Ministry of Health figures gained under the Official Information Act show that 73 children have been hospitalised in the past five years either for poisoning or for mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of cannabis. This is over four times the number of hospitalisations compared to synthetic cannabis for the same age group. For all ages, more than 2,200 have been hospitalised for cannabis alone.
While the focus has been rightly on the devastation of synthetic cannabis, the fact remains there is no ‘safe drug’. These stats will only worsen if marijuana is legalised in New Zealand and the marijuana industry floods the market with highly potent cannabis concentrates – edibles, dabbing (smoking highly concentrated THC) and vaping – as they have in all other jurisdictions where dope has been allowed. This should sound the warning bell that marijuana is absolutely a health issue, which is why the law is so important for protecting public health and safety. A soft approach would be a disaster.
The number of teenagers sent to emergency rooms more than quadrupled after marijuana was legalised in Colorado — mostly for mental health symptoms, researchers reported in 2017. The yearly rate of emergency department visits related to marijuana increased 52%, and hospitalisations increased 148% in Colorado (2012 compared to 2016).
Research, including New Zealand-based research, has shown direct associations between the frequency of marijuana use and higher THC potency with the development of mental health issues (psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidality, reshaping of brain matter, and addiction).[i] [ii] Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, a study has found.[iii] Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased. (Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment [CDPHE], 2017).
At a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, why would we legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious that legalisation will increase its use, and harm. So-called ‘regulation’ doesn’t change the fact that drugs harm.
In one example, a 9yo child in the US state of New Mexico suffered a bad reaction after mistaking her parent’s medical marijuana gummy bears for regular lollies and sharing them with her three friends at school. And pot-laced Oreos sent Oregon students to hospital. In the UK, 15,000 teenage hospital admissions have taken place over the past five years as a result of taking cannabis – some of whom were rushed to hospital suffering from serious psychosis.
This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and health and wellbeing. Legalising a harmful drug like marijuana – or any other drug for that matter – is not a healthy option.