The Oceania region traditionally consists of Australia, Fiji, Kirbati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and a number of territories and dependencies of these countries. It is a physically wide and culturally diverse group.
On 7 January 2012 The Lancet magazine published a study* by Prof Louisa Degenhardt PhD and Prof Wayne Hall PhD (Volume 379, Issue 9810, pp55 – 70) which estimated cannabis use across Oceania in 2009 as between 9.3%-14.8% of 14 to 64 year olds in the total combined populations.
The study noted a number of countries in which cannabis use had stabilised or decreased and Australia was mentioned in this context.
Professor Degenhardt’s university issued a media release which covered the global prevalence of the use of illicit drugs. Professor Wayne Hall in an interview with 3AW Radio pointed out that Australia and New Zealand has similar cannabis use levels and, in fact, levels had been in Australia falling for a number of years. Hall also pointed out that alcohol abuse was a very real issue in this country.
One print journalist actually stated a truth:
So we have research which apparently shows Australian and New Zealand societies as not alone in their relatively high cannabis use and, that in the case of Australia at least this use has been declining over a number of years.
What headlines did the Australian mainstream media run with – the fact that we are one country among many with high use levels or that we are using less cannabis than before?
No, these are the headlines Australia woke up to on 6 December 2012:
While New Zealand’s press managed a rousing:
* Full transcript of Extent of illicit drug use and dependence, and their contribution to the global burden of disease (sign-in required)