Drug Foundation complaints rejected by Advertising Standards Authority

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The advertising watchdog has largely cleared the Drug Foundation of 60 complaints about its campaign promoting the Yes vote in the upcoming cannabis control referedum.

Ross Bell, Drug Foundation Executive Director

Ross Bell, Drug Foundation Executive Director Photo: RNZ Insight/Teresa Cowie

Complainants said the campaign was misleading because the referendum was about recreational use, not medicinal use, and the ads did not talk about the harms – nor did they clearly identify the advertiser.

A majority of the Advertising Standards Authority board has found the digitial ads were socially responsible.

The board has partly upheld a complaint that the TV ads did not clearly identify the Drug Foundation, and has ordered them to be amended or removed.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said at the time the complaints were laid the reason they included medicinal cannabis was because the current regime was restrictive and, through legalisation, there would be easier access.

Bell said people were going through the illegal market to get cannabis because they were too afraid to talk to their doctors, or their doctors were unwilling to prescribe.

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“More importantly, these products cannot be subsidised by Pharmac so people are still left paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars each month and therefore make the choice to use the illegal market.”

The final legislation being voted on by the public was published in May.

It outlined a phased approach to making the drug legal, with only fresh and dried cannabis, including plants and seeds, would be immediately approved for production and sale under the new regime.

A new Cannabis Regulatory Authority could later recommend that edibles be approved as well – but not beverages or novelty products, like gummy bears.

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