Support grows to liberalise cannabis laws

GISBORNE appears to share a growing nationwide support for more liberal cannabis laws.

No community leaders The Herald approached for comment went as far as economist and leader of The Opportunities Party (TOP) Gareth Morgan, who has said there are compelling economic and other reasons for liberalising cannabis laws, including possible export opportunities for the East Coast.

Mayor Meng Foon is open to drug law reform.

“I’m willing to try new ways,’’ he said.

“The current way is punitive and is not working.”

Mr Foon said a limited market resulted in high prices for cannabis.

“If cannabis was priced cheaply, people would not worry about growing it,” he said.

High prices attracted certain people into the industry.

“Drug law reform would result in less of a criminal element in the cannabis world.”

Mr Foon said countries with more liberal drug laws had fewer drug problems than New Zealand.

Tolley defends legislation

Social Development Minister and East Coast MP Anne Tolley was the one voice to defend current drug legislation.

“The benefits of decriminalising or legalising cannabis do not outweigh the harm it causes,’’ Mrs Tolley said.

“I’ve had principals tell me that too many kids are harmed as a result of cannabis smoked at home.”

East Coast Labour candidate Kiri Allan spoke at the Parliamentary Drug Law Symposium hosted by the New Zealand Drug Foundation last week.

“The first day smashed through the black and white dictum that you were either ‘for’ or ‘against’ legalisation or decriminalisation," Ms Allan said.

‘‘In fact, the speakers who addressed the audience, from Canada, America and Australia, each acknowledged that drug law reform is difficult and nuanced, and needs to be fit for purpose to your environment."

Ms Allan said she had grown up on the East Coast with several close family members who had been severely afflicted by drug and alcohol addictions.

“I’m far more inclined to support law reform that targets both the driving causes of addiction (poverty and growing social inequalities), and ensuring that the harm reduction agencies are adequately resourced, as well as developing good law and policy that is fit for purpose and will see the social harms associated with drugs and alcohol lowered.

“Following the high-profile campaign advanced by the late Helen Kelly, I agree that there is a clear case for legalising medicinal marijuana.

“I agree with the Law Commission’s assessment, that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 should be repealed and replaced by a new Act administered by the Ministry of Health."

Green Party view

Julie Anne Genter, Green Party spokeswoman for health, said her private member’s bill, The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill had been drawn from the ballot and would be debated in Parliament.

The Bill would allow the seriously ill or terminally ill to cultivate, possess and use cannabis if supported by a doctor.

The Government had removed certain restrictions, meaning Ministry of Health approval would shortly no longer be required for people to use cannabis product cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a substance found in cannabis that has few or no psychoactive properties.

But Ms Genter said the Government’s change had a limited effect. Medicinal cannabis was unaffordable for many people, as it cost about $1200 a month.

Ms Genter said New Zealand's drug laws were behind Canada and certain states in the US. She supported legalising and regulating cannabis for personal use.

Regulating cannabis would result in more responsible use and meaningful education, she said.

A Hauora Tairawhiti spokeswoman said the issue was one for politicians to discuss.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation commissioned a poll last year that showed a majority of the public favoured a change to the legal status of cannabis.

The results were that 64 percent of respondents think possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use should be either legal (33 percent) or decriminalised (31 percent), with a minority (34 percent) in favour of retaining prohibition.

“This is the first time we’ve seen such a strong majority in favour of reforming New Zealand’s drug law,” said Ross Bell, executive director of the drug foundation.

GISBORNE appears to share a growing nationwide support for more liberal cannabis laws.

No community leaders The Herald approached for comment went as far as economist and leader of The Opportunities Party (TOP) Gareth Morgan, who has said there are compelling economic and other reasons for liberalising cannabis laws, including possible export opportunities for the East Coast.

Mayor Meng Foon is open to drug law reform.

“I’m willing to try new ways,’’ he said.

“The current way is punitive and is not working.”

Mr Foon said a limited market resulted in high prices for cannabis.

“If cannabis was priced cheaply, people would not worry about growing it,” he said.

High prices attracted certain people into the industry.

“Drug law reform would result in less of a criminal element in the cannabis world.”

Mr Foon said countries with more liberal drug laws had fewer drug problems than New Zealand.

Tolley defends legislation

Social Development Minister and East Coast MP Anne Tolley was the one voice to defend current drug legislation.

“The benefits of decriminalising or legalising cannabis do not outweigh the harm it causes,’’ Mrs Tolley said.

“I’ve had principals tell me that too many kids are harmed as a result of cannabis smoked at home.”

East Coast Labour candidate Kiri Allan spoke at the Parliamentary Drug Law Symposium hosted by the New Zealand Drug Foundation last week.

“The first day smashed through the black and white dictum that you were either ‘for’ or ‘against’ legalisation or decriminalisation," Ms Allan said.

‘‘In fact, the speakers who addressed the audience, from Canada, America and Australia, each acknowledged that drug law reform is difficult and nuanced, and needs to be fit for purpose to your environment."

Ms Allan said she had grown up on the East Coast with several close family members who had been severely afflicted by drug and alcohol addictions.

“I’m far more inclined to support law reform that targets both the driving causes of addiction (poverty and growing social inequalities), and ensuring that the harm reduction agencies are adequately resourced, as well as developing good law and policy that is fit for purpose and will see the social harms associated with drugs and alcohol lowered.

“Following the high-profile campaign advanced by the late Helen Kelly, I agree that there is a clear case for legalising medicinal marijuana.

“I agree with the Law Commission’s assessment, that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 should be repealed and replaced by a new Act administered by the Ministry of Health."

Green Party view

Julie Anne Genter, Green Party spokeswoman for health, said her private member’s bill, The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill had been drawn from the ballot and would be debated in Parliament.

The Bill would allow the seriously ill or terminally ill to cultivate, possess and use cannabis if supported by a doctor.

The Government had removed certain restrictions, meaning Ministry of Health approval would shortly no longer be required for people to use cannabis product cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a substance found in cannabis that has few or no psychoactive properties.

But Ms Genter said the Government’s change had a limited effect. Medicinal cannabis was unaffordable for many people, as it cost about $1200 a month.

Ms Genter said New Zealand's drug laws were behind Canada and certain states in the US. She supported legalising and regulating cannabis for personal use.

Regulating cannabis would result in more responsible use and meaningful education, she said.

A Hauora Tairawhiti spokeswoman said the issue was one for politicians to discuss.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation commissioned a poll last year that showed a majority of the public favoured a change to the legal status of cannabis.

The results were that 64 percent of respondents think possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use should be either legal (33 percent) or decriminalised (31 percent), with a minority (34 percent) in favour of retaining prohibition.

“This is the first time we’ve seen such a strong majority in favour of reforming New Zealand’s drug law,” said Ross Bell, executive director of the drug foundation.

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