Views on cannabis reforms

Rehette Stoltz.
Meredith Akuhata-Brown
Johnathan Pere.

A referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use will be held in tandem with next year’s General Election. The Gisborne Herald’s Wynsley Wrigley spoke with local MPs, mayoralty candidates and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce about the issue. The second in a series of articles is the mayoralty candidates’ views . . .

Two Gisborne mayoralty candidates have reservations about cannabis law reforms while the other says “the time is now”.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz, who is running for the mayoralty in the October local body elections, has reservations over the proposed age of legal use, effects on mental health and the inconsistent message when the country was aiming to be smokefree by 2025.

Many countries were having similiar debates concerning cannabis, she said.

“Medical research is still in its infancy in regards to the efficacy of medicinal cannabis and more so the public health concerns regarding legalised recreational use.

“It is well documented in worldwide research that the use of cannabis is detrimental for the brain development of youth under the age of 25.

“I am concerned the Government is ignoring medical advice and settling on the age of 20 without proper justification.

“I am concerned about the commercialisation of cannabis products that will be aimed at our youth — like the cannabis-infused gummie bears that featured in the news last week.

“We do not want to encourage the use of cannabis for under-25s.

“There is clear scientific evidence the consumption of cannabis is linked to an increase in mental health issues in some users.

“Research suggests the legalisation of cannabis goes hand-in-hand with increased use and misuse.

“We are already swamped by a mental health crisis in our country, so the Government will have to invest heavily into a mental health wrap-around service to cater for a potential increase in presentations of mental health issues.

“As a country, we have been working and investing in programmes to be smokefree by 2025 . . . legalising cannabis for personal use is inconsistent with this goal.

“The Government is considering allowing cannabis products to be smoked in licensed premises and private homes while smoking has been actively discouraged everywhere.

“The Government states the sale of cannabis will be tightly regulated but gives no details on how they plan to achieve this.”

Mrs Stoltz is also a Hauora Tairawhiti board member but is not seeking re-election.

“If personal use is legalised, the Government will have to equip health boards like ours with enough funding to address potential increased mental health needs.

“This gives us the opportunity to address these issues from a health perspective and offer much-needed assistance.

“In order to protect Tairawhiti youth from the potential permanent amd detrimental effects of cannabis use under the age of 25, we will have to, as a community, discourage this vulnerable group through active promotion of the message of potential harm.”

n Meredith Akuhata-Brown, who is seeking the mayoralty as well as re-election to the council and the health board, said she was concerned with drug and alcohol addiction in the district.

“I have wondered if the use of cannabis does lead to the use of other harder drugs and while I know that many young people have tried it, I would be concerned that it could become even more accessible to young people.”

Legalisation might be a mixed message as the campaign to give up smoking continued.

“I will be interested to see how the Government regulates this and ensures the management of cannabis use is monitored.

“I have read a lot more about the medicinal qualities of cannabis and see this as being beneficial.

“There is a load of support to decriminalising cannabis and I see this as a key discussion.

“Overall I am still investigating this topic.”

n Johnathan Pere, a domestic violence and suicide prevention activist who has put his hat in the ring for the mayoralty, said many people he had discussed the issue with had said “it’s a long time coming’’ or ‘‘wish it was around in my time’’.

“Millennials say they would likely smoke a joint rather than buy a box of alcohol.”

Mr Pere questioned if employers should also test staff for alcohol as well as drugs, while education was required on how long cannabis stayed in the system.

He proposed an age limit of 25 rather than the Government-suggested 20, and that only three plants be allowed for personal use.

Mr Pere said he had lost a brother, who used methamphetamine, to suicide and the suicide tally for the region was getting “higher and higher”.

“Families I visit tell me if cannabis was easily made available we would have less suicides. I might have to agree with them.

“Here is an opportunity for New Zealand to take a proactive approach.”

Mr Pere said statistics showed the level of violence dropped “dramatically” in countries where cannabis was legalised.

“I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and like many hard-working Gisborne people from all walks of life, tend to go for a relaxing joint while others choose a bottle of red wine after a hard day’s work.

“The hard-working guys tell me what happens after work is their own business. I do support the cannabis referendum in 2020. Let’s have a go; if it all fails then we relook at it.

“I’m pretty sure it will have a more positive impact other than Peter Dunne’s tragic synthetics (the Psychoactive Substances Act) episode.”

A referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use will be held in tandem with next year’s General Election. The Gisborne Herald’s Wynsley Wrigley spoke with local MPs, mayoralty candidates and Gisborne Chamber of Commerce about the issue. The second in a series of articles is the mayoralty candidates’ views . . .

Two Gisborne mayoralty candidates have reservations about cannabis law reforms while the other says “the time is now”.

Deputy mayor Rehette Stoltz, who is running for the mayoralty in the October local body elections, has reservations over the proposed age of legal use, effects on mental health and the inconsistent message when the country was aiming to be smokefree by 2025.

Many countries were having similiar debates concerning cannabis, she said.

“Medical research is still in its infancy in regards to the efficacy of medicinal cannabis and more so the public health concerns regarding legalised recreational use.

“It is well documented in worldwide research that the use of cannabis is detrimental for the brain development of youth under the age of 25.

“I am concerned the Government is ignoring medical advice and settling on the age of 20 without proper justification.

“I am concerned about the commercialisation of cannabis products that will be aimed at our youth — like the cannabis-infused gummie bears that featured in the news last week.

“We do not want to encourage the use of cannabis for under-25s.

“There is clear scientific evidence the consumption of cannabis is linked to an increase in mental health issues in some users.

“Research suggests the legalisation of cannabis goes hand-in-hand with increased use and misuse.

“We are already swamped by a mental health crisis in our country, so the Government will have to invest heavily into a mental health wrap-around service to cater for a potential increase in presentations of mental health issues.

“As a country, we have been working and investing in programmes to be smokefree by 2025 . . . legalising cannabis for personal use is inconsistent with this goal.

“The Government is considering allowing cannabis products to be smoked in licensed premises and private homes while smoking has been actively discouraged everywhere.

“The Government states the sale of cannabis will be tightly regulated but gives no details on how they plan to achieve this.”

Mrs Stoltz is also a Hauora Tairawhiti board member but is not seeking re-election.

“If personal use is legalised, the Government will have to equip health boards like ours with enough funding to address potential increased mental health needs.

“This gives us the opportunity to address these issues from a health perspective and offer much-needed assistance.

“In order to protect Tairawhiti youth from the potential permanent amd detrimental effects of cannabis use under the age of 25, we will have to, as a community, discourage this vulnerable group through active promotion of the message of potential harm.”

n Meredith Akuhata-Brown, who is seeking the mayoralty as well as re-election to the council and the health board, said she was concerned with drug and alcohol addiction in the district.

“I have wondered if the use of cannabis does lead to the use of other harder drugs and while I know that many young people have tried it, I would be concerned that it could become even more accessible to young people.”

Legalisation might be a mixed message as the campaign to give up smoking continued.

“I will be interested to see how the Government regulates this and ensures the management of cannabis use is monitored.

“I have read a lot more about the medicinal qualities of cannabis and see this as being beneficial.

“There is a load of support to decriminalising cannabis and I see this as a key discussion.

“Overall I am still investigating this topic.”

n Johnathan Pere, a domestic violence and suicide prevention activist who has put his hat in the ring for the mayoralty, said many people he had discussed the issue with had said “it’s a long time coming’’ or ‘‘wish it was around in my time’’.

“Millennials say they would likely smoke a joint rather than buy a box of alcohol.”

Mr Pere questioned if employers should also test staff for alcohol as well as drugs, while education was required on how long cannabis stayed in the system.

He proposed an age limit of 25 rather than the Government-suggested 20, and that only three plants be allowed for personal use.

Mr Pere said he had lost a brother, who used methamphetamine, to suicide and the suicide tally for the region was getting “higher and higher”.

“Families I visit tell me if cannabis was easily made available we would have less suicides. I might have to agree with them.

“Here is an opportunity for New Zealand to take a proactive approach.”

Mr Pere said statistics showed the level of violence dropped “dramatically” in countries where cannabis was legalised.

“I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and like many hard-working Gisborne people from all walks of life, tend to go for a relaxing joint while others choose a bottle of red wine after a hard day’s work.

“The hard-working guys tell me what happens after work is their own business. I do support the cannabis referendum in 2020. Let’s have a go; if it all fails then we relook at it.

“I’m pretty sure it will have a more positive impact other than Peter Dunne’s tragic synthetics (the Psychoactive Substances Act) episode.”

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