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Today at Parliament the NZ Drug Foundation released Taking control of cannabis: A model for responsible regulation, a new report that shows how we can take back control of cannabis from organised crime.

New Zealanders deserve better public health safeguards around cannabis than currently exist. When we leave distribution of cannabis to the black market we’re leaving young people and our vulnerable citizens to fend for themselves,” said Ross Bell, Executive Director.

“The best way to protect young people and reduce the risk of health harms from cannabis is to take control. This is what legally regulated cannabis can achieve, and that’s why we’re backing a ‘yes’ vote at next year’s referendum.

“NZ is failing its up-and-coming generations. Under the black market there are no ID checks, people are exposed to unsafe products on the illegal market and organised crime is profiting. A strictly regulated legal market will change all this,” Mr Bell said.

The new report outlines the steps that can be taken to ensure young people are protected. These include:

  • Young people under the age of 20 would not be able to enter cannabis retail stores or buy products.
  • Prohibit advertising and the development of products that might appeal more to younger people, such as confectionery.
  • Set maximum potency levels for products, and steer people towards less harmful ways to consume than smoking.
  • Set portion sizes so that young people who do use despite the law know how much is too much.
  • Require child-proof packaging and put health warnings on packets.

After consultation with Māori working in social justice, public health and academia, the Drug Foundation is pushing for whānau, hapū and iwi Māori to be engaged at each point in the development of the regulations in a process of co-design. A kaupapa Māori agency with a broad mandate should be established to lead this on behalf of Māori.

“There is a treaty obligation on the government to involve Māori in the formulation of rules around which cannabis will be legalised. In the last 40 years it is Māori who have borne the brunt of bad drug law. This should be acknowledged, and we must find practical ways of redressing this,” Ross Bell said.

 “Taking control of cannabis is the best option for New Zealand. We can do a lot more to protect young people and minimise other public health risks. Once we agree on this as the overriding outcome we want, there’s plenty of detail to hammer out. Whatever we do should be based on evidence and good pubilc policy making, not scare tactics.”

Introduction: Taking control of cannabis by Ross Bell, Executive Director

If you’re like me, you’d prefer that your kids never use cannabis. But you’ll also be aware there is a good chance they will at some point. Despite it being illegal – and perhaps partly because of it – around half of all New Zealanders do.

I want the best for my kids as they get older and the same for all young New Zealanders. If they do decide to use cannabis when they are older, I would much rather they didn’t buy it from organised crime, who might also sell them synnies or meth. I’d rather they bought from government-regulated stores where products are packaged in single-serve portions with maximum potency levels and health warnings on every packet. I want them to have their ID checked at the door and be turned away if they are under 20.

I want a world in which cannabis looks as boring as possible and where the proceeds from taxes go straight back into healthcare and treatment rather than funding the lifestyles of organised crime.

That’s the responsible way to protect young people and help those who struggle with their drug use. 

At the general election in 2020, we’ll all get to vote on whether cannabis should be legalised and regulated. We’ll be voting on whether a draft Bill to regulate cannabis should go through Parliament and become law, or not. 

However you plan to vote, you’ll want to make sure the Bill is as good as possible. If New Zealanders vote to legalise cannabis, we need to be ready with a draft law that will protect young people, take money from the hands of the black market and put that towards healthcare instead.

The government is going about it the right way. They have released a framework that focuses on improving health outcomes and protecting young people. This booklet provides an overview of their proposals, and discusses key areas we recommend be included as they draft the Bill.

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