Right now, people who use cannabis get it from the black market, outside of any Government control. This is not about creating a new market – it’s about putting controls around an existing one.
Despite cannabis being illegal, anyone can buy it easily. 590,000 New Zealanders used cannabis last year. Our current law is clearly not working.
We know that cannabis, like any drug, can do harm, especially if you use it when you’re young, use heavily or use high potency products. Because cannabis is illegal, we have no control over it right now. The purpose of the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill is to put those controls in place, from seed to sale. This will make it safer, and help New Zealanders to reduce harmful use over time.
If we pass the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill, Police will be freed up to focus on serious crime.
Each year, we spend almost $200 million and over 330,000 Police hours on cannabis enforcement and convictions. These are significant police resources which should be put to better use protecting us all from serious crimes.
This law change would also mean thousands fewer New Zealanders convicted each year - avoiding lifelong impacts on employment, study and travel.
We will all benefit from as much as $490M of new annual taxes from legalising and controlling cannabis.
Legalisation means the government takes control over the cannabis market, from seed to sale.
It also allows us to tax cannabis and use that income for health and education services for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
The evidence is clear that cannabis can be an effective medicine for a range of conditions, including epilepsy, chronic pain and nausea from some cancer treatments.
While medicinal cannabis is technically legal in New Zealand with a prescription, there are few products available and they are very expensive because they are not subsidised. Medicinal cannabis products are out of reach of most New Zealanders, even those who have a life threatening or debilitating condition.
Despite the medical scheme patients are still forced to source illicit products, even though they face the risk of conviction. Legal cannabis would mean easier access to a wider range of products, and would make prices more affordable. Patients will be able to access the medicine that works for them without fear of prosecution.
Read more about medicinal cannabis in New Zealand
Legalising cannabis will mean improvements in health, justice and economic development for Māori.
Māori are targeted by Police more under our drug law and are 3 times more likely to get a cannabis conviction than non-Māori with the same level of cannabis use. Legalisation will mean fewer Māori coming into contact with the criminal justice system and fewer trapped in endless cycles of reconviction.
Legalisation will also improve health outcomes. Māori are twice as likely as non-Māori to suffer a substance use disorder, but they find it hardest to access health and treatment services. The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill puts money from cannabis taxes into health and prevention programmes that will benefit Māori.
Finally, the Bill aims to actively promote Māori access to the financial benefits that a new regulated market will bring. This will be especially important in the regions in which cannabis is a common crop. Legalisation will bring news jobs and income.
Read more about why this issue is important
The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill creates a set of rules to allow adults who choose to use cannabis to purchase cannabis products, with strong consumer protections. You cannot buy or use cannabis if you are under 20-years old.
This sends a very clear message that cannabis is for adults only.
Another way we can send that clear message to young people is through better drug education in schools, which will be funded with the tax on cannabis. Marketing and advertising will not be allowed – you won’t see the All Blacks sponsored by cannabis.
The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has very tough punishments for those who sell or supply cannabis to young people.
11 October 2020
Ross Bell asks people to look beyond their own experience, and understand how cannabis prohibition is impacting on others.
09 October 2020
A new editorial published in the NZMJ explores why a yes vote offers a net gain for public health.
08 October 2020
PM Jacinda Adern has refused to say how she'll vote in the cannabis referendum. Ross Bell pulls together her comments over the years, and co...
01 September 2020
A new report from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor makes key findings supporting the Drug Foundation’s view that legalisation is t...
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