Why I voted Yes on the Cannabis Referendum

I voted yesterday in Porirua. Little surprise that I voted for National and Brett Hudson. I also voted yes on both referendums. I thought I would explain here why I voted yes.

I am one of the 20% of adult NZers who has never tried and I doubt I ever will. In fact only once have I even used an illegal drug (I was offered some Ecstasy in Sydney on NYE a decade or so ago).

I think there are harms caused by some cannabis use, just as there is harm caused by some alcohol use – in both cases by those who are heavy users. They harm themselves, and sometimes others. The Christchurch and Dunedin longitudinal studies have good evidence on this.

I think New Zealand would be a better place if fewer people smoked cannabis. I also think NZ would be a much much better place without Meth or P.

So why did I vote yes. Here’s 11 reasons why.

  1. The status quo has not worked. When 80% of adults have used an illegal drug, making it illegal has failed.
  2. It is far easier to educate people on safety issues and consequences around a drug, if it is not illegal. You can reduce harm with a focus on education and safety.
  3. I’d rather people have the option of buying cannabis from a legal regulated outlet that asks for proof of ID, and can ensure the product is relatively safe, than from gangs or their dealers
  4. The tax revenue from legal cannabis sales could be used to fund greater drug rehabilitation services, to reduce the number of high end users or addicts.
  5. Meth or P is a terrible drug that both destroys people’s lives but also can cause them to maim or kill others under the influence. I’d like to break any linkage or cycle between cannabis and P by having one legal and one illegal.
  6. I’d rather the tens of millions of dollars and hours of Police time spent on cannabis related crimes was spent on reducing serious violent and sexual offending.
  7. Having cannabis legal, but restricted to adults, should see a reduction in young people smoking cannabis. We have seen this with alcohol, with a big drop in youth drinking over the last decade.
  8. Even though it is not very common now, I don’t think people should end up with criminal convictions simply for personal use or possession of cannabis.
  9. Legalisation would reduce (but not eliminate) revenue for gangs.
  10. A legal regulated regime can be tweaked and improved over time to keep the focus on reducing harm. You can’t really tweak or improve an illegal regime – you have no control over it at all.
  11. A criminal law which 80% of NZers have broken is a bad thing. You want criminal laws to be widely respected. Having laws that are widely ignored doesn’t promote adherence to the law.

There are challenges and risks with legalisation. You don’t want more drugged driving. You don’t want more young people using cannabis. You don’t want people think that something is good or okay simply because it is legal.

But I think these are manageable challenges. I think overall a legal regulated and controlled regime will produce better outcomes for New Zealanders than an illegal regime that operates beyond the law, and has failed to deter NZers.

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