Has there ever been a bigger no brainer than legalising, taxing and regulating cannabis?
Even former Prime Minister Helen Clark agrees citing overseas examples: “Follow the evidence, see what is working.”
When we compare the situation here with overseas it is clear that legalising cannabis is working. Our approach is not. It is a complete failure on all counts.
Our country is in the grips of a mental health crisis. Neither our health system nor our drug and alcohol rehabilitation system can keep up with demand. These mental health problems are showing up everywhere. Swelling prisons. Growing obesity rates. And worst of all climbing suicide rates.
People are turning to illicit drugs to cope. Sadly this often involves risking their lives as we have seen with over 40 deaths from synthetic cannabis. This is an epidemic we should be ashamed of, but of course since the problem is safely confined to our poorer neighbourhoods, no urgent action is needed.
In the process people have to engage with criminals, and this is where the real damage of cannabis occurs. It also ties up our criminal justice system, costing $180m that could be better spent elsewhere.
So can someone please explain why are we continuing to criminalise a substance that causes less harm than alcohol?
Why are we tying up our police with cannabis crimes when they could focus on getting violent crime down (as has happened in Colorado where cannabis is legalised)?
Why are we missing out on the extra tax revenue (estimated at $150m) that could be spent on our straining mental health and drug rehab systems?
Why are we missing out on the potential market opportunities from hemp and cannabis products that are appearing around the world?
Why are we denying patients the emerging medicinal benefits of cannabis use?
The answer to the last question is simple. Neither Labour nor National want to put in place a workable medical cannabis model as it will highlight the stupidity of the current illegal model. When the sky doesn’t fall in legalisation will inevitably follow, as it has in many overseas countries.
Decriminalisation is similarly just a stepping stone to the inevitable. In the meantime we miss out on the tax revenue that comes from legalisation.
In the view of The Opportunities Party, this is a complete no brainer that doesn’t need a referendum. But if there is to be one, let’s follow the advice of the NZ Drug Foundation. Let’s make it a binding referendum with the legislation already prepared, so that everyone’s questions about the detail can be answered.
As the Drug Foundation and TOP have already shown, it is possible to create a legalised, regulated cannabis model that is proven to improve outcomes. It can be done in a sensible way that takes care of people’s concerns. It just needs to be put to the people, and argued for.
Let’s get on with it so we can have a decent, informed conversation. That won’t happen if we leave this until the last minute.
For more information, check out Geoff's Policy in a minute on Cannabis & Alcohol here
Check out TOP's solution here