Cannabis is an illegal drug. It is the most popular illegal drug in New Zealand. New Zealand law has provisions and penalties ( heavy fines and jail sentences) for the use of illegal cannabis relating to possession, use, selling and supplying, manufacturing or cultivating.
Cannabis, from the Indian hemp plant Cannabis sativa, comes in three forms:
Cannabis – known as marijuana, comes as plant material in the form of dried flowers and leaves which are smoked as cigarettes (joints) or eaten. This is the most popular form of cannabis in New Zealand.
Cannabis oil – also known as hash oil, this is the strongest form of cannabis. It is heavy oily liquid, which is sold in capsules (“caps”) and usually smoked or inhaled.
Cannabis resin – also called hashish, comprises the dried resin, flowers, and leaves and is stronger than dried cannabis. Cannabis resin is sold as blocks or cakes and smoked, eaten, or inhaled. This form is less often used in New Zealand.
The active ingredient in cannabis is a chemical called THC (delta-9 terahydrocannabinol). This is a mind dulling sedative and depressant, that can also cause hallucinations. THC can remain in the body for up to three months after being consumed. When cannabis is used regularly THC accumulates in the body. Regular users may become “stoned” more quickly possibly through a tolerance to the drug.
It is dangerous to drive after taking cannabis. It is even more dangerous to drive after taking cannabis and alcohol.
Using cannabis regularly alters the ability to think, process and store information in the long term storage area of the brain. This can affect academic progress. There is particular concern with young people. Regular use of cannabis is harmful to adolescents whose bodies are rapidly developing.
Cannabis costs between $200 and $500 an ounce (1993) figures, depending on quality and seasonal availability. The price fluctuates during the year. An ounce will make around 80 to 100 joints. A “joint” refers to one cannabis cigarette. There are around three joints in a bullet (cannabis wrapped in tinfoil) which sells for between $20 and $40. Hashish oil costs around $25 per capsule. A capsule can last up to three weeks if used by one person. Most people get their cannabis free – they grow or are given it.
Cannabis is used regularly by a relatively low number of people in New Zealand. Many young people try it in their teenage years but do not continue to use it. Those who do are usually young men who obtain it casually and share it among friends in someone’s home. Most people tend to stop using cannabis as they grow older.
In New Zealand cannabis is grown between November and March. It is harvested during late March and in April. It is illegal to grow cannabis in this country. Cannabis is also illegally imported to New Zealand.
Smoked cannabis can have immediate effects and these can last between to five hours. It initially only gives a mild change in mood. Smoking is harmful for the lungs and cannabis has many of the same constituents as tobacco.
Pregnant women who smoke cannabis risk premature births and low birth weights.
It may take between four and six hours for the effects of one joint to wear off. The immediate effects of taking cannabis may be:
Intoxication (similar to alcohol)
Wellbeing, relaxation, mood lift
Becoming talkative or quiet
Red and bloodshot eyes
Confusion, disorientation, short term memory loss
Dry mouth and throat
Faster heart beat
Slowed reactions and co-ordination
Feel nauseous and dizzy
Regular and heavy cannabis users may:
Lose drive, motivation and energy
Become psychologically dependent and addicted to cannabis
Become mentally slow
Lose ability to concentrate and think clearly
Forget what they are talking about
Lose their ability to learn and comprehend
Cause pre-cancerous changes to lung tissue and the respiratory tract
Lose sex drive and performance, and for men, have lowered fertility
Have irregular menstruation (women)
Lose interest in friends and social contact, become withdrawn and paranoid
Build a tolerance so they need more cannabis to get the same effects.
Cannabis can trigger a personality disorder (psychosis)
Cannabis can have a medical use. It can act as a painkiller, can enhance appetite, and reduce or suppress vomiting. This is why it has been recommended for some medical conditions such as AIDS, glaucoma, arthritis and multiple sclerosis
Most people who try marijuana stop or limit its use because:
They just don’t like it, they don’t like being ‘stoned’
They are concerned about their physical health
They were just experimenting anyway
It is too expensive
They are worried about their mental health
They make new friends who don’t use it
They are worried about getting caught
Regular users of cannabis can experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop using it, including:
Mild stomach cramps
Slight muscle aches
The specific concerns about cannabis relate to:
The effects of chronic use on the respiratory system e.g. bronchitis, risk of cancers
Use while pregnant
Use while in charge of machinery, in particular cars, especially when cannabis
is used with alcohol.
Reduced ability to think (cognitive impairment), short term memory loss,
reduced ability to integrate information
Cannabis dependence syndrome from chronic use
Reproduced with the kind permission of the New Zealand Police Association
Cannabis is the most popular illegal drug in New Zealand.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the NZ Police Association