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Following the announcement of the Government’s approach to the referendum on adult-use of cannabis, the Drug Foundation will be promoting a Yes vote.

“Based on today’s announcement of a detailed regulatory model we are confident that legal cannabis will be strictly controlled and there will be strong public health safeguards. We will encourage New Zealanders to vote Yes,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director.

“What’s proposed is a carefully considered model that puts the focus on New Zealander’s health and wellbeing.

“A lot of work has gone into getting things this far, and the government has put forward a very clear framework of how the regulated approach will look. Even more detail will be added over the next few months as the Bill is drafted. This means when voters go to the poll, they will be certain about what type of regime will be introduced.

“The government has designed a model that is underpinned by strong public health principles, which will guide the detailed regulations. We endorse this approach which puts protecting public health and preventing early use by young people front and centre.” 

The two primary objectives noted in the cabinet paper are in line with public health thinking:   

  • Address the wellbeing of New Zealanders and harm reduction – the model should minimise harms associated with cannabis, such as health-related harm, social harms and harm to youth.
  • Lower the overall use of cannabis over time through education and addiction services – with a particular focus on lowering the use amongst youths by increasing the age of first use. Revenue raised through the regulation of cannabis should contribute to the relevant health-related measures.

“Māori and young people bear the brunt of the failed punitive approach to drugs. Putting in place a regulated approach to cannabis will dramatically reduce the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system. Recognition that investment needs go into education, prevent and other health-related services is also very welcome.”

“A major concern with regulation of any drug is the danger of creating an environment in which profit is pursued at the expense of health. The Drug Foundation acknowledges that the Government is also concerned about the risks of a commercial market, and it will build regulations that strike the right balance.”

The Drug Foundation has joined with other public health and social justice organisations to set up Health Not Handcuffs, a movement working toward a public health approach to drugs. Health Not Handcuffs will be active in the lead-up to the referendum.

Read Justice Minister Hon Andrew Little's press release

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