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Your weekly weed wrap-up, Marijuana Media peeks behind the hemp headlines every Thursday at 4:20pm on 95bFM Drive, with Jonny (bFM) and Chris Fowlie (NORML). It’s our final show of the year so we’re discussing this year’s top stories and a few predictions for the year ahead.

Our top ten weed stories for 2022

1. You can now get buds from your doctor, and the first NZ-made medicinal cannabis products were approved, but so far only 6% of patients are accessing medicinal cannabis legally. I’m one of them – and yes, the buds are good!

2. NZ police renew hunting for weed with helicopters in certain districts. The year began with Police spraying the homegrown medicine of a Coromandel couple. In December Police confirmed they are doing it again.

3. Biden’s pardon of minor marijuana records has grown to 2 million Americans and ignited calls in Aotearoa for decriminalization and wiping cannabis records here. There was discussion in parliament and calls to pardon Kiwi cannabis convicts but Justice Minister Kiri Allen said the existing law is “fit for purpose”. Chloe Swarbrick continues to lead the charge for change.

4. Britney Griner’s imprisonment raised global awareness of how cannabis prohibition laws are used against people to search, harass, and imprison them. Russian authorities had arrested the basketball star at Moscow airport in February, with a sham trial in July, and then released as part of a prisoner swap in December.  

5. Two primetime documentaries by NZ’s top journos point to decriminalization. Guyon Espier Wasted was a RNZ-TVNZ colab while Paddy Gower’s On All The Drugs continued his series – which had had such a huge effect in the lead up to the cannabis referendum.

6. Drug driving law ignores science, targets the poor. The Land Transport (Drugged Driving) Amendment was passed last March and comes into effect March 2023.

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7. Thailand legalisms cannabis, gives away one million plants, and decriminalizes personal growing. Cannabis cafes and bong bars immediately flourish all over the country.

8. Censor overturns ban on grow books. Ed Rosenthal’s Cannabis Grower’s Handbook had been banned as cannabis is illegal, but now not all cannabis is illegal. A patient who had had a copy seized decided to appeal and won. The book is now R16, and the ruling planted the seed to have more grow books unbanned.

9. Charges dismissed against man who sent half a kilo of weed to his parents. A great sign of the times. But it also highlighted the seemingly random nature of police decisions to prosecute, and the huge variety of sentences courts can impose; in this case anything from nothing to seven years jail.

10. A few highlights for me – this year was the 30th annual J Day in Albert Park, 25 years since the opening of The Hempstore in 1997, and 20 years since I was found Not Guilty after being prosecuted for a small amount cannabis, which set a precedent that police could not use the smell of cannabis to initiate a search when in a public place. These days  I can consume my legally prescribed cannabis flower including outside The Hempstore on Karangahape Road, within sight of where police had unlawfully searched me. We now have a safe space for patients to consume their medicinal cannabis. That’s a huge step forward!

Three predictions for 2023

1. The long-awaited review of the medicinal cannabis scheme will bring changes mid-year. The changes proposed by the Ministry of Health, sent to me last week, will greatly help local growers, exporters, manufacturers, and distributors of products – and will see reduced costs and increased choice over time – but it looks like there won’t be any public funding for cannabis meds.

2. A global shift away from the War on Drugs. The US has multiple federal law changes proposed plus more states enacting legalization and expungements of records; legalization in Germany will spread across Europe (Czech, France, UK); Malaysia will be the next Asian country to follow Thailand; and Australia will put legalization to the vote (The Greens will introduce a federal bill, and in Victoria Legalize Cannabis MPs hold the balance of power).

  1. Cannabis will be an election issue in 2023, like it has every election since MMP began in 1996. Half the voting public want legalization, and another 20% would support decriminalization. I think support for law reform will continue to grow, but the big question is: will we elect a Parliament which will act on this?

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