the earlier decision which said that the advertisement “did not contain anything indecent, exploitative or degrading, did not cause fear or distress and was socially responsible” and “it was not likely to mislead consumers.”
At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.
The latest study on the effects of marijuana, published in the February edition of JAMA Psychiatry, summarised 11 studies comprising 23,317 individuals. The research said, “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern.”
This is consistent with the Christchurch Health and Development Study research which has shown that the use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users and could not be explained by social demographic and contextual factors associated with cannabis use. Regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.
Research led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, the study found.
Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since the legalisation of marijuana. This disturbing trend is, unfortunately, not surprising, as daily marijuana use among youth who begin before the age of 17 significantly increases the risk of suicide attempts.
Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is a defence of our brains and mental well-being. The public of New Zealand are not getting this information. Our billboards are designed to raise these inconvenient truths – and to provoke debate and discussion.