The Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled in favour of NORML after an Australian doctor lodged a complaint aganst the organisation.
The BSA ruled that encouraging and promoting cannabis use on a radio show was “in the spirit of protest” and did not breach standards of law and order.
“The programme amounted to high value speech because it is legitimate and desirable in a free democracy for individuals to challenge particular laws and promote law reform.” (BSA decision 2011-140).
NORML’s weekly radio show Overgrown, which broadcasts live on Radio One in Dunedin and on the internet, received a complaint from Kununurra GP Dr Rob Phair relating to the purported link between cannabis use and schizophrenia, on September 16 last year.
Dr Phair argued that the show was “shamelessly pro-cannabis” and ignored the detrimental health effects associated with its use. Dr Phair also alleged that after he rang the radio host and talked to him off air, his views were misrepresented and he was denigrated on air. However, Dr Phair was not identified personally by the radio show host.
Overgrown host and NORML vice-president Abe Gray said he tried to discuss the scientific evidence with Dr Phair.
“When I discussed with him what his evidence was for the link between cannabis and schizophrenia, he wasn’t able to cite any references, he wasn’t aware of the Otago study, he wasn’t aware of the London Institute of Psychiatry study but he was quite happy to cite rumours that he had heard through the grapevine in his supposedly extensive medical experience,” Mr Gray said.
“Misinformed people, whoever they are, doctors or otherwise, they’re the ones who are actually doing a disservice to these patient communities by buying into one-sided propaganda and letting that dictate their treatment outcomes for patients. Unconscionable if you ask me.”
In its decisions the BSA stated: “While we accept that the programme promoted and encouraged cannabis use and that such use is unlawful in this country, in our view, this was done in the spirit of protest and for the purpose of contributing to the debate on, and advocating the decriminalisation of cannabis.”
“In a free and democratic society people must be allowed to question and challenge the law and to freely express their opinions and ideas on issues involving self-autonomy.”