Bennett unconvinced about cannabis vote

ON TOUR: During her visit to the Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village, National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett spent some time chatting to Vivienne Quigley, former owner of Muirs Bookshop and a stalwart of the Gisborne Civic Orchestra, playing the violin. Picture by Paul Rickard

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett doesn’t believe New Zealanders will vote for the legalisation of cannabis in next year’s referendum.

“I don’t think it will happen,’’ said the party’s spokeswoman for drug reform during a short visit to Gisborne.

“I think New Zealanders, as they start getting into the detail, will understand it could have real dangers for us in drug driving, and that legislation won’t take away the worse effects.”

Ms Bennett said she had met users who opposed legalising the drug because they ‘‘don’t want kids doing this stuff’’.

She opposes the age at which cannabis use seems likely to become legal — 20 — if the country votes for reform.

There was ‘‘absolute evidence” that regular use before the age of 25 meant users were more likely to become addicted and suffer from psychosis, depression and other forms of mental illness.

The brain was still developing up to the age of 25.

“They have plucked an age out of thin air.”

Ms Bennett did not accept the view that making the legal age 20 would create a black market for younger users.

“Cannabis is illegally available now and lots of people are using it now’’.

Legalising cannabis would not result in users leaving the black market, she said.

Canadian research showed that after the drug became legal, 38 percent still used the black market.

The black market was growing in Seattle and Colorado.

Ms Bennett said legal producers in New Zealand would pay tax of up to 40 or 50 percent while black market producers would pay no tax.

THC levels would be legislated in the legal market, but not on the black market.

“I don’t think the black market will diminish much.”

East Coast MP Anne Tolley took Ms Bennett to Kaiti School, Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village and to meet community agencies and business people.

Ms Bennett said during her time in Gisborne, housing issues and the need for an addiction and rehabilitation centre were consistently raised.

Asked about the cannabis referendum issue, Mrs Tolley said it was difficult to speak about in detail because of a lack of detail from the Government.

“But I have always had very strong feelings (about it),’’ said Mrs Tolley, who has previously told The Herald she opposes the legalising of cannabis use.

Ms Bennett said she had no knowledge of last week’s news of a Christian party forming in Botany with current National MP Alfred Ngaro, and aiming to become a potential National coalition partner.

“There is no deal in Botany, nothing has been discussed or is on the table.

“It sounds like Alfred has been approached by the Christian community.”

Ms Bennett said there was a Christian vote “out there’’.

Issues such as euthanasia, abortion reform and cannabis reform were “stretching some people’s values base’’.

‘’We’re always looking to make friends.”

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett doesn’t believe New Zealanders will vote for the legalisation of cannabis in next year’s referendum.

“I don’t think it will happen,’’ said the party’s spokeswoman for drug reform during a short visit to Gisborne.

“I think New Zealanders, as they start getting into the detail, will understand it could have real dangers for us in drug driving, and that legislation won’t take away the worse effects.”

Ms Bennett said she had met users who opposed legalising the drug because they ‘‘don’t want kids doing this stuff’’.

She opposes the age at which cannabis use seems likely to become legal — 20 — if the country votes for reform.

There was ‘‘absolute evidence” that regular use before the age of 25 meant users were more likely to become addicted and suffer from psychosis, depression and other forms of mental illness.

The brain was still developing up to the age of 25.

“They have plucked an age out of thin air.”

Ms Bennett did not accept the view that making the legal age 20 would create a black market for younger users.

“Cannabis is illegally available now and lots of people are using it now’’.

Legalising cannabis would not result in users leaving the black market, she said.

Canadian research showed that after the drug became legal, 38 percent still used the black market.

The black market was growing in Seattle and Colorado.

Ms Bennett said legal producers in New Zealand would pay tax of up to 40 or 50 percent while black market producers would pay no tax.

THC levels would be legislated in the legal market, but not on the black market.

“I don’t think the black market will diminish much.”

East Coast MP Anne Tolley took Ms Bennett to Kaiti School, Kiri Te Kanawa Retirement Village and to meet community agencies and business people.

Ms Bennett said during her time in Gisborne, housing issues and the need for an addiction and rehabilitation centre were consistently raised.

Asked about the cannabis referendum issue, Mrs Tolley said it was difficult to speak about in detail because of a lack of detail from the Government.

“But I have always had very strong feelings (about it),’’ said Mrs Tolley, who has previously told The Herald she opposes the legalising of cannabis use.

Ms Bennett said she had no knowledge of last week’s news of a Christian party forming in Botany with current National MP Alfred Ngaro, and aiming to become a potential National coalition partner.

“There is no deal in Botany, nothing has been discussed or is on the table.

“It sounds like Alfred has been approached by the Christian community.”

Ms Bennett said there was a Christian vote “out there’’.

Issues such as euthanasia, abortion reform and cannabis reform were “stretching some people’s values base’’.

‘’We’re always looking to make friends.”

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