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Cannabis And Depression Study Proves Need For Drug Law Reform...
NZ Health Select Committee NORML Norml Phil Saxby Contributor:
A study suggesting a link between early cannabis use and depression provides further evidence in support of reforming the Misuse of Drugs Act, said NORML President Phil Saxby today.
Mr Saxby's statement comes in response to a new study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which suggests that children and teenagers who smoke cannabis may have a somewhat heightened risk of developing depression.
"Researchers cannot conclude whether or not the drug itself is to blame", Mr Saxby pointed out. "But that doesn't alter outcomes linking early cannabis use before the age of 17 with a 50 percent increase in the risk of developing a depression 'spell' later on in life."
"This is significant because the rate of early cannabis use in New Zealand has been growing at an alarming rate. Between 1998 and 2001, the number of young people aged 15 to 17 years who used cannabis 10 or more times a month increased by a staggering 300 percent." *
New Zealand now has the highest rate of teenage cannabis use in the world.
"NORML is concerned by any data linking early onset of cannabis use with later consequences for mental health, and has a strong adults-only policy for cannabis use. We certainly don't want children using it and we call for cannabis to be regulated in such a way that it's difficult, not easy, for them to buy," Mr Saxby said.
"Current policy - prohibition - only encourages the growth of 'tinny shops' and as everyone knows: those places don't ID their customers. Most Kiwi 15-year olds find it easier to buy cannabis than beer."
"For adults, cannabis is a low-risk drug which needs regulating: control its production; license outlets; tax sales and make it R18, consistent with alcohol. As 400,000 Kiwi adults currently use cannabis, we desperately need a system which a) stops criminalising them and b) restricts access by young people."
"Why does the Government continue allowing organised criminal gangs to decide where, when, to whom, and at what price illegal drugs get sold in New Zealand?" he asks. "What other local industry worth many millions of dollars each year is left in the hands of organised criminals rather than being taxed and properly controlled?"
(*NZ Health Select Committee, Inquiry into the Public Health Strategies Related to Cannabis and the Most Appropriate Legal Status, 2003; p.12