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Legal weed? Don't do it, warns California cop

  1. aemetha
    A veteran San Francisco cop has warned New Zealand against decriminalising marijuana, saying it's ruined his home state.

    California was the first state in the US to legalise the drug for medicinal purposes in 1996. Since then, it's been made legal in four states and decriminalised in two dozen others.

    A recent poll here found a majority of Kiwis want it at least decriminalised, and a third want it completely legal. But Keith Graves has a simple message for the country. "Stop."

    Talking to Paul Henry this morning, the self-described "drug warrior" said it's a lie that legalising any drug gets rid of the problems caused by its prohibition. He said medicinal marijuana was used a stepping stone to liberalisation of drug laws across the board. "As soon as you legalise it for medicinal purposes it's going to open the door and it's going to make your drug problems even worse, exponentially…. Everybody regrets it."

    In 2014 the state voted to reduce penalties for possession of hard drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin from a felony to a misdemeanour. "There's no consequences," says Mr Graves. "Now if you go to a beautiful city like San Francisco, you see people smoking crack cocaine out in the open."

    He says since legalising medicinal marijuana in 2001, road fatalities in Colorado due to drug driving have increased 100 percent. But studies reported in the Washington Post and fact-checking site Politifact suggest this claim - made by a number of anti-drug groups in the US - is based on incomplete data, and fatalities overall have actually been dropping over that time period.

    Mr Graves also disputes whether states that have legalised marijuana are really reaping the financial windfall supporters claim. "I do hear when I travel across the country and across the world, I do hear people say, 'It's been great - we have more money, we have less use.' Completely untrue." Marijuana is taxed at about 30 percent in Colorado. In the year to June, sales brought in about US$129 million, most of which is earmarked for spending on schools. As for use, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment survey found use among high school students is down since 2011, and below the US-wide average. Around 50 percent more Colorado teens use alcohol.

    Mr Graves also says marijuana these days is a lot stronger than what we, or our parents, used to smoke. "In the year 2000, marijuana was hanging around 5 percent THC - right now it's 30 percent." And people are now smoking bigger doobies. "In 2000, at least in America, people smoked a joint which was a quarter-gram. Now people smoke what's called a blunt - a blunt is a full gram." Mr Graves says that makes a modern smoke 30 times more powerful than one in the 1990s. This claim appears to be somewhat true, based on an NBC report last year.

    The Government has no plans to legalise marijuana, while Labour has talked up the possibility of holding a referendum. Prime Minister John Key says even decriminalisation would send the wrong message, and medical products containing THC are available on a "case-by-case basis". "If someone does smoke a joint when they're terminal, I can't ever recall and I don't believe there ever would be a case where someone would be prosecuted for that," he told More FM on Thursday morning.

    Asked if he would back a "compassion list" like New South Wales - where people with a terminal illness are put on a register, allowing them to smoke marijuana without getting arrested - Mr Key said New Zealand already has a "de facto" list. He says it would be "quite a rigmarole" to set it up officially, however.

    18 August 2016
    Dan Satherley


  1. devilgoose
    Mr. Graves seems to have nothing but anecdotes, or data from unspecified sources that is contradicted by more specific sources. He sounds like an anti-legalization spokesperson for hire. I wonder who's paying for his point of view to be 'news' down in NZ...
  2. aemetha
    Paul Henry is a legitimate media commentator, but he does err on the side of controversy frequently, and a few years ago was fired from one of the national broadcasters current affairs programs for crossing the line once too often after a public backlash over what was perceived to be a racist comment. My personal interpretation of his comments at the time were that they were ignorant rather than malicious, but since then he has courted controversy more frequently it seems.

    I agree with your interpretation of his comments though, I quite liked this article because they went to the effort of checking the basis for his claims. Cannabis legalisation has in the last couple of weeks gained some significant impetus here, I would be very surprised if it's not a significant issue in the next election with Labour flirting with the idea of a referendum on the topic, and their coalition partner The Greens being straight out in favour of legalisation. New Zealand First who on the most recent polls would be deciding who goes into government are very strongly in favour of these types of decisions being made by referendum.

