The latest marijuana news in New Zealand
New Zealand is at the forefront of the decriminalization era, with a population that’s widely given to cannabis use. The country’s cannabis space has typically been bustling in recent times, this time with moves from establishment figures lending more credence to the decriminalization movement.
Last week, former Prime Minister Helen Clark gave a riveting interview lambasting the current prohibitive approach of the government towards drug control. She even admitted that she could down some marijuana herself at anytime, to relieve chronic pain.
Dominating trends in New Zealand’s marijuana space
There’s been a rallying cry for the government to re-strategize their drug enforcement approach, as the underground cannabis market swarms with more buyers and sellers virtually beyond the current control mechanisms.
“We have no way of regulating how strong cannabis is, how old people are who purchase it. But we’ve got an absolutely enormous illegal market,” said Kathy Errington, Helen Clark Foundation executive director, during an interview with Newshub. Particularly, she was more concerned about the lack of cannabis information in public spaces owing to the repressive control regime.
The government has clearly not done enough to educate people on how to engage safely with the drug, leaving most people to their own means and sources. The mainstream media, as well as sworn anti-legalization organizations like Family First and the Hawkesby-Hoskings as we know them, cherry pick facts against marijuana use.
Fortunately, in response to the rallying call for the availability of well-balanced information on cannabis use, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has directed the Chief Science Advisor to institute a panel of experts for disseminating accurate information on cannabis use. Through panels like this, New Zealanders will now have easy access to reliable information to base their choices as they prepare for the upcoming referendum.
Notable changes in NZ marijuana laws
The government is looking to move away from a “punitive” approach to a “health and wellness”-based approach to drug control
Currently, cannabis use is outlawed under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. Offenders are subject to a range of penalties from fines to prison terms, depending on the offense. However, prohibition has done little to deter users.
According to a longitudinal study carried out in the country, over 80% of residents aged 25 and above have tried the drug at least once. In other words, prohibition is basically biting the dust rather than fulfilling its purpose.
Emerging studies showing the harmlessness of the crop are also raising questions about the prohibitive approach. Several evidences show that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco, two legal substances that are far more problematic to human health. In the heat of the mounting queries, federal legislators have moved to ask the police to simmer down the prosecution of individual cannabis use. The lawmakers directed the police to overlook drug offenders who do not breach “public interests”. The government has also announced a major reorientation of its current policies to focus on the health and well-being of the populace.
In the same breath, the Federal Legislators also gave the green light for medical marijuana use to terminally ill patients.
News about the Potential Financial Impact of Marijuana Legalisation
An overturn of prohibitive cannabis policies would free over $450 million annually into the country’s economy, according to a report by the NZ Drug Foundation. The report, which was compiled by Sense partner’s lead economist Shamubeel Eaqub, reveals that the government could rake in $240m in annual sales tax from the cannabis industry.
According to the report, the government could help open up a $450m yearly revenue stream into the nation’s economy by instituting a legal cannabis market and investing in healthcare and public education. The report also revealed that by increasing the current $150m spent on treatment and education, the government could create $225m worth of social benefits every year. Details of the report also show that a health-based drug law, deployed as an alternative to punitive measures, could yield returns ranging from $34m – $83m.
During the unveiling event for the report, the NZ Drug Foundation’s executive director, Ross Bell, said legalization could help the government take back control of the revenue that flows into the black market.
With the 2020 referendum almost here, these developments are welcome. New Zealand has presented an opportunity to her citizens that no other country has so far — decide whether or not you want legal recreational cannabis. The climate has been more accepting than not, but this can certainly change, subject to influence from campaigns against legalisation. Staying ahead with the facts and exercising your right when the referendum rolls around next year could lead to a freer New Zealand — one where you can purchase recreational cannabis legally.