The documents obtained under the Official Information Act by Nelson lawyer Sue Grey came from an internal forum at the Treasury “designed to test policy thinking on a range of issues in the public domain,” Finance Minister Bill English said.
The documents reveal Government spends about $400 million annually enforcing prohibition whereas decriminalisation would generate about $150m in revenue from taxing cannabis.
Moreover it said reforming drug policies would “save money, ease pressure on the justice sector, and lead to fewer criminal convictions for youth and Maori”.
Drug prohibition as it is in New Zealand disproportionately affects males, Maori and youth – in 2001 Maori made up 14.5 per cent of the population but received 43 per cent of the convictions for cannabis use.
It also pointed out that “drug reform isn’t a particularly radical idea these days”.
“It’s supported by The Economist and the Global Commission on Drug Policy, as well as reports by our Health Select Committee and the Law Commission,” the report said.
According to Treasury about 6 per cent of cannabis users are caught by police but 95 per cent of those who are continue to use cannabis.
It isn’t official Treasury advice but still very welcome information to have in the public domain.
Several US states have legalised cannabis, and over the next couple of years we will have very robust data on whether doing so leads to increased harms from drug use. If the evidence is it doesn’t, then we should follow on from them.