New Zealand’s Cannabis Culture

A cannabis culture.

A group of people supporting cannabis legalisation.

Cannabis use has been frowned upon publicly, but that view is changing

Society is all about similar behaviour. Anything out of the ordinary is odd, weird, or outright unlawful. This isn’t only true about humans, but can be observed in animals as well.

There is a universal belief that drugs are bad, but yet a large portion of the global society use drugs. This is true whether the drug is legal or illegal. Where society publicly frowns on illegal drug use, chances are that a significant number of those frowning have tried, or actively use, the drugs they publicly condemn.

Society’s frown against drug use also varies based on the type of drug. Hard drugs like cocaine and heroine get the most frowns, as the damage they cause are quite severe. Cannabis, on the other hand, has received some global leniency.

Cannabis is by far the most used illicit drug in the world. Even with some negative reports on cannabis use, there is a global culture accepting the plant as less harmful than other drugs.

In fact, cannabis is so common that its popularity has led to growing support for its legalisation, especially for medical use. Here are some examples:


Global cannabis use
Source

Such growing worldwide acceptance of cannabis use, both medical and recreational, confirm a strong cannabis culture. The drug’s popularity may eventually lead to its use being legalised in most countries, if not all countries in the world.

New Zealand has begun making its statement in this regard, giving in to the public support of the drug and acknowledging its own marijuana culture with the legalisation of medical marijuana last year. The country went even further by promising a referendum on legalising recreational cannabis next year, 2020, putting the decision in the hands of the same New Zealand public that has a cannabis culture that supports the recreational use of the drug.

Here’s all you need to know about New Zealand’s cannabis culture.



What is a Cannabis Culture?

Culture is shared behaviour. Specifically, it’s the ideals, customs, and social behaviour of a group of people. That group of people can be referred to as a society, and thus it is shared behaviour within a society.

Cannabis culture is thus the shared ideals, customs, and social behaviour of group of cannabis users, or a cannabis society. It’s the shared beliefs and ideals of marijuana enthusiasts in a particular society, and is quite universal in most aspects. It is essentially a reflection of how people in that society feel about cannabis.



How do people from New Zealand feel about cannabis?

The majority of New Zealanders support cannabis use. In fact, in 2017, about 65 percent of New Zealanders supported the legalisation of recreational cannabis. This number increased to 67 percent in 2018, while medical cannabis support went from about 80 percent to 89 percent in the same period.


Cannabis support in New Zealand
Source

New Zealand is one of the top cannabis consumers in the world. In fact, 52 percentof New Zealanders from age 15 to 45 have gone on record as having tried cannabis. Perhaps this number might be more if others actually admitted to trying the drug.

In the country’s largest city, Auckland, cannabis support is open and public. The city has witnessed frequent rallies and marches in support of cannabis legalisation for both medical and recreational use. For example, the 2017 5th annual Queens Street Rally for Medical Marijuana, sought a moratorium on medical cannabis prosecutions, and the 2018 J Day protest rallied against prohibition.

Given Auckland’s size and population, its rallies were influential in the 2018 passing of the Misuse of Drug Amendment Act legalising medical cannabis in New Zealand. More rallies are expected, and the result might be the legalisation of recreational cannabis use through the 2020 referendum.



What impact on New Zealand’s cannabis culture could legislation have?

Whenever prohibition is lifted, members of society become more open in their use of whatever the substance at issue is. Cannabis won’t be any different, as any legalisation will result in open use.

States that have legalised cannabis use in the United States for recreational purposes have seen more open marijuana use. Long are the days when cannabis had to be purchased in the shadows of the black market, and jobs have been created, including economic development from taxes. There has also been a heightened spirit of innovation, with new cannabis accessories and products hitting the market frequently.

The same is true of Canada as a result of their recent legalisation of the drug. In fact, Canada’s cannabis culture promises to be even more dynamic, as the country had already been very lenient toward cannabis use years before legalisation. Canada’s new cannabis legalisation even allows online cannabis orders to be delivered across states, via mail -- a concept that is alien to the United States. 

Today, although many New Zealanders have already admitted using cannabis, there are probably a lot more users in the shadows. Further, the black market is currently the major supplier of the drug, given its illegal status.

Legislation will have the effect of downsizing the cannabis underground market, if not eliminating it altogether. This would have the effect of changing the culture by introducing cannabis stores, where users can openly shop for marijuana products at various shops, as well as online stores that actually won’t scam you.

The culture will also see economic changes, with several jobs created in the marijuana industry. Innovative products will be introduced, ranging from edibles to drinks and various cannabis accessories.

In short, the culture will leave the shadows to become a public, open, cannabis culture with room for innovation and less risk.



Final words

New Zealand’s cannabis culture is a result of the popularity of the drug in the country. For the most part, cannabis use is widely accepted in the country, and the majority of those aged 14 to 45 have used the drug. The support is also high, increasing on a yearly basis. The recent announcement of a 2020 referendum will likely see the New Zealand culture in action, with legalisation being a strongly expected result. Such a result will see cannabis users come out of the shadows, reducing the dangers of underground black market purchases and creating a solid revenue stream for the country, fed by its marijuana culture.

However, it’s not all positives. Legalisation can have some negative effects on the cannabis culture. In the United States, for example, Colorado has experienced some negative effects as a result of cannabis legalisation. Apparently, since recreational use was legalised, the state has seen an increase in homelessness, assaults and illegal possession among youths, fatal traffic accidents, and, ironically, a booming black market.

With ample time to study cannabis’ legalisation effects on other regions, New Zealand might be able to avoid its cannabis culture falling victim to such negative effects, or at the very least, reduce them.