    I didn't think I would see any type of discussion like this here, it's all come about very suddenly.
  3. monkeyspanker
    I wish NZ much luck and, hope the proper legislation goes through :joint:

    One flaw I see in some of the articles is using California as a base for they 'studies', California is a very large state with a large population and many, many financial problems. That information should not be used as a basis for a small country like NZ, it's apples and watermelons mentality. Someone very anti drug in NZ is funding this, try to find out which party and why they are so against it.
  4. aemetha
    Top US detective Keith Graves on what NZ can learn from US history of cannabis decrim

    [IMGL="white"]https://drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=51841&stc=1&d=1471876288[/IMGL]OPINION: In 1996, California was the first state in the US to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes. As New Zealand debates whether they will do the same, I ask that New Zealanders look at the history of legalisation/decriminalisation in the United States. There has been a large amount of propaganda from both sides of the debate, but somewhere in in the middle are the facts.

    What we do know can be gleaned from a report from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, or HIDTA, a department that reports directly to the White House. HIDTA wrote a report in 2015 that looked at the impacts of marijuana legalisation in Colorado after that state legalised Cannabis in 2013.

    In 2014, when marijuana businesses began operating, there was a 32 per cent increase in marijuana related traffic deaths in just one year (2013-2014). Colorado marijuana related traffic deaths increased 92 per cent from 2010 - 2014.

    Drug related expulsions from schools increased 40 per cent from school years 2008/2009 to 2013/2014. The vast majority for marijuana violations. Positive THC urinalysis tests for juvenile probationers increased 20 per cent since marijuana was legalised in 2013.

    In 2014, there was a 29 per cent increase in the number of marijuana related emergency room visits in only one year. There was also a 225 per cent increase in marijuana related exposures to children in Colorado after commercialisation of marijuana (2006-2008 to present).

    On a personal note, I remember vividly when California made its move to decriminalisation of medical marijuana. At the time, I was a Narcotics Detective tasked with investigating major drug crimes. Also, my mother had just died from cancer, so I paid close attention to the legalisation debate. I was truly on the fence since I had interests in both sides of the debate.

    There are currently medications made from synthetic THC. These medications (Sativax and Marinol) are made in a laboratory and have none of the ill effects of marijuana. It is truly medicine. My mother used Marinol while she was sick and it did help immensely.

    There are no controls on marijuana. It will be diverted more for recreational use than to help truly sick people. Additionally, a recent study in California found that the average medical marijuana patient in that state was a young male with a history of drug abuse with no known medical problems.

    History is a predictor of the future. We know from our history that decriminalisation will increase driving under the influence (DUI) deaths, increase youth drug use and will increase accidental exposures to our most innocent citizens; children.

    If you keep possession of marijuana a crime, you are not hurting sick people. There are synthetic THC medicines available without the negative side effects of marijuana. What you will do is create a whole new problem of traffic deaths, accidental exposures and increased drug use among our youth.

    Keith Graves has taught in more than 300 police agencies and over 100,000 personnel throughout the US, as well as military, federal agencies and foreign entities about drug use and drug trends. He has been a police officer in the San Francisco Bay area since 1990 and is currently a supervisor for the Special Operations Unit dedicated to narcotic, vice and gang investigations.

    He is one of the world's foremost experts on drug trends, is an advisor to governments and regularly presents his training programmes to audiences around the world.

    22 August 2016
    Keith Graves
    Stuff Nation
    Photo: 123RF
  5. aemetha
    Just for the record I've posted the second article here for the purpose of balance. I personally don't agree with what he's said in his column here at all. His statistics are cherry picked at best, with an up to 8 year comparison being used to draw conclusions on changes in a 3 year period for the most part. The driver statistics as highlighted in the first article are based on incomplete data and also as noted drug use amongst high school students has decreased in Colorado since 2011 however much it might be up on 2008.
